Federal Grant Strengthens Efforts to Prevent Violence Against Women


Jacksonville State recently welcomed a new victim service counselor to campus to support students dealing with sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking. The position is financed by the US Department of Justice, which awarded the university a $300,000 grant through the Office on Violence Against Women in 2019.

Giselle Sharp, a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, has been on campus since February, working out of the Counseling Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Having spent her career helping young people and families navigate from trauma to a place of healing, she intends to do the same for JSU students.

“If you have an understanding of what’s happening to a person physically, psychologically, emotionally, spiritually and biologically after they’ve experienced trauma, you can help them focus more on healing,” Sharp said. “Having a deeper understanding of what trauma is and how it affects every part of a person’s life is a tremendous benefit. I’m there to tell them what they’re going through is normal. It helps for them to know that they are going to be OK, that they can make it through this.”

Sharp’s services are free of charge for all JSU students, no matter when or where they may have experienced violence. She may be reached at gsharp@jsu.edu or by calling Counseling Services at 256-782-5475.

In addition to expanding counseling on campus, the OVW grant has also established the Victim Service Fund for student survivors of sexual assault who have accumulated expenses not covered by other assistance funds, explained Jana Pickette, grant project coordinator. “Our victim fund can fill financial gaps in crisis situations,” she said.

The grant office is also currently working closely with the district attorney’s office and community victim service provider, 2nd Chance, to develop a victim advocate presence on JSU’s campus.

“We now have a growing team of students, faculty, staff and community partners who all bring their specific strength to our goal of fostering a culture of respect at JSU,” Pickette said. “Only united as a community can we stand up against violence and develop a supportive environment in which we all look out for each other. The grant program is crucial in bringing all of us together to accomplish this.”

If anyone feels unsafe or uncomfortable on campus, they should always contact the University Police Department first at 256-782-8888 for immediate assistance.

“There are so many great, supportive resources – on and off campus,” said Jennifer Argo, Title IX coordinator. “I very much want all of our students, faculty and staff to know that I am here to help and to guide them to resources that can best assist them.”

Argo recommends students review the Sexual Assault Information Guide. Created by JSU social work student Bailey Nelson, it details JSU’s polices and additional sources regarding sexual assault.

The OVW grant works through four tracks that make up JSU’s Coordinated Community Response Team:

• Victim Services
• Student Conduct
• Prevention
• Law Enforcement

The Student Conduct and Law Enforcement tracks ensure policies, protocols and procedures reflect best practices and are coordinated with community partners to ensure an optimal, coordinated response in case a crime occurs. Each track trains its team members on sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and stalking.

“We are cooperating with JSU’s own Center for Best Practices in Law Enforcement and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators to create an education program with nationally recognized trainers, free of charge, for all local law enforcement and first responders,” Pickette said.

The Victim Services track works closely with the other tracks and 2nd Chance to streamline resources for victims and survivors. The Prevention track is developing an online prevention module for all incoming and transfer students that will empower JSU’s newest students to look out for one another. Lastly, JSU is in the process of launching “Bringing in the Bystander,” a program proven to teach safe intervention skills to those who witness a potentially dangerous situation.

While the initiatives are numerous, Pickette said, the goal is simple – fostering the necessary skills to build a safe and supportive culture.

“Everyone can do their part to prevent these crimes and build a healthier community,” Pickette said. “You can contribute in fostering a culture of respect by going to bystander intervention trainings, workshops and events – but if you can’t, you can always share a social media post, check-in with a friend who might be struggling, or attend a meeting.”

Even the small things matter, Pickette continued.

“Be the friend who cares,” she said. “And should you experience any violence yourself, whether on campus or off, whether while at JSU or before you ever got to campus – know that we are your team. We will support you in whatever way we can.”