Cynthia Jones, a philosophy professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, was once an undergraduate student suffering in an abusive relationship.

“My first husband was very sweet and very romantic as many abusers are originally. After we were married a month or so, he became verbally abusive and it worked up to full blown, hardcore physical abuse,” Jones said.

Jones married young in her early 20’s but a philosophy professor noticed something.

“She called me into her office. I wasn’t coming to class. It was embarrassing when you have a black eye, when you have a split lip and a couple stitches,” Jones said.

The professor gave her an incomplete and allowed her to finish her coursework and eventually graduate. Jones would go on to get her master’s degree and a PhD in medical ethics. Jones has been specializing in end-of-death ethics issues.

“It’s very disempowering when you’re the victim of violence and it’s very, very difficult for people to finish coursework and to graduate,” Jones said.

Now, as a tenured professor at UTRGV’s philosophy department, in 2011, she was able to open the Office for Victim Advocacy and Violence Prevention, thanks to a grant from the Justice Department’s office of Violence Against Women.

“What we didn’t have was on campus confidential advocacies,” Jones said. “People to facilitate, like that faculty member did for me so many years ago.”

The office has been institutionalized by the university as a place where students can receive counseling and academic advising, providing the help she once received from her professor.

“We hope to move people to feeling empowered enough to say, ‘This horrible thing happened to me. It wasn’t my fault but, it’s part of me and here I am now,” Jones said.