Keeping health and safety for women and girls at the forefront of their concerns, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation Fund for Women & Girls (FWG) reached out to the nonprofit community’s expertise in the region for the best solutions to prevent sexual violence from occurring. As a result of months of research, exploration and in-depth discussions, FWG is pleased to announce the launch of The Sexual Violence Prevention Collaborative of Fairfield County, their latest philanthropic initiative with their partners to address sexual assault in the region.
The Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls forged an innovative collaboration with five local nonprofit organizations to combat sexual violence in Fairfield County. The partnership, made possible through a renewable grant totaling $100,000, brings together a group of experts in the field of sexual assault and domestic violence to focus on making a countywide impact. Participating organizations include The Center for Family Justice (Bridgeport); The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education (Stamford); Triangle Community Center (Norwalk); Women’s Center of Greater Danbury and YWCA Greenwich.
“Appreciating that both funders and grantees can accomplish more together than alone, as a part of the Foundation’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan, FCCF identified collaboration as one of our core values. We are excited to share details with you about how this unique funding initiative brings the value of collaboration to light and most importantly will enable our grantee partners to increase and scale their impact through partnership. We strongly believe that this is a model for future funding that will improve the way each of our organizations serves the community,” stated Mendi Blue-Paca, Vice President of Community Impact, Fairfield County Community’s Foundation.
These organizations collaboratively identified youth sports as the focus area of their sexual violence prevention education program. Their first project is noted as “Coaches As Partners”. As in the national arena, this group recognized that here in Fairfield County sports plays an important role in shaping our culture. This cohort plans to engage administrators, athletic directors and coaches at individual schools and school districts across Fairfield County as well as the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC) and Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) in the initiative.
Undeniably, there is a critical need to prevent sexual assault before it happens. The cohort identified athletic directors, coaches and others involved in sports as having a significant influence over the behavior of the youth they coach. They often serve as mentors or parental figures, and as role models they can impact the development of character, leadership skills and the goals of student athletes.
“As a grantmaker with a focus on safety, it was essential to convene key organizations operating in the sexual assault arena with overlapping catchment areas to significantly reduce the pervasiveness of sexual violence through collective action,” said Tricia Hyacinth, Director, Fund for Women & Girls, Fairfield County Community’s Foundation. “We’re pleased to fund this innovative, targeted approach and partner in this transformative work that will promote positive sports culture and address a serious public health/human rights issue.”
This coordinated effort allows each agency to benefit from the other’s areas of expertise, as well as established relationships and connections within the community. Focusing on character building and leadership, and teaching bystander intervention skills, the cohort plans to leverage the power and influence of student athletic programs to create a cultural shift that does not tolerate sexually violent behavior.
Nearly 60 public and private schools in Fairfield County with youth sports programs will participate in this undertaking. In addition to these school-based programs, the initiative also will engage town-level youth sports coaches and league directors. One of the key goals of this project is to reach adult youth sports leaders who do not fully understand the critical role they can play in preventing and intervening in sexual assault. Athletic directors and coaches will gain knowledge around sexual assault and violence, learn a common language, and receive practical tools to challenge existing attitudes and behaviors to prevent sexual assault and domestic violence.
The Sexual Violence Prevention Collaborative of Fairfield County has the potential to serve as a model for educating interscholastic youth communities across the state and across the country, and to make a significant impact addressing issues that lead a potential abuser to sexual assault and domestic violence.
The design phase of the sexual violence and assault prevention program is currently underway. Focus groups comprised of athletic directors and coaches from participating schools and organizations will help to design curriculum development that best meets the needs of the youth sports programs and adult leaders. Program training is anticipated to begin in November and will continue with implementation, monitoring and evaluations throughout the school year.