Breaking

“Save This Seat” is an initiative, launched by Voices Against Violence from the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center and the UT student organizations Out Against Abuse and Breaking the Silence, that took place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday in various classrooms.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

Seats in the campus’ crowded lecture halls were left open all day Monday to memorialize victims of relationship violence.

The Counseling and Mental Health Center’s Voices Against Violence teamed with UT student organizations Out Against Abuse and Breaking the Silence to kick off Relationship Violence Awareness Month with Save This Seat. Save This Seat lasted through the scheduled class day campus-wide. Students posted a sign on vacant classroom seats for every female killed by a domestic partner in Texas during the last four years. Signs were also posted in the lobbies of the Flawn Academic Center and the Student Activity Center to honor these women.

Biology sophomore Kenera Colley, president of Breaking the Silence, said the group delivered signs to classes. Each sign told the story of a woman that was killed by an intimate partner.

“The signs were very moving,” Colley said. “These were stories from Dallas, Houston, from all over Texas. Each woman could have been sitting there in that seat if it weren’t for their husband or boyfriend who took their life.”

Erin Burrows, prevention and outreach specialist for Voices Against Violence, said the organization began the Save This Seat event years ago to shed light on domestic and relationship violence and what the UT community can do to stop it.

“A student can learn more about how to support a friend, how to recognize red flags of abusive behavior and resources on campus,” Burrows said. “Interpersonal violence is a community problem, and we have community solutions.”

Burrows said relationship violence is especially common among young people.

“In Texas, 75 percent of people aged 16 to 24 reported either knowing someone or having personally experienced relationship violence,” she said. “More than one in three women and one in four men in the U.S. are or will be survivors of violence, including rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.”

The Texas Council on Family Violence and the National Dating Abuse Helpline are also working to educate Austin residents about relationship violence. TCFV works with organizations across the state and advocates funds to help victims of dating violence. The council also participates in educational activities on college campuses.

Angela Hale, spokesperson for TCFV, said there are key warning signs that separate healthy relationships from unhealthy relationships.

“Many students don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like when they are new to dating,” Hale said. “We think it is important to educate students about healthy and unhealthy relationships, this way students can avoid getting in a long term relationship or marriage that may be abusive in the future.”

A complete calendar of events for Relationship Violence Awareness Month can be found on the Counseling and Mental Health Center’s website at www.cmhc.utexas.edu. Information about relationship violence and warning signs of an unhealthy relationship can be found at www.loveisrespect.org.

Printed on Tuesday, October 2, 2012 as: Seats saved for victims