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Prevention Matters

Alexandra Brooks '13 '15

A stark statistic: One out of four women and one out of nine men have been victims of sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner.

“There is a lot to learn about intimate partner violence,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey.

“We do know that strategies that promote healthy behaviors in relationships are important. Programs that teach young people skills for dating can prevent violence.”

Alexandra Brooks ’13, ’15 is part of the effort to end domestic violence by changing attitudes.

As prevention education coordinator for Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania, she works primarily with youths in Washington, Greene and Fayette counties.

“We try to teach young people how to address conflicts in healthy ways,” says Brooks, who has a bachelor’s degree in justice studies and a master’s in applied criminology.

“Abusive relationships are about power and control, and abusers often lack the necessary conflict resolution skills.

“Services for victims are necessary, and we provide those. But we’ll keep doing the same things if we don’t address prevention.”

The job prioritizes skills such as communication, conflict resolution and time management — abilities that Brooks honed at Cal U, where she held leadership positions on Student Government and the Student Association Inc. Board of Directors. She also was an orientation leader for new students.

“We were held to the standards of adults in these roles; we were not treated as children,” Brooks says.

“When you start your first ‘big-girl job,’ and your supervisor says you’re very low maintenance, you realize that skills not only from your degrees but also your out-of-class experiences have transferred.”

She puts them to use with Domestic Violence Services of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

“We are trying to change the culture of the nation, to instill the idea that domestic violence is unacceptable. When I hear a story about students utilizing the skills they've learned — for example, standing up to someone who is catcalling a friend or intervening when they see an abusive behavior — it's very fulfilling.

“What we’re doing is working.”

— By Wendy Mackall, communications director at Cal U

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