Video+Story: El Paso ISD, Partners Join Forces to Fight Dating Violence

EPISD has partnered with the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Paso and the El Paso Child Guidance Center to provide resources for students who have been exposed to or engaged in domestic violence or sexual assault.

The initiative is made possible through a $750,000 grant from the Department of Justice and the Office of Violence Against Women for the collaborative effort at four campuses: Andress High School; and Terrace Hills, Charles and Richardson middle schools.

“What we’re aiming to do with the grant is engage boys and young men into having coping skills to develop healthy relationships with females,” said Manuel Castruita, director of counseling and advising. “We’re targeting particularly young men but not excluding females that have been exposed to or engaged in violence – domestic violence, gang violence or have been bystanders.”

The four entities, known together as the Youth without Violence Collaborative, announced the partnership and united effort during a news conference at Andress last week.

“Thanks to our partnership with CASFV, we have been able to address boys in efforts to reinforce respect and advocacy for young girls and women,” Superintendent Juan Cabrera said. “When men advocate for women, we create safe havens for all.”

The collaborative will form a coordinated care team to develop, expand, and strengthen prevention strategies and intervention services that target children, youth and young adults who are victims of and/or exposed to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, including support for non-abusing parents and caregivers.

“We are excited for this opportunity to form a collaborative with our community partners,” said Stephanie Karr, CASFV executive director. “Each institution, including CASFV, are the experts in their line of work.  Our partnership will provide youth with an array of services in domestic violence, mentoring and trauma informed care.”

Cabrera added: “This grant will help us further our efforts to prevent dating and sexual violence against girls and boys. And in the unfortunate case that an incident occurs, it also will help us provide resources to the victims and their families.”

The grant will provide specific training to teachers and counselors at the four campuses to identify at risk behaviors. The campuses will then work with CAFV which will develop support strategies and interventions to help the students learn coping skills and how to redirect.

The El Paso Child Guidance Center will be providing the campuses with training on trauma informed care to help the schools identify and talk with students who may have experienced dating or domestic violence.

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of El Paso’s support includes training and matching at risk students with mentors.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters is excited to collaborate with EPISD, CASFV and Child Guidance Center on this project to provide mentoring support to youth who have been affected by domestic violence,” said Bobbi Jo Ortiz, Big Brothers Big Sisters of El Paso president.  “Mentorship is a powerful tool to help respond to the overwhelming issues associated with domestic violence. We are proud to come together with our partners to deliver an innovative and progressive approach to addressing a major concern in our community.”

The grant also pays for the support of two full-time therapists.

“It really is a plethora of resources for kids but another way to look at it is that we’re providing this tight web for kids,” Castruita said.

The program has already received referrals since the soft launch of the program a few weeks ago – especially after El Paso Child Guidance Center made presentations at the four campuses.

“Teachers have really taken to identifying and working with the kids,” Castruita said. “Our teachers are integral to anything we do as a district. They’re the eyes and ears because they spend so much time with students.”

The grant is specific to the four campuses because when the CASFV began the proposal they looked at El Paso Police Department data and found a preponderance for a higher number of domestic calls in the area.