Today, Congressmen Jim Costa (D-Fresno) and Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) announced that the University of California Merced's Violence Prevention Program has been awarded the Allied Profession Award by the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus for their work in addressing sexual violence, dating and domestic violence, and stalking on campus. Costa and Cardoza will present the award to the director of the UC Merced program during a Capitol Hill ceremony tomorrow. This is first time that a victim assistance program within an institution of higher education has received this award.
"The UC Merced Violence Prevention Program has provided a safe place for survivors to turn to during a traumatic time," said Congressman Costa. "By working closely with law enforcement, campus advocates have been able to provide assistance and support to survivors on campus which has led to a drastic reduction in the number of unreported crimes in the community. As co-chair of the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus, it is humbling to recognize our Valley's tireless advocates for the rights of crime victims."
"I nominated UC Merced's Violence Prevention Program for this award because of the remarkable work they have done in just a few short years to prevent crime and help survivors of violence recover," said Congressman Cardoza. "This Violence Prevention Program has worked closely with the community and law enforcement officials to educate students with a positive and proactive approach that has proven itself incredibly successful."
The Violence Prevention Program at UC Merced was first implemented in 2010, and has already shown significant results. In just the two year span of the program's existence, there has been a 1,250% increase by survivors of these crimes reporting to law enforcement -- from an average of two reports per year to 27 reports in 2011 alone. This increase in reporting is attributed to the close relationship between the Violence Prevention Program and campus and community police officers.
In addition to advocating for survivors of crimes, the program provides educational programs to UC Merced students. These programs are aimed at teaching students how to recognize signs of sexual and domestic violence, how to effectively respond to behaviors or attitudes that lead to these crimes, and how to help survivors access appropriate resources.
Kari Mansager, Director of UC Merced's Violence Prevention Program, said, "We at the University of California Merced Violence Prevention Program are deeply honored and humbled in receiving the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus Allied Profession Award. We are proud to work amongst colleagues and organizations around the world who share the same goal of supporting survivors of crime in their process toward healing and justice."
The Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus is a proven and effective leader in advocating for crime victims. During its six year existence, the Caucus has taken the lead in supporting programs that provide critical support for victim services throughout the nation, including those created by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and Violence Against Women's Act (VAWA). The Caucus was also instrumental in the enactment of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act, and the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011.
The Allied Profession Award recognizes the efforts of individuals, organizations, and coalitions that directly benefit crime victims, but are not direct victim service providers. The award recognizes leadership, creativity, and commitment in improving the plight of crime victims across the nation.
In March, Rep. Costa also nominated Candy O'Donel-Browne, President of the Board of Directors of Mountain Crisis Services, Inc. (MCS), for the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus' Ed Stout Memorial Award for Outstanding Victim Advocacy, which recognizes individuals who use innovative approaches to directly serve victims and survivors of crime. O'Donel-Brown was chosen as a runner-up for this award because of her tireless advocacy on behalf of victims of domestic violence in rural communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley.