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USU To Hire Victim Advocate, Special Investigator With Federal Grant

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State University will be hiring a victim advocate and a police officer who specializes in domestic and sexual assaults with the help of a federal grant.

School officials said the positions are the latest effort in a series of changes to better support survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

The two new positions are made possible through a $125,000 grant funded through the federal Violence Against Women Act.

“These are highly-skilled positions that will be able to help those who have been victimized by these crimes,” said USU’s Executive Director of Public Safety, Earl Morris. “The goal and objective here is to create an environment in which law enforcement is really viewed as part of this whole victim’s advocacy program, and we hope our students will see that.”

Morris said he was approached by staff from the Sexual Assault and Anti-Violence Information Office, or SAAVI, with the idea of applying for the grant, and agreed that it was a good idea.

“We are always looking for opportunities to expand services that we can provide to survivors on our campus,” said Felicia Gallegos, an outreach and prevention coordinator with SAAVI. “It really demonstrates how much this university cares about students, faculty, and staff across our statewide system. They want to make sure that the students above all are getting the support they need to be successful, and they’re willing to do that in any way possible.”

The move to obtain the grant is just one of many changes that have taken place after an internal inquiry took place that looked into how the university responded to accusations that former USU football player, Torrey Green, had sexually assaulted several women. He has since been sentenced in six of those cases.

Morris said he’s hopeful the new positions will help continue to build trust with the student population, and especially with survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence. The university will be able to reapply for the grant after a year, but he says the positions will hopefully remain part of a long-term plan.

“We just want to make sure that we are equipped as a department of public safety, and as a university as a whole, to meet their needs,” Morris said. “Our ultimate goal is to create a program that the administration will see needs to be here, regardless of whether or not we get funding from an outside source.”

Gallegos added while more survivors are having the confidence to come forward, much more work still needs to be done.

“Overall, we still aren’t having these open conversations about what it’s like to experience interpersonal violence, and then also what you do next,” Gallegos said.

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