Calendar for 2015 encourages sexual assault reporting and culture of safety at VCU

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Virginia Commonwealth University’s Police Department has collaborated with the VCU School of the Arts to address various issues surrounding sexual assault in the higher education setting.

Today the two departments unveiled a 2015 VCU Police calendar that features VCU Police officers on the Monroe Park Campus in Richmond. Each photo highlights a quote by officers encouraging the community to report sexual assaults, maintain healthy relationships, take part in bystander intervention and create a culture of respect between individuals at VCU.

An introductory page to the calendar states that VCU aggressively investigates any incident or allegation of assault.

“This was a collaborative and innovative approach to a very difficult issue. We want everyone to look out for each other, be respectful of others’ boundaries and come forward to police should they ever need our help,” VCU Police Chief John Venuti said. “We want students, faculty and staff to know who our officers are and how we support a culture of safety and security.”  

Under the direction of Sasha Waters Freyer, chair of the Department of Photography and Film in the School of the Arts, VCU students John Sampson and Nick Seitz photographed officers and designed the calendar. The back of the calendar has a full listing of sexual assault reporting and support services at VCU along with contact information for officers featured in the publication.

At the beginning of the academic year, Venuti presented safety information to academic department leaders and stressed that VCU Police has an open-door policy for collaborative projects. Waters Freyer approached Venuti afterward with an idea for a calendar and planning for the project began.

“It is deeply gratifying to see this collaborative project – which began as a basic idea back in July – come to such successful fruition,” Waters Freyer said. “Every step of the process, from brainstorming with our talented students, to working with the officers who trusted us to represent them, to the final, beautifully printed calendar, came together wonderfully.  It was an honor to be involved in this project that both brings together different areas of our diverse campus, and addresses a crucial need – awareness around sexual assault reporting.”

Waters Freyer approved a design proposal from two of her students; each was awarded a grant by the photography department to work on the project.

Nick Seitz, a sophomore and photography major, photographed a dozen VCU Police officers.

“I really enjoyed working on portraits with each of the officers,” Seitz said. “In getting to know each of their stories I really came to realize how invested the VCU Police force is in student safety and well-being, while still being friendly and approachable.”

John Sampson, a sophomore majoring in graphic design, created the layout using VCU’s iconic gold, black and gray school colors.

“We made the decision to dedicate the calendar to the victims of abuse, and I was immediately engaged,” Sampson said. “I know many people who have been abused and I see how it affects them, so I am very happy to have contributed to such a project.”

Each calendar costs $15; the fundraising goal for the project is to raise $1,000 for the YWCA of Richmond. Calendars are available for purchase in Barnes and Noble @ VCU located at 1111 W. Broad St.

The YWCA of Richmond is a nonprofit organization offering free counseling, case management and emergency housing services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and intimate partner violence. Funding helps the YWCA provide services for survivors of intimate partner violence, including domestic and sexual assault.

The 2015 calendar is the second fundraiser for the YWCA supported by VCU Police this year. The first was a Chili's Give Back the Night fundraiser in October.

“We can tell by their efforts, and the quotes from the officers in the calendar, that VCUPD is proactively working to train officers to respond to these types of crimes with sensitivity, empathy and compassion for the victim,” said  Carol Anne Lajoie, chief development officer for the YWCA.

“That's a great place to start the healing process for survivors. Plenty of studies have shown that when the immediate response includes understanding and caring, survivors have a higher success rate in terms of trauma recovery. We're proud to partner with VCU in both prevention efforts and to provide a compassionate response to this type of violence in our community.”

The YWCA collaborates with other agencies on the Regional Hospital Accompaniment and Response Team (R-HART), to provide survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence throughout the region with hospital advocates 24/7. The YWCA also partners with agencies on the Greater Richmond Regional Hotline, a free, confidential resource for survivors and their advocates.