UNM Center Supports Students Living In Abusive Home Environments During Shutdown

May 6, 2020

Most students at the University of New Mexico moved out of the dorms and began taking classes online the last week of March. For students experiencing domestic violence who moved back into abusive situations, or who are no longer leaving home to go to school, there are new barriers to getting support. The LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center is a confidential reporting site on campus for sexual and domestic violence that provides students support, education and resources. KUNM’s Nash Jones, who used to work at the center, spoke with Cole Carvour, the center’s Campus Advocate, about how the stay-at-home order is impacting student survivors and the services the center provides.

COLE CARVOUR: I would say that as a whole, our center and some of the other confidential sites on campus are actually seeing fewer reports being made. The other piece, though, is that of course, folks are stuck for longer amounts of time in spaces with abusive partners; also just abusive family members. So, we've definitely seen a few cases where it wasn't necessarily an intimate partner but other family members that had unhealthy or abusive relationships with one of our students.

KUNM: And when you say there are fewer reports, that doesn't mean that there's fewer instances of violence occurring, right?

CARVOUR: Correct. So generally, seeing more reports is a sign that people are more comfortable coming forward, talking about what's going on in their lives. So, seeing fewer reports is not a positive thing. It doesn't mean that they're not happening. We know what's happening. It just means that fewer people are coming forward and talking to at least us here at the University about what's going on in their lives.

KUNM: And when people do come forward, how are you continuing to provide services since UNM sent students and much of its staff home?

CARVOUR: Most of us have the capacity, if students want, to use Zoom meetings in order to still see a face, be a little bit more than a voice on the phone. We're all still taking reports. We're reaching out to faculty. I would say that more of the reports are coming through faculty. They might be struggling with their schoolwork because of this type of abuse going on in their home setting, and therefore reaching out to their faculty, who then connect them with us, which is a really big help.

KUNM: A significant part of your work is also referrals to community resources for survivors. Are those still available right now? Has the way people access them changed at all?

CARVOUR: They're absolutely available. For example, Albuquerque SANE Collaborative. People might think of them only for exams around sexual assaults, but they also do exams around survivors of domestic violence. They are still open, they are still doing exams; of course, taking extra precautions around health and safety, although they always do that. There's the Domestic Violence Resource Center, and even though they're working on remotely, people can still be connected with them whether that's to attain emergency restraining orders or safety planning. They're still offering services, even though there are new challenges, right? I know on our end, reaching out can be a bit challenging because we don't know who's monitoring shared devices, shared email accounts.

KUNM: I imagine that's a pretty unique barrier right now. So, if someone can't leave the house, or are having their phone calls monitored, how might they safely access a helpline or some of those remote resources that you mentioned?

CARVOUR: I would say, almost all DV service providers, on their websites, generally have a button that will cancel out of that page in case someone perhaps walks into the room. They also have ways of entering your web browser with a privacy setting so that it's not saving the types of sites that that person has been looking up.

KUNM: What in your mind is the biggest problem you're facing right now doing this work? What are you worried about today?

CARVOUR: One thing I'm worried about is not only those who are currently experiencing abuse, but those who have just recently left an abusive situation and now maybe don't have a job or income that they had before. The danger of losing that new safe space is real. I'm worried that people are also really dealing with basic needs and maybe don't have the ability to walk away from abusive situations. Housing is always a challenging aspect, but it's even more so now that someone has children with them.

KUNM: Are you seeing any good solutions that people are finding?

CARVOUR: Both the [UNM] Women's Resource Center and Casa Fortaleza have been doing some online chat rooms. I think that can be a really useful space, whether it's someone who's facing imminent harm or someone who perhaps is struggling through this and the sort of mental impacts of that.

KUNM: Is there anything else you'd like folks to know that I haven't asked you about yet?

CARVOUR: As long as students know that we are still there for them; that coming and talking to us does not mean that they have to move forward with any kind of formal process, but they can at least get ideas about what options they have.

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If you’re experiencing violence at home or in a relationship, you can reach the Domestic Violence Resource Center at 505-248-3165. If you’re a UNM student, you can contact the LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center 24 hours a day at 505-277-2911. 

This interview originally aired on our show Your NM Government. Catch it every weeknight at 7:30 p.m. on KUNM or wherever you get your podcasts. Your NM Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS and The Santa Fe Reporter.