Program receives award for victim advocacy

by Robin Huiras

A program at the University will receive the nation’s highest honor for victim advocacy in a ceremony today in Washington, D.C., an affirmation of its fight against sexual violence.
Attorney General Janet Reno and the federal Office for Crime Victims will award the University’s Program Against Sexual Violence one of five 1998 Crime Victim Service Awards.
The award recognizes the program’s service to victims of violence and harassment. Jamie Tiedemann, the director of the University’s program, will accept the award in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. Eight other programs against violence from across the country will receive similar recognition.
“We are being recognized for the hard work people have done to develop some innovative relationships with people and organizations on campus,” said Susanne Short, assistant director of the University program.
To qualify, the program had to illustrate a commitment to helping victims seek justice and cope mentally and physically with crimes against them.
For example, if rape victims seek help from the organization, it puts them in touch with the police to file a report and contacts the court system to issue a restraining order. Within the University system, the program connects victims with counseling services, student employment and registration and housing officials.
These partnerships that improve victims’ rights and services are among the award’s main criteria as determined by the Office for Victims of Crimes in the U.S. Justice Department.
The Program Against Sexual Violence deals with all types of oppression, not only sexual violence. Among others, victims of harassment, domestic violence and stalking are examples of people who use its services.
The University-funded program started in 1986. Since its beginning, it has grown both in size and clientele. Last year, the organization — with the help of five full- and part-time staff members and 50 volunteers — aided approximately 200 victims of violence.
“The size of our department has grown and been able to serve more people because of all of the community outreach and education we provide,” said Terri Wenkman, the program’s coordinator of outreach and peer education.
Outreach is central to the program’s mission. One of its main programs is the annual “Take Back the Night” rally. This year the march will be held April 29 on the Coffman Union plaza.
The program is regarded nationally as a model for crime-victim service and is being duplicated across the country. Most universities do not have the ability to connect so many different organizations that victims need ready access to, Short said.
“Our program is exemplary because we have been fortunate to have unconditional support from the University administration and individuals on campus who have been steadfast in their dedication to addressing and preventing violence and abuse,” Tiedemann said.