Speaking out against domestic violence in Austin

Stand up against domestic violence

AUSTIN - Dealing with any sort of violence, whether it be domestic abuse or sexual assault, can be difficult to go through. With the social stigma that frequently is attached to those who have been victims, speaking up can sometimes be the hardest part.

It is currently Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a time to bring these problems to the forefront and figure out solutions, especially for those living in Austin. Latoya Smith, the University of Texas at Austin's Title IX coordinator, said her department's job revolves around looking to prevent sexual assault and intervening when necessary.

"My responsibility is to ensure that the university is compliant with the federal guidelines from the office of civil rights, ensuring that we are compliant with Title IX regulations," Smith said.

In Austin, the university process under the Title IX regulations includes no statute of limitations. This means an incident can be reported from two days ago or two years -- there's no time restriction. Smith said no matter the outcome of any type of assault investigation, her department will help anyone who needs it.

"We still make sure that we provide that support and those accommodations because that's our first priority," Smith said.

According to FBI crime stats, Texas ranks in the top 20 in terms of rapes per capita in 2014. The Austin region landed at 49 rapes per 100,000 people, which is less than San Antonio but more than Houston.

While some colleges across the country are considering changing how and when to report sexual assault investigations -- Smith said UT and the school's police department are sticking to their "timely warnings" policy. The department will report crimes to the campus when it will help prevent similar crimes.

"We are dealing with people and we are dealing with people's lives," Smith said. "What institutions like UT Austin have to do is balance expediency as well as thoroughness. I don't want our process to be an obstacle for someone coming forward. I want to really work to make sure we create a process and environment where people feel safe to come forward."

Thursday, October 20 is National #PurpleThursday, a time to wear purple -- the color of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

To contact the national domestic violence hotline, you can reach them at 1-800-779-7233.

(© 2016 KVUE)


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