Town of Amherst receives a $300,000 grant

By Sam Hayes

Shaina Mishkin/Collegian

The Town of Amherst received a $300,000 grant from the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women last week to expand services to aid survivors of sexual and domestic violence in the community.

The Amherst Police Department, University of Massachusetts Police Department, the University of Massachusetts Center for Women & Community (CWC) and the Northampton Police Department collaborated to obtain the grant and will all take part in the services that it will fund, according to a press release.

“We are really excited about receiving the grant,” CWC Associate Director Rebecca Lockwood said in a telephone interview. “It is a testament to the effectiveness of collaboration.”

The funding will create a new position at the Amherst Police Department for an officer exclusively assigned to sexual and domestic violence cases.  A new civilian advocate will also be hired to work two days a week at the Northampton Police Department.

In addition, the grant will continue to fund University of Massachusetts and Amherst Police Civilian Advocate Ilana Gerjuoy, who has directly aided 200 survivors since the program began in 2010, according to the release.

Training related to the mental health of sexual and domestic violence survivors will be increased for police officers in Amherst and Northampton.  The grant also funds the collaboration with the countywide Sexual Assault Response Team, SART, which involves police and members of health care and law enforcement agencies, according to the press release.

Since the program began, it has helped train 260 University and community members as well as 200 police officers in survivor aid services.  It also increased training for stalking detection and helping disabled survivors.

Lockwood explained that the grant does not just allow for more services, but it also gives survivors immediate help by providing a person to help them directly in the police station.

So far the program has “helped to build a really respectful relationship between advocates and police … [which is] really good for the survivor,” Lockwood said.

The grant specifically helps UMass students. Lockwood and the CWC work with the dean of students’ office to try to give student survivors help.  The grant also allows for increased ability for legal help.

“The collaborative program with the CWC and the University Police Department has made a positive impact on the Amherst community by filling a void with survivor advocacy,” said Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone in the release.  “We are very fortunate to have received additional funding from the US Department of Justice to expand this program with the City of Northampton.   With this funding we hope to have more regional and collaborative approach to impact and reduce the cycle of violence against women,” he said.

Lockwood said that the most important thing about this grant is getting survivors accurate information. Any student wanting more information can talk to the dean’s office, residence life, AMPD, UMPD or call the free CWC hotline at 413-545-0800.

Sam Hayes can be reached [email protected]