Campus: Fresno State -- February 15, 2006

$200,000 Grant Allows Fresno State To Focus On Violence Against Women

A federal grant of nearly $200,000 will allow California State University, Fresno to work with community partners to elevate awareness of violence against women and develop a prevention and intervention program for the university.

Fresno State was among 31 schools nationwide that received grants this year from the U.S. Department of Justice Programs, Office of Violence Against Women - Campus Program. The two-year grant to Fresno State totals $199,796.

Dr. Bernadette Muscat, an assistant criminology professor, and Francine Oputa, coordinator of the Women's Resource Center at Fresno State, sought the grant to target three areas that are prevalent in college-age women: domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

"Violence against women is a highly underreported crime on university campuses nationwide," said Muscat, who has 14 years of experience in victimology work and is coordinator of the Victimology Program in the Department of Criminology.

"We need to create a campus climate where victims and friends of victims are knowledgeable of and comfortable with the idea of seeking assistance."

Muscat said the program will elevate the trust victims have in campus authorities, police and community agencies. The Marjaree Mason Center and Rape Counseling Service are among the many community agencies that signed an agreement to work with the program.

The funds will be used to hire staff to a program to address violence against women and to work collaboratively to coordinate existing services and programs for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking, including prevention, intervention and education.

Also as part of the grant, University Police officers will be trained to respond effectively to domestic violence, sexual assault (child and adult), and stalking cases and to work with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students at Fresno State.

Micaela Vargas has been hired as project coordinator. Vargas earned a bachelor's degree in social work from Fresno State and previously worked as a case manager supervisor with Fresno County Economic Commission Sanctuary Youth Shelter, which serves at-risk youth.

She has experience and training in the areas of domestic violence, divorce, child abuse, prostitution, suicide, sexual assault, student advocacy, sexually transmitted disease, family mediation and reunification, defusing hostility and violence, multiproblem family needs, cross-cultural awareness and teen pregnancy.

Assisting Vargas is Sue Rudd, who earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in counseling from Fresno State. She previously worked at Central California Pride Network, providing counseling for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault primarily for the gay, lesbian, and transgender populations. She also has experience in the research of schizophrenia at the VA Medical Center in Fresno.

For more information on the Women's Resource Center, please go to the following Web site »

Contact: Shirley Melikian Armbruster, (559) 278-5292


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