The University of Montana will receive $300,000 from a Department of Justice grant to hire a violence intervention director and to help expand the school’s programs aimed at curbing violence against women.

U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester said Monday the grant will help expand collaboration between UM and community partners, improving their response to victims of sexual and dating violence.

“No Montana community tolerates violence against women,” said Tester, who wrote a letter in support of the grant. “We need to do everything we can to prevent sexual violence, and these resources will help protect more Montana women.”

Baucus said the grant was available through the old version of the Violence Against Women Act, which originally passed in 1994.

He wrote a letter in May to the Justice Department’s Office of Violence Against Women, asking the agency to release funding for UM’s new campus program.

“This grant is an important step toward demonstrating a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence against our sisters, daughters and friends,” Baucus said. “The more we can work together to target the scourge of domestic violence on campus and off campus, the better we’ll be as a society.”

The grant was well-received at UM, which launched a new program this year to help reduce campus violence. The Personal Empowerment Through Self Awareness program, or PETSA, is required training for all university students.

UM officials said Monday the added funding will help expand, reorganize and streamline the school’s campuswide programs addressing violence. The funding will allow for a new director of student assault programming.

The job will be full-time and funded for one year.

“That was identified as a gap,” said Beth Hubble, a professor of women’s and gender studies at UM. “We were looking at how to fit that into the current Student Assault Resource Center and the university model – someone to coordinate all of us from academics to student services.”

Hubble said the Student Assault Resource Center relies largely on volunteer advocates. The funding will help the program hone its focus and give the program a higher profile at a higher level of the university.

“Getting this grant is a very strong statement that we’re trying to work proactively on this issue,” said Hubble. “It will allow us to expand existing programs on campus that have needed an infusion of funding to really make a difference. We’re very happy to get this.”

UM said the new director of student assault programming will use evidence-based methods to intervene on student assault across the academic curriculum.

The grant also will support the school’s Men Can Stop Rape club.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260 or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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