Faces of VAWA

Mary Ellen Schaid
Mary Ellen Schaid

Only “yes” means “yes” is the message for the NIU community since NIU’s consent policy was officially adopted in regards to initiating sexual encounters.

Over the past two months, NIU Today has featured members of the university’s Violence Against Women Task Force and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Implementation Committee who have worked so diligently for more than two years to bring this issue to the forefront.

Mary Ellen Schaid is executive director of Safe Passage, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of services to victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence in DeKalb County.

An inaugural VAWA task force member, Schaid said she was happy to be part of the planning and implementation of this important issue.

“Violence against women is one of the scourges of most communities on earth,” Schaid said. “It is my work and my passion to try to prevent it and to make it unacceptable across all systems.”

Many good things already have come from NIU’s efforts, Schaid said, including a “clarified definition of consent” and increased collaboration among NIU’s divisions as well as with Safe Passage.

“I hope that there will be better access to information for anyone who is part of NIU, and that they are able to find help and information easily when they experience any violent encounter including sexual assault, domestic and/or dating violence and stalking,” Schaid said. “I expect a better website and other social media communication with clear information so victims do not struggle to figure out what to do when they need help.”

The director said she hopes NIU students, faculty and staff will “stay on the path they have started,” which includes improved communication and safe response and support for any victim of violence.

“It is important to have extensive training for all students and staff on what to do and where to go when violence is disclosed,” Schaid said.

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