Center provides information, support and awareness for sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking

Kathy Robertson knows the importance of having a place on campus where students can go for help dealing with dating violence, stalking, sexual assault and domestic violence. She lost her daughter to dating violence in 2007.

Interpersonal violence is a national issue for college students, especially college-aged women. But The Phoenix Center at Auraria hopes to help eradicate it on the Auraria Campus, the largest campus in the state with more than 43,000 students.

The Phoenix Center at Auraria, which opens today, will serve students, faculty and staff at all three campus institutions: University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State College of Denver and Community College of Denver as well as staff at the Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC). Goals of The Phoenix Center at Auraria include establishing victim services, increasing offender accountability, coordinating campus response to incidents of interpersonal violence, and developing prevention and awareness activities.

“As a mother of a college student who was tragically taken from this world by dating violence, I know the consequences of being uninformed about issues facing young adults today,” said Kathy Robertson, whose daughter, a student at Metro State, was killed by her former boyfriend, also a Metro State student. “The Phoenix Center at Auraria will help these young men and women on the Auraria Campus have a safe environment to go to when they feel that they are in danger or in need of confidential relationship advice.”

The Phoenix Center at Auraria was funded by U.S. Department of Justice grant money—$500,000 over three years—awarded in November 2008 to the Center on Domestic Violence in the School of Public Affairs at CU Denver. The money was given to develop a program for prevention of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on the Auraria Campus. Although interpersonal violence centers are not unusual on university campuses, The Phoenix Center at Auraria is special in that it’s a tri-institutional office providing services to all staff, students and faculty across three institutions of higher education as well as AHEC. The three Auraria Campus institutions collectively saw the need for a center and were responsible for applying for the grant monies.

“An end to domestic violence can be modeled on our campuses and The Phoenix Center at Auraria will be a big part of making that dream a reality,” said Chancellor M. Roy Wilson, University of Colorado Denver. “The Center will be critical to enhancing our understanding of how we can all contribute to end the interpersonal violence so prevalent in our communities today.”

The Phoenix Center at Auraria will offer a 24-hour confidential helpline (303.556.CALL or 2255), victim support, advocacy and other services. It also will conduct high-profile programming to raise overall understanding among students, faculty and staff of sexual assault, stalking, dating and domestic violence on campus. It will include information on what it is, how to intervene safely to help a friend and where victims can receive help. In addition, the Center utilizes student volunteer violence-prevention educators who conduct peer-to-peer education, operate booths and tables at Auraria events, distribute literature and look for opportunities to raise the issue’s visibility on campus. The project represents a partnership of more than 27 internal and external organizations.

“Safety is a critical concern on our campus and we’re pleased to have the additional resources of The Phoenix Center at Auraria to help students, faculty and our staff develop the skills to prevent violence and stalking,” said Karén Bleeker, president of the Community College of Denver. “The Center offers a proactive approach designed to raise awareness and build support networks across all three institutions at Auraria. We are grateful that the Center on Domestic Violence in the CU Denver School of Public Affairs has coordinated this important effort.”

On Oct. 28-29, the event Love, Sex and Lies: An Intimacy Checkup will screen over 1,000 Auraria students, staff and faculty for abuse in their relationships and provide resources and advice. The event will be held in the Multi Cultural Lounge at the Tivoli Student Union from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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