Sunday, March 05, 2000

Advocacy spreads over U.S.

Victims rights group gets grant

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — An Oxford group will help victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence across the country.

        Victims Rights Advocacy, a nonprofit group, recently received $85,000 from the federal government to develop and distribute an information booklet for sexual assault victims with special needs.

        The group will form a national advisory committee to help distribute 10,000 booklets in Spanish, Braille and large print.

Filling a gap
        The informational and resource booklet, which will run 10 to 12 pages, will be sent later this year to certain hospitals, rape crisis centers, police departments, schools and various agencies.

        “We'll target areas that aren't regularly serviced, such as schools for the blind,” said Terri Spahr Nelson, project director and group coordinator.

        The booklet will be written by Ms. Spahr Nelson, a clinical social worker, and group co-coordinator Julie Campbell-Ruggaard, a student counselor. The publication will help victims understand the recovery process, treatment options and the criminal justice system.

        The group was founded in 1992 when a group of Oxford women formed to provide advocacy services for victims of domestic violence. “We wanted to fill a gap in services,” Ms. Spahr Nelson said. “It truly was a grass-roots organization, formed by women with some interest in the topic.”

Expert advice
        Since 1997, the group has received three grants, including ones to evaluate sexual assault protocol and assess how the system responds to sexual assault issues.

        “We're not just relying on our own expertise,” Ms. Spahr Nelson said. “We're relying on experts'. One of our key consultants is the Diversity Institute at the University of Texas.”

        The new grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Office through the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. The booklet is the group's first national project.

Community effort
        “We're confident that our resources and expertise will have a positive impact on helping victims of sexual assault and domestic violence,” said Ms. Campbell-Ruggaard, leader of the group's national advisory committee.

        Local board members, who serve without pay, include college professors, counselors, a police officer and various community members.


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