Tarleton adopts strategic plan to prevent relational violence, improve response


STEPHENVILLE (April 25, 2017) — Tarleton State University today officially adopted a five-year strategic plan to improve the prevention of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, and improve campus response. The plan follows a yearlong conversation with school leaders as well as experts and professionals across the country.

“This plan is a testament to our continued commitment to create and maintain a safe, supportive and accountable community,” said Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio. “It outlines better ways to prevent interpersonal and relational violence as well as support survivors, hold those who harm others responsible and empower students to protect themselves here and long after they leave our campus. At Tarleton, even one sexual assault is too many. Our goal is zero tolerance and zero assaults.”

The plan follows extensive research by a 25-member task force created in fall 2015 to improve current Tarleton policies, procedures and programs regarding sexual assault prevention and response.

Along with university students, staff and faculty, the task force includes representatives from the Stephenville Independent School District, Erath County District Attorney’s Office, Stephenville Police Department, Cross Timbers Family Services and Texas Health Resources.

As well as drawing on the expertise of local professionals, the new plan incorporates best practices endorsed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American College Health Association and numerous universities.

“Unlike many offenses, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are personal and are intended to make the target feel powerless,” said Caris Thetford, task force chairperson and coordinator of Tarleton’s Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention Program. “Their complexities make it difficult for people to understand how best to respond to them and, ultimately, how to effectively prevent them.”

In addition to educating, engaging and empowering students, the plan provides strategies to combine prevention awareness with academic programming as well as increase on-campus advocacy for survivors.

Tarleton State University officials and community partners gathered Tuesday morning to sign a five-year strategic plan to improve current policies and procedures regarding the prevention of domestic abuse and sexual assault, and to improve campus response efforts. Present for the signing were (seated, l-r) Erath County Sheriff Matt Coates, Tarleton President F. Dominic Dottavio, Stephenville Chief of Police Jason King; (standing, l-r) Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Laura Boren, Erath County District Attorney’s Office victim assistance coordinator Laurie Gillespie and Caris Thetford, chair of the task force and coordinator of Tarleton’s Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention Programs.

“Many of these initiatives already are well under way,” Thetford pointed out, “thanks in part to the efforts of our task force.”

Some of those initiatives include a new online reporting process—scheduled to go live this summer— that will make it easier for survivors to report offenses and ask for help in a way that’s most comfortable for them.

The task force has identified funding to hire an on-campus advocate, and the university is in the early stages of launching Green Dot, a prevention-training program recognized by the CDC and used by the U.S. Air Force and hundreds of universities nationwide.

Initial Green Dot training took place earlier this spring, with more planned for fall. Five Tarleton staff members—soon to be certified by Green Dot—will help fully implement the program on the Stephenville campus.

“Tarleton State University recognizes the serious impact that interpersonal violence and sexual assault have on individuals and the larger community,” Dottavio said. “This comprehensive intervention, response and support plan embraces our core value of civility and brings us closer to eliminating such offenses entirely.”

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