Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center aims to prevent abusive relationships


Molly Gonzales

The Hays-Caldwell Women's Center provides free and confidential services in both English and Spanish to people of all genders and ages in Hays and Caldwell counties.

Leanne Castro, Life and Arts Contributor

Starting as a small group of female Texas State students in the late seventies, Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center (HCWC) has since grown into a multi-county organization with a mission to establish a zero-tolerance policy for abuse of any kind.

The HCWC believes in change—both its necessity and possibility. In over 40 years of serving the community, HCWC’s impact has been practically immeasurable. According to the center, in 2019 alone, it reached 7,761 community members and more than 2,300 victims of abuse.

It does this first by dealing with the present—providing hotlines, shelters and counseling to those currently experiencing abuse—then, by setting its sights on the future by educating the community on how to prevent abuse before it starts.

Before the pandemic, the Prevention Education team focused largely on youth outreach by visiting schools to facilitate small group discussions about relationship red flags and how to practice self-compassion. Now, this type of programming is presented virtually.

Regardless of the circumstance, Prevention Coordinator Kiara Nicholson says it is important to begin education efforts with young people early on because they will likely enter romantic relationships for the first time.

“When you’re a teenager or a preteen, you’re growing and developing, and everything is happening so fast,” Nicholson said. “You’re wanting to get answers to so many questions. It’s helpful if you have some people around who want to help you with this part of being a human being, of trying to navigate having relationships with other people.”

Nicholson considers it an honor to be the supportive and empowering adult presence she wishes she had when she was navigating her own unhealthy relationships. Her coworker, prevention educator Megan Osborne, echoes this sentiment, marveling at the fact these types of conversations simply were not had when she was growing up.

“I wasn’t really taught how to be treated in a relationship. We didn’t talk about relationships or sex or dating,” Osborne said. “That put me at risk, to not really understand that you have rights in how you should be treated in a relationship, and you can end a relationship if you want to.”

In addition to having private conversations with groups of students, Osborne also provides adults with information through workshops, crafting nights and presentations; however, not everyone is able to attend in-person sessions like these, even prior to COVID-19.

In the past couple of years, HCWC has worked to make these educational resources available online, a tool the center is currently relying on heavily.

Digital educator Nathan Thompson built and maintains the website stopthehurt.org, which features quizzes, articles, book reviews and other tools for learning about issues like dating violence and domestic violence.

He took this job at a time when he was searching for more meaning in his work, which he ultimately found at HCWC.

“It’s been eye-opening for me,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t educated on the issues that we deal with every day. It opened my eyes to the pervasiveness of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and child abuse that occurs even in our own backyards and in the communities that I’m a part of.”

Thompson encourages anyone and everyone to reach out. Osborne, too, stresses that she and the rest of the team are always ready to listen.

“We’re here to help,” Osborne said. “If you are experiencing abuse or have experienced sexual assault, or if you’re realizing that you were abused as a child, we can help. Please reach out. There’s no shame in getting help. We believe you.”

HCWC’s shelter and child advocacy centers are still operating, now with stricter cleaning protocols and increased technological resources. The center provides free and confidential services in both English and Spanish to people of all genders and ages in Hays and Caldwell counties. For more information about HCWC, visit its website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Its hotline is (512) 396-HELP.

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