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RESPECT aims to prevent violence

By Jasmin Brown
On January 27, 2011

A&M-Commerce's Social Work Department is seeking to prevent and reduce violence against women both on campus and within the Commerce community through the newly formed Project RESPECT (Respond, Empower, Support, Protect, Educate, Coordinate and Train).

The project is funded jointly by a $282,478 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women, and a $110,987 grant from the Texas Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, according to a Nov. 3, 2010 article.

According to Project RESPECT Director Dianna Jones, the grant is designed to aid victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking on campus and within the community and to prevent such violence through education.

"I'm not saying that we have a lot of those problems, but we want to be proactive in making sure that our law enforcement and judicial process that victims have to go through is actually effective and does not re-victimize them," she said.

Jones said she and project administrators have been working on getting the project off the ground.

"What we've been doing with the project is mostly getting our name out there," she said. "When I came [in June 2010] one of our main focuses was to increase collaboration and coordinate services on campus and within the community to get people educated about these issues and to protect victims and let them know the resources available to them."

Project RESPECT is partnering with the University Police Department, the Counseling Center and Judicial Affairs on campus. Jones said victims need to be aware of the importance of reporting violence and realize that their confidentiality can be protected.

"It's really up to the victim where and to whom they want to report," she said. "We're just asking them to report. That doesn't mean it actually has to go through the criminal process. They still have confidentiality. There are things that UPD has in place to ensure confidentiality. It's all about making the victim feel comfortable to start the healing process as soon as possible."

UPD Crime Information Officer Lt. Jason Bone said it is important for victims of violence such as sexual assault and domestic abuse to realize that time lines in reporting are absolutely critical.

"First and foremost, it is vital that they report these kinds of violence as soon as they can," Bone said. "Sometimes someone's very life may depend on timely reporting of violence incidents."

Project RESPECT publishes a quarterly newsletter, which will be available at various locations on campus and also on the RESPECT website:

"This year, we will be looking at ways we can have open discussions, maybe show a film and then have an open forum where we can have discussion about the film," Jones said. "We're also going to have activities and partner with some student organizations like the rec center and athletics, just different things to bring awareness."

Jones said although Project RESPECT is geared specifically toward women, the future goal is to include men.

"We want to also get men involved," she said. "It's a violence against women program, but there are also male victims, so at that particular point, men become victims too. We want to get the men involved and start a men's group here on campus within the next three years."

Ensuring accountability for instigators of violence is another concern Jones said.

"Reporting for women and/or men many times has a social stigma attached to it," she said. "We want to address the problem so that it's not something that's a secret anymore and people especially here on campus, know that there's no tolerance for these acts of violence."

Jones said the RESPECT team is the in the process of expanding its resources for victims, even for those who wish to remain anonymous.

"We're always looking for volunteers," she said. "We welcome volunteers and people who have ideas about how to expand the knowledge and awareness of these issues. We welcome stories that people may want to publish within the newsletter or online. We want to have a ‘Voices' section within our website to give the victims who don't want to come forward a voice."

Social networking is another outlet that still needs to be developed for the project, according to Jones.

"We want to have weekly questions that you respond to on a blog or Facebook, so that we have different avenues that victims and/or people who want to help victims can expand upon," she said. "We have to blanket the problem so that it's handled at every aspect of daily life."

Bone also echoed Jones' philosophy on taking "proactive" measures to combat violence.

"I think statistically we have less instances of violence for our population, but of course one act is one too many," he said. "Programs like Project RESPECT can always an impact on communities through education."

According to Jones, prevention is Project RESPECT's main goal right now.

"Prevention is the key right now, to educate and train people before these things become a problem," Jones said

Those interested in further information or in getting involved with Project RESPECT, may e-mail or contact Jones at 903-886-5508 or

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