ddressing and educating about gender-based violence has once again become a matter of urgency in Puerto Rico, following an alarming spike in attacks against women that has the population in dismay. In response to this crisis, various education and public policy initiatives have been launched to address the issue. One such effort was the declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, which launched a task force to develop protection, counseling, and service programs centered around gender-based violence.
A team of specialists from Albizu University is part of this task force and oversees educating and training officials from various government agencies on how to handle the issue of gender-based violence. The assignment is part of a sponsored effort to comply with the aforementioned executive order by the Governor.
To this end, Dr. Sonia Cepeda, director of the Albizu University Graduate Program in Counseling Psychology, and Dr. Gilda Rodriguez, director of Clinical Training at the institution, together with Dr. Julio Santana, director of the University’s San Juan campus, have submitted a training plan for government agencies to the Committee for the Prevention, Support, Rescue, and Education on gender-based violence (the PARE Committee). The body, which was created as part of Governor Pierluisi’s declaration of emergency, is comprised of executives from the Departments of Family, Justice, Public Safety, Corrections Administration, and the Department of Health.
“The educational plan suggested to the multi-agency committee sets the guidelines to raise awareness about the gender perspective and the respect for diversity, and to encourage officials to know through real examples what constitutes gender-based violence. The idea is that they can help promote service and prevention programs within agencies to combat violence and protect victims,” said Dr. Cepeda about the educational proposal.
“The idea is that they can help promote service and prevention programs within agencies to combat violence and protect victims.”
Educators on gender-based violence and human behavior will be offering the workshops to government agency officials over a 10-week period. To design the workshops, the particularities and needs of each agency were identified according to the services they offer. “We are facing a troubling social crisis. Educating about gender-based violence at all levels is essential to address this crisis, and Albizu University has high-level experts in this area who are willing to contribute and fulfill their responsibility to build bridges to the community,” said Dr. Santana.
The workshops for public officials have already begun. Using data and examples, these workshops illustrate cases of gender-based violence in different modalities, in a talk in which participants can contribute observations from their own experiences. As part of the educational plan to prevent and counteract gender-based violence, public hearings are also being held across the island to gather impressions from the population and multisectoral entities. The system for compiling statistics on instances of violence is being revamped, and a media campaign for orientation and protection has been launched.
The public can learn more about Albizu’s efforts with the PARE Committee at the following website: parelaviolencia.pr.gov. This collaboration is a great example of how Albizu’s resources are embedded in the community, providing expert knowledge and solutions to the problems we face as a society.