In times of strife, it can be incredibly challenging to find the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s the strenuous, but inspirational path UNM’s Women’s Resource Center (WRC) has taken with late student Natalie Jude.
Jude passed away earlier this year, on March 26, and left a hole in the lives of fellow UNM film students, friends and family.
“If someone gave me a highlight reel of the time I would have with them, including their passing, and they told me that’s all the time I’d have— that one day, Natalie would be gone… I’d be disappointed at how fleeting it all would be, but I’d still ride that ride,” friend and University Communication & Marketing (UCAM) student employee Trin Moody said.
The caring, selfless, passionate 20-year-old wanted to write and direct films and travel the world. They could try anything from art to gymnastics to piano and excel at it in quality and energy.
“Natalie was the first friend I ever felt confident enough to say I love you to. Natalie wasn’t like anyone else in my life. They weren’t like anyone else in yours, because they didn’t love like anyone you’ll ever meet,” Moody said.
Throughout all of the lives she touched, all the activities she performed and all the friends they cared for, Jude was a silent warrior when it came to their own struggles.
“We’re talking about this now because hopefully it can help someone else. Trin brought Natalie here to get advocacy support for an abusive relationship, and that was ultimately related to their death. We don't have all the facts, but it felt like their death was directly a result of being in an abusive situation that was escalating,” WRC Director Áine McCarthy said.
While the WRC and Jude’s loved ones do not want to share their personal experiences, they do recognize they were a victim of abuse.
“I remember how bad the strain of their tumultuous relationship got for them at the end of their life. I remember how ashamed they were of their abuser’s actions unto them, and yet how hopeful they were that they could be wrong about his intent,” Moody said. “They never said thank you to anyone at WRC— they only apologized. They wouldn’t let anyone at the WRC see them cry, but when they heard the WRC staff had a way to lead them to safety aids, it hit them harder than they let on. WRC was their respite.”
Moody says this violent relationship and the effort to get Jude to understand they were deserving of a way out was an incredibly difficult period of time. Despite advocacy options, there were excuses for the partner and the situation, a reality many victims experience.
“It's a new territory to negotiate as a young person coming into college and that's normal, and you're not expected to know it right away. I wish I could empower everybody to say no and then to take it really seriously if you're not respected,” McCarthy said.
Now, although Jude is gone, they have become that light at the end of the tunnel for so many others in the UNM community through the Nurture and Thrive (NAT) Fund.
“All of Trin’s friends came up with the name. Survivors know best what they need to be safe.” McCarthy said. “That's the goal of this fund; having emergency funds, safety planning tools, skill building and being able to spread the word about these resources.”
The new fund is an inspiring creation by the WRC. Its mission is to provide relentless support and emergency money to student survivors experiencing intimate partner violence, student assault, gender-based harassment and stalking.
“The vision was always to have a survivor safety fund, just because there's not that many ways to get money in the hands of students in an emergency where they don't have to pay back. That was a decision we made to be able to give small scholarships to remove some of those barriers,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy says the center works with students every day experiencing some form of abuse, and that this fund is critical. There have been over 300 interactions at the WRC this year for people who needed advocacy .
“It's safe to say that we meet students every day in ongoing situations, and new ones too: the first 10 or so weeks of the fall semester is called the “Red Zone” because it’s when most sexual assaults happen, as a national trend. It's definitely in full swing, and it's pretty awful to see,” McCarthy said.
Through a first fundraising event, WRC raised over $1,000 for scholarships.
“There might be someone that needs to change their dorm room right away from the person that assaulted them or someone that needs to change their parking spots from someone that's stalking them. It’s not always easy to make those changes mid-semester,” McCarthy said.
There were around 50 reported incidents of violence against women on campus in the most recent UNM Annual Security & Fire Safety Report. McCarthy and the WRC are aiming to bolster a safer campus and take proactive steps, and Moody hopes the NAT Fund will be part of that–a safe space to report and receive aid.
“Inevitably, everyone in your life will always, eventually want something from you. Natalie wouldn’t dream of it— to a fault. The Nurture and Thrive fund (NAT) lends a hand to any other UNM students - and I’m guaranteed there are more - who don’t feel right about asking for help amidst the violent dynamics in their lives,” Moody said.
Reporting can be terrifying, the WRC understands, but it’s also a way to help yourself and possibly help others.
“I know this about Natalie: that unless help was effortlessly handed to them on a silver platter, they wouldn’t ever feel deserving of it, let alone ask for help themself. They spent all of their time paying their perceived dues to the rest of us,” Moody said. “If it meant any effort on the part of anyone who wanted to help, they didn’t feel ready to take any. This fundraiser takes away that guilt from any others experiencing violence or abuse.”
Moody hopes for anyone out there, undergoing what Jude did, that the NAT fund will be the extra push towards advocacy and assistance. This rings true for Domestic Violence Awareness month and beyond.
“I have no regrets for pushing Natalie to get help from the WRC. I am confident I made all the right steps to get them as safe as I could. I’m also confident that my efforts would’ve gone further if the NAT fund was an option for Natalie,” Moody said.
Learn more about Jude’s legacy Moody and friends are maintaining, as well as how to donate to the NAT fund here.