EmPOWER Center Receives $749,998 Grant from Department of Justice

The EmPOWER Center, a 7C resource for survivors of sexual assault, recently received a grant from the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (Reynaldo Cullanay • The Student Life)The Department of Justice (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women recently awarded a $749,998 grant to the Claremont Colleges for student programs supporting survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. This grant money will go primarily to the EmPOWER Center, a 7C student resource for violence prevention and advocacy that opened in January 2016.

The Claremont Colleges are among a small group of institutions that received grants from the DOJ to combat sexual violence. The consortium is the only institution of higher education in California that received funding and one of only 45 such institutions in the nation.  

“We are so excited for the tremendous resources this grant will bring to the 7Cs,” EmPOWER Center Director Rima Shah wrote in a press release on Claremont McKenna College’s website.

According to its website, the EmPOWER Center provides "free, confidential advocacy and support to 7C students impacted by sexual violence, dating/domestic violence, and stalking."

The EmPOWER Center sees the DOJ grant as an important chance to expand these programs.

“This is a critical opportunity for us to enhance and support the significant progress that the EmPOWER Center has made in the first year of its existence,” wrote CMC Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sharon Basso in a press release. Basso helps oversee the EmPOWER Center.

The EmPOWER Center currently offers a variety of programs for students, including walk-in counseling hours, confidential support group meetings, and educational programs in cooperation with each of the 7Cs. Additionally, the Center launched a Healthy Masculinity Initiative focusing on education about consent, rape culture, and healthy relationships. It also provides training for staff and students who frequently come into contact with sexual assault survivors.

“I’m very excited that the Claremont Colleges received this grant. I hope it will be used to expand the Center’s work and programming,” Willa Hevly PO ’17, an EmPOWER Center intern and Advisory Board member, wrote in an email to TSL.

The Center will use the grant to enhance current resources and fund new programs aimed to support survivors of sexual violence, reduce campus sexual violence, and strengthen the 7Cs' responses to incidents of sexual violence, according to Scripps Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Charlotte Johnson. Johnson helps oversee the EmPOWER Center and will supervise the use of the DOJ grant.

“Rima and the EmPOWER team, including our students, are approaching these efforts in a very comprehensive, thoughtful, and data-driven manner to improve our campus climate,” Basso wrote in a press release on the CMC website.

According to Johnson, the DOJ’s grant should allow the EmPOWER Center and its partners to serve 12,500 students at the 7Cs during the next three years.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to expand the important work of assisting the seven campuses to deliver effective, comprehensive, and coordinated strategies supporting survivors, reducing campus sexual violence, and improving our institutions’ responses to these incidences,” Johnson wrote in a press release on the CMC website.

According to Shah, the Center has a variety of plans for specific programs that they will institute or expand using the DOJ’s grant, including the creation of a formal Coordinated Community Response Team, which will, among other duties, provide additional education activities.

These initiatives will include establishing a tracking system to ensure full undergraduate participation in mandatory sexual assault prevention education, as well as support training programs for Campus Safety, the Claremont Police Department, and investigators and adjudicators at each college.

With the grant funds, EmPOWER will also expand its Healthy Masculinity Initiative, enhance the work of student advocate groups at the colleges, and work with the Queer Resource Center and LGBTQ+ organizations to support LGBTQ+ students impacted by sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking.

The grant funds will also help support the EmPOWER Center’s partners, including the Claremont University Consortium; House of Ruth, which assists domestic violence victims in Eastern Los Angeles County and Western San Bernadino County; Project Sister, which provides assistance to sexual assault survivors in East San Gabriel and Inland Valleys; and the Claremont Police Department.

 “The EmPOWER Center is a safe space for everyone and we hope that through the support of the grant funds, we can further our mission of creating a culture where all members of [the Claremont Colleges] respect and look out for each other, and where students impacted by violence receive holistic care,” Shah wrote in an email to TSL.