EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is leading a “Your Voice Matters” message to empower women and men to speak out about their diverse experiences.
The university’s CARE (Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education) Department is at the forefront of this initiative.
The CARE office “seeks to empower students who have been impacted by any crime by providing private advocacy, resources and supportive services,” says the university’s website.
While domestic violence is typically associated with females, males are also survivors of sexual violence and abuse. UTEP is making inclusivity a top priority in this matter.
“Everyone’s voice matters, so we’re trying to include the male population. There’s sometimes feedback that we only focus on women when it comes to issues of domestic violence,” says Jovana Nieto, Outreach Coordinator, UTEP CARE Department.
The “Your Voice Matter” series is sparking a number of conversations. One particular focus at the university: dating violence.
Nieto will present at UTEP’s “Dating 101” discussion – she says it’s important to know the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship.
“I tell them sometimes that our role models of what relationships should look like aren’t the most ideal. So, when you get a different perspective from research and school then that can help us break these patterns of violence,” says Nieto.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 34.5% of Texas women and 35.1% of Texas men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner rape and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.
“It’s important so they can lead a healthy life in college… so that they’re not dealing with the emotional turmoil of maybe an unhealthy relationship,” says Nieto.
Organizers say that these potentially uncomfortable and personal discussions surrounding relationships can be lifesaving, especially at the collegiate level.
Additionally, peer to peer conversations may empower students and the community to speak out about their challenges, especially when a safe space provided.
“I think college students are in the phase of their life where they want to advocate and you just feel very empowered to change the world. So we need to milk that… just addressing problems like this, so they can break the cycles that they maybe saw growing up, so they don’t repeat it,” says Nieto.
UTEP will host “Dating 101” Thursday, Oct. 17 at Union Building East. The discussion will kick off at 2:00 p.m., attendance is free of cost and open to the community.
A full list of events can be found on the department’s website.