To honor National Campus Safety Awareness Month, the UNM Women’s Resource Center hosted a safety planning workshop for students on Saturday, Sept. 22.
The workshop was one of various campus’ events held for UNM’s safety week which included the Seventh Annual Safety Walk, naloxone and fentanyl testing strip training, “When Disaster Strikes: Emergency Response on Campus” and more.
The center wanted to offer a workshop teaching the skills and the tools of safety planning, which is something they do a lot as advocates, according to interim director Áine McCarthy. The WRC wanted people to mitigate the risks of things like stalking, domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault survival. The workshop’s scope also stretched to planning for mental health crises and other types of risky situations that people might deal with.
“We wanted to kind of empower students to know that tool is something we can help with and that we might be able to give intuitive assistance resources,” McCarthy said.
The hour-long presentation included safety planning for certain scenarios such as home invasions, coming out as queer to an unaccepting family, living with a violent partner and suicidal ideation.
Michelle Dugan, campus advocate at the WRC, talked about the importance of workshops like this, citing her professional experience studying trauma and people's responses.
“When someone is in a dangerous, upsetting, scary situation, they're not able to plan and think through necessary steps with the same capacity that they might in a calmer setting where that person feels safer or they feel like they have a little more time or more support,” Dugan said.
When teaching about risk assessment, Dugan and McCarthy wanted attendees to ask themselves: what are the warning signs that the thing I'm planning for might happen? Or, how can I plan for future occurrences after the event has already happened? For harm reduction, the questions were, how can I reduce the harm that this would cause or prevent the bad thing from happening in the first place?
Organizers also encouraged attendees to download the LoboGuardian app where students can set a safety timer and status, have easy emergency communication and report a tip. The app is also connected to the blue emergency towers around campus.
Maria Cisneros, an exchange graduate student from Spain, felt it was important for her to attend the event, as she doesn't have the support system she usually has back home. She said she learned a lot from the workshop and looks forward to more activities with the WRC.
“The most important thing I learned is that you don’t want to wait until things happen to you, you want to think ‘if this happens, what could I do?’” Cisneros said.
At the end of the workshop, attendees were able to take home with them small personal safety alarms provided by the Center.
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McCarthy hopes attendees left the workshop thinking about how to incorporate harm reduction into their own environments and specific ideas of resources that they may not have known about on campus or in a broader environment.
“Things we know about disappear from our brain when we're in survival mode or when we have limited choices available in a scary moment. So adding to that toolbox before so we don't have to use our brains in that situation,” McCarthy said.
The WRC is next hosting their welcome back cupcake decorating event on Sept. 27 at the WRC courtyard starting at noon.
Annya Loya is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annyaloya