Crahen and Hawke create a ‘Safe Space’ on campus

September 17th, 2009

A $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women has brought a program aimed at preventing instances related to sexual and relationship violence to John Carroll University. 

The program is needed in light of the fact that JCU and the surrounding community reported 11 on-campus forcible sex offenses in the past four years according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education. 

Safe Space: Violence Prevention and Action Center (VPAC) is both an outreach program and a safe and confidential facility, located in the University Counseling Center, where students can access informational resources and the help of advocates. 

“The [new] program sends a message that sexual assault, dating violence and stalking are not tolerated at John Carroll and a message of care and understanding to survivors at JCU,” said Ashley Hawke, the VPAC program coordinator. 

Hawke plans to educate students, providing them with tools to intervene in situations involving violence, in hopes of preventing future incidents. She said this will “create a respectful, healthy learning environment for everyone in our community.”

Before accepting the grant-funded full-time position at JCU, Hawke spent two years working at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.

Safe Space is possible largely through the efforts of Dean of Students Sherri Crahen, who wrote a 20-page narrative and budget proposal as the grant application. 

 “We applied for the grant because of the opportunity to get resources,” said Crahen. “$300,000 is a lot of money. We are really very lucky.”

JCU partnered with the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, the Domestic Violence Center, the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Hillcrest Hospital, University Heights Police Department, Shaker Heights Municipal Court and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office in an effort to create the most effective program. 

Crahen and Hawke said that Safe Space advocacy would focus on addressing concerning and unacceptable behaviors in relationships with students. 

The grant provides funding for specialized training for campus administrators and safety officers and access to an advocate who can assist victims in meeting “medical, legal, emotional and safety needs,” as suggested in the grant proposal.

Lt. David Novinc of the University Heights Police said, “These things are rather infrequent, but you have to understand that anything can happen at John Carroll because of the amount of people there. This happens to employees, students; it happens to people that have nothing to do with John Carroll but who were brought up there.”

Students can call the Safe Space 24-hour hotline at (216) 397-CALL. Information is also available on the program’s Web site,