Wellness Education to absorb REAL program

The Relationship Equality Anti-violence League (REAL) program will be moved under the Department of Wellness Education within the Division of Student affairs by fall from the Center for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, where it was created.

The program, originally started in 2009 by a three-year grant from the Florida Department of Health, was designed to provide education and leadership opportunities for men in ending sexual and relationship violence. But after the program spent the $55,000 it was awarded the first year, $46,500 the second year and $39,500 this year, the funding ran out and was not renewed.

Director of the Advocacy center Nanci Newton said the states decision to deny renewal of the grant reflects a larger trend.

All of (it) has to do with the dwindling resources of the state prevention funds, she said. In addition, that grant ended early because it was supposed to go through Oct. 31 of this year, but it ended April 30 because the state decided to go in a different direction with their prevention funds.

Jennifer Parker, a coordinator for alcohol and drug awareness and prevention initiatives in Wellness Education who will now oversee the REAL program, said the program will continue as is, but did not know how it would be funded.

The change is very new, so I cant say definitively that therell be no changes at all (to the program), but thats something I am not looking to do, she said.

Both she and Newton said they were unsure of the reason behind the shift of the program, but said the REAL program had real benefits at USF.

In 2007 and 2008, the Center saw 13 cases related to sexual battery each year, and in 2009, when the program was implemented, the Center saw 14 cases. But during the 2010-2011 school year, according to a report issued by the Center, it saw 40 cases. This year it saw 28.

For the years 2007 and 2008, the Center saw 21 and 18 cases, respectively, related to relationship violence. In 2009, they saw 43 cases and in 2010 they saw 49 cases. This year they saw 29.

Newton said she thinks some of that had to do with the implementation of the REAL program.

We were expecting a spike for a couple of years because we knew it would spread the word about our services by doing the REAL presentations, she said. Now what were seeing is this downtrend in (sexual battery and domestic and relationship violence cases), whereas we were seeing an uptrend before just since the REAL program started in 09.

Daniel Turk, a graduate assistant who worked for the advocacy center about three years ago, developed the plan for the REAL program.

USF male students who participate in the REAL program have to take a three-credit-hour class on leadership development.

They learn information about violence against women, Newton said. They learn all about power and control, which is the motivation for violence against women, as well as the oppression of women.

These male peer educators are also taught how to give presentations, called The REAL Deal, based on what they learned in the class. They presented to students in classrooms, fraternities and sororities, and student organizations over the past three years.

Last year the program made 217 presentations and reached 13,604 people, while this year they made 134 presentations and reached 14,071 people.

Newton said the advocacy center saw a 47 percent increase in men coming into the Center over the last three years.

I do think that our REAL program has made a difference, she said.