Tyreena Heck, a Concordia student in the MBA program, is doing something amazing in our own backyard. She is working to stop domestic violence and sexual assault in its tracks.
Currently employed with the Texas Council on Family Violence, she constantly connects with influential allies in the domestic violence movement.
“The purpose of this work is to engage influencers who have the ability to mobilize our Texas communities, and to promote healthy relationships across the state,” Heck said. “As a Prevention Coordinator, I work to promote healthy relationships within the community.”
With a state-wide reach and direct local impact, the Texas Council on Family Violence shapes public policy, equips service providers and initiates strategic prevention efforts.
“Prevention is stopping violence before it even starts,” Heck said.
Heck landed the job just weeks after graduating from University of Texas with a degree in Sociology and a Business minor. Before this, she worked as a Sexual Assault Primary Prevention Coordinator at Hope Alliance Crisis Center, making her well-versed in the domestic violence and sexual assault field.
“Hope Alliance was where I learned about prevention education and why it’s important,” she said. “If we’re not talking about it openly with young people, how are we going to make a difference?”
Prevention is something that is best learned early on, so the organization provides curriculum for school teachers to use in their classrooms. So at what age is it appropriate to start discussions on violence and assault?
“As early as third grade,” Heck said. “People assume that talking about violence and assault is only for sixteen-year-olds or teenagers. But working with our third grade students on healthy communication, what it’s like to be a bystander and an upstander, and reaching out to friends to see if they need help is beneficial.”
Upstanders, are those that speak out when they see something that is wrong. While some people are too uncomfortable with conflict to stand up to bullies, anyone can learn to be good citizen.
“If you’re non-confrontational, there is something you can do,” she said. “Let someone else take over, a police officer, or a teacher, but let someone know there is something going on.”
Unlike other controversial topics, young people are much less likely to bring up unhealthy relationships and boundaries among their groups of friends.
“Talk about it in public and with peers,” Heck said. “The reason we don’t pay attention to this is because it is not talked about enough.”
In this case, Heck said never take on the “don’t see it, don’t hear it, it’s not happening” mentality, as the majority of people in domestic violence situations do not report them.
Heck also urges anyone with with time or resources to volunteer or donate to shelters that serve these victims of abuse.
Because prevention efforts in Texas are not widespread, Heck hopes to open her own organization for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention in the Austin area. She is working toward her MBA at Concordia for that very reason.
“Empowering others to have healthy communication helps prevention efforts,” she said.