Students meet up against interpersonal violence

Michelle Zhang

Voices Against Violence hosted its first meeting of the semester on Tuesday evening to welcome students who are interested in learning more about ways of addressing sexual assault and interpersonal violence.

Founded in 2001, VAV, a key program of the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center, aims to address relationship violence, sexual violence and stalking on campus through counseling services and programming that increases safety, cultivates support and promotes growth.

Rachel McDaniel, the graduate assistant for VAV, is responsible for providing workshops and supporting outreach.

“I’m really excited to be involved in Voices Against Violence because sexual assault and interpersonal violence is something that happens to a lot of people, especially in college, because it’s a unique place where there are so many people living together all at once,” McDaniel said.

VAV also sponsors a student organization to host events, recruit volunteers and promote campaigns that are in line with VAV’s core values on campus. Every Tuesday, VAV hosts conversations about current examples of interpersonal violence cases and prevention.

“We are coming up in October into Relationship Violence Prevention Month,” said Katy Redd, assistant director of prevention and outreach at the CMHC who oversees VAV. “We will be having a number of events to raise awareness about healthy relationships and also works students can do if someone in their life involves in unhealthy relationship.” 

VAV works closely with students as well as other community partners around campus, such as BeVocal, a UT initiative to promote bystander intervention for those who witness unhealthy interactions.

“[The partnersip] gives an interesting and helpful framework for students to think about, if they see something unhealthy, something that concerns them,” Redd said. “That empowers them to be able to intervene directly or indirectly in that situation to help change the culture around what it means for Longhorns to take care of each other.” 

The event started with an icebreaker, during which participants shared their own experiences and motivation to be here. 

After, participants were matched with a member of VAV staff for a more personal interaction.

“I have my personal experience with assault in my senior high school, and I think it’s something that needs to be talked about,” public relations sophomore Jordan Kolker said. “I just want to … help people to talk about it if they need to.”