Campus, News

CSULB alumnus returns to campus as advocate for survivors of sexual assault

Trigger warning: This article mentions sexual assault and harassment.

At 10 years old, Jacqueline Urtez volunteered with her aunt to bring awareness towards the realities of domestic violence to the affected families in her community.

Now, she spends her days advocating for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

Urtez, 32, is an on-campus confidential advocate at Long Beach State who works with Not Alone at the Beach to provide care and support for students and faculty who may be survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence.

Urtez's role as confidential advocate extends to community engagement to promote trauma-informed education. Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Urtez.
Urtez’s role as a confidential advocate extends to community engagement to promote trauma-informed education.
Photo courtesy: Jacqueline Urtez.

Before taking on the on-campus confidential advocate role, she majored in human development and minored in criminal justice as an undergraduate at CSULB.

“Being on campus with a different role made me feel at home,” Urtez said. “I was back in a familiar space, but in a different way.”

Urtez had previously declared to be a women’s studies major, but then realized she wanted to study both human development and criminal justice instead.

“When I was a student, I took some courses that talked about intimate partner violence, family violence and domestic violence,” she said. “I started to question things and think about them from a different perspective.”

Before Urtez graduated from CSULB in May 2013, she interned in the sex offender unit at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).

CSULB Alumni Jacqueline Urtez returns to campus to work as a confidential advocate for students and faculty who are survivors of sexual assault. Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Urtez.
CSULB Alumni Jacqueline Urtez returns to campus to work as a confidential advocate for students and faculty who are survivors of sexual assault.
Photo courtesy: Jacqueline Urtez.

During her time as a CDCR intern, Urtez would shadow parole officers to learn which systems were used to oversee offenders on parole. She then realized she wanted to pursue this role in the future to provide support for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors.

“At first, I wanted to go in with an open mind,” she said. “Over time, I began seeing some gaps within the criminal justice system and felt like the difference I wanted to make was to support survivors affected by the actions of offenders.”

Growing up in a household of three brothers, Urtez was the only daughter in her Mexican-American family who questioned the machismo culture that surrounded certain rules she followed as a young woman.

She also challenged her parent’s cultural ideals because her brothers had more privileges than her just because they were boys and she was a girl.

“‘Why does my brother get to stay out? Why does he get to have his friends over? Why can’t I sleepover at my friend’s house?’” Urtez said. “It was little things, but I challenged my parents and gave them a hard time.”

Urtez’s parents raised her this way so she could protect herself, but said she wanted “to fight against cultural norms” embedded in her family.

Urtez’s husband, David Castellanos, said that he knows “growing up as the only daughter in her family inspired her passion for advocacy.”

“Being in a family where she dealt with machismo culture, she always challenged that,” Castellanos said. “Jacqueline has always been one to stand up for what is right and equal.”

As a first-generation Mexican-American, a big part of Urtez’s child was being raised by her grandmother.

“My grandma was a fantastic caregiver, and I feel so lucky to have been raised by her,” she said. “It’s kind of odd, being on the other side of things.”

Urtez’s grandmother, who recently passed away, was the caregiver of the family because she cooked, cleaned and always served her husband first.

“A lot of my grandfather’s actions were very controlling and demanding, and although it wasn’t something that was over, I realized it wasn’t healthy,” she said. “These actions weren’t talked about because they had already been embedded in Mexican cultural upbringings.”

Urtez said that even though she didn’t witness the domestic violence her grandmother faced, she recognized the negative impact gender roles had on her family.

Since machismo is an issue within gender roles, women are being silenced and not speaking up about the domestic abuse they’ve faced.  

Urtez also said she wanted to become an advocate for individuals who have faced intimate partner abuse because she is a sexual assault survivor.

“While working with survivors of trauma, they often lose their voice,” she said. “Through personal experience, I know how inspiring empowerment can be. It’s rewarding and it speaks volumes to those who need support.”

As Urtez reflected on her past, she noted that taking the advocate role made sense in regards to her personal experiences.

“I always wanted to fight, not physically, but figuratively fight for what is right,” she said. “Reflecting now as I’m saying this, it’s not really surprising that I ended up in an advocate role. This is what I do. Advocate for those who deserve to be heard.”

When Urtez was younger, she would help her aunt who worked at a local police department advocate for domestic violence survivors.

She volunteered with her aunt by handing out flyers for marches and domestic violence awareness events for families within local communities.

“There was kind of a personal connection there, and that had always been a kind of underlying issue that I had always been passionate about,” Urtez said. “I think I just kind of figured I’d do that as a career.”

After her graduation from CSULB in May 2013, Urtez’s aunt’s police department colleague told her about an available position at the 1736 Family Crisis Center, an organization dedicated to supporting victims of domestic violence.

While working at the family crisis center, Urtez completed her certification to be a domestic violence counselor, which allowed her to become a case manager, and eventually the assistant program coordinator.

Three years later, she was hired at Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) as a sexual assault counselor.

While she worked at the YWCA, she transitioned into the position at CSULB to be a confidential advocate under a grant from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

After accepting the position, Urtez was eventually hired as a permanent employee after Larisa Hamada, vice president of the Office of Equity and Diversity, sought to receive permanent funding.

“We’re just grateful that she’s here with us,” Hamada said. “Also knowing what it’s like to be a Long Beach student definitely built her street cred with the students.”

Urtez said she was a very quiet and shy student and laughed at the irony of speaking as a guest at her old classrooms when professors invited her to speak about her “role as an advocate for survivors.”

“I remember literally avoiding all classes that required public speaking when I was in college,” Urtez said. “When I started here I was terrified of public speaking, but it came with the role and I had to grow from there.”

Outside of her counseling and advocacy work, Urtez emphasizes her role as an educator to teach the wider community about trauma-informed care while advocating for sexual and domestic violence survivors.

“Being an alumna who gives back to my campus community is my dream job,” Urtez said.

Castellanos, her husband, attended one of Urtez’s speaking events at CSULB called “Take Back the Night,” which aims at bringing awareness towards the realities survivors face through sexual assault and violence.

“It was very powerful to see her stand up in front of so many people,” he said. “I’m just really proud to see her on the front lines, making the change so many people just talk about.”

Currently, Urtez is pursuing her master’s degree in education with a concentration in counseling and a focus on trauma-informed care and restorative justice at San Diego State University.

She also said her studies in her master’s program directly align with her “current role as a confidential advocate.”

“She always puts other people first and makes sure that people feel safe,” Castellanos said. “Not a lot of people are willing to put others first in our society.”

CSULB students and faculty members can contact Jacqueline Urtez at (562) 985-2668 or the Office of Equity and Diversity at (562) 985-8256 to seek support services.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Nov. 4 at 1:11 p.m. to clarify information stated by Urtez.

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