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One university's tactics toward improving women's safety have shown the benefits of doing your own research.

Worried about the violence against women on campus, the University of Kentucky engaged in a campus-specific "Women's Safety Study," beginning in 2004.

The results, which came back this month, provide an example of how a university can proactively address issues relating to women's safety.

In its 2004 survey, the school found that 36.5 percent of female students would experience some form of victimization while at UK and also discovered several different spots on campus that made women feel unsafe.

With those results, the University instituted a series of policies designed to improve women's safety on campus. They created and advertised resources for women to turn to when they are victimized, started a prevention education campaign and improved lighting and landscaping on parts of campus that were determined to be danger zones.

And when the survey was administered again this year, many of the disconcerting statistics showed a sizeable improvement, most notably the number of women who were reporting sexual offenses.

"Rather than just taking national data and applying it to UK's experience, we thought the smarter approach would be to do our own study and measure our own experience," explained Carol Jordan, director of the school's Center for Research on Violence Against Women.

Penn officials say that despite the survey's apparent effectiveness, they don't plan to emulate it, instead relying on their existing policies and organizations.

Those include a self-defense class offered to female students, resources for victims of sexual offenses in many different parts of the University, and education programs during New Student Orientation.

Alison Kiss, program director for the nonprofit organization Security On Campus, said that while UK's results hold promise, Penn's existing infrastructure for women's safety is currently more than adequate.

In fact, the University has been awarded the $400,000 Violence Against Women federal grant for three years in a row.

That grant funds the West Philadelphia Campus Community Consortium to Reduce Violent Crimes Against Women, an organization that sponsors women's safety groups at Penn, Drexel University and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

"When we talk about the issue of services for women and crime prevention for women, I definitely think Penn has been on the cutting edge of that since the early '70s when the University created the first women's center," director of special services Patricia Brennan said.

Others, including Penn President Amy Gutmann, agree.

"I think we do well. We're certainly committed to having an environment where women students not only feel safe, but feel empowered," Gutmann said.

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