Content warning: this article contains language and content related to domestic violence. Reader discretion is advised.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as designated by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the university continues to offer resources for survivors such as counseling groups, legal assistance and grace with academic performance.
Domestic violence can take many different forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, verbal and economic abuse. While domestic violence education sometimes focuses on conflict between romantic partners, it can be perpetrated by anyone in the survivor’s domestic circle. This includes ex-partners, immediate family members, other relatives and family friends.
“Domestic violence doesn’t look the same in every relationship because every relationship is different,” the university library’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month guide reads. “But one thing most abusive relationships have in common is that the abusive partner does many different kinds of things to have more power and control over their partner.”
The university’s Survivor Advocate graduate assistant Callie Stanford spoke with the North Texas Daily about the various resources available for survivors to utilize both on and off-campus. Stanford first mentioned the university Counseling and Testing Services, which offers both individual and group counseling sessions as well as weekly workshops.
Two groups offered by CTS cater specifically to the needs of domestic abuse survivors. This includes the workshop A Starting Point for Trauma Recovery, which is “a safe space for those who are not yet ready for focused trauma work in either an individual or group setting” according to its description on the CTS website. A support group known as Survivors of Sexual Assault also works to benefit those who have experienced domestic violence.
The Survivor Advocate office makes referrals to Student Legal Services, which offers enrolled students free legal advice, assistance, representation and education. The office can help survivors break leases, report domestic violence and separate from abusers.
“Our office will assist you with a simple, agreed divorce, but if children, property, or family violence are involved, we will provide you with attorney referrals as well as other resource information you may need,” Student Legal Services said on its website.
Housing and Residence Life is another resource that will work with survivors who live on campus, Stanford said. The department assists with roommate swaps or room changes to ensure a safe living space for every student.
“We also refer students off-campus to Denton County Friends of the Family, which is a local non-profit that provides free services to individuals impacted by sexual and relational violence in Denton County,” Stanford said. “For students primarily residing in other counties, such as students at UNT Frisco who might be in Collin County, we refer them to similar agencies such as Hope’s Door, The Family Place and Brighter Tomorrows.”
Survivors of domestic violence are able to report their abuse to both the university administration and local law enforcement. Both the Dean of Students and the Division of Institutional Equity & Diversity’s Title IX office process reports and handle cases. Survivors who choose to press charges can do so through the university police department, Denton Police Department or other relevant law enforcement agencies depending on their location.
“Reach out [to the university] because they can do a lot for you — more than you think they can,” a drawing and painting junior who wished to stay anonymous due of her history with domestic violence said. “They can’t do everything for you but I definitely really needed that resource.”
A victim of childhood domestic violence, the student struggled with PTSD during her first semester. She became depressed and frequently skipped her classes.
After reaching out to a university counselor, the student was referred to the Dean of Students, who then referred her to the Survivor Advocate. The student was offered legal services and received assistance in contacting her professors and excusing her absences.
“They were really helpful,” she said. “I would have definitely failed my first semester — all of my classes— if I didn’t reach out to them.”
Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas