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Recent high-profile murders spark conversations regarding college womens’ safety

Part of the missing poster with an image of Miya Marcano, 19, who was later found dead.(Orange County Sheriff’s Office/AP)

The high-profile murder of 19-year-old Miya Marcano has further amplified the need for protections surrounding college-aged women who are at an increased risk of domestic violence, with sexual violence being more prevalent within university campuses when compared to other crimes. 

Thirteen percent of women in college have reported being stalked with 80% of survivors stating that they knew their stalker, according to Know Your IX, a project of Advocates for Youth.

   “Sometimes at night, I would feel scared to go out to my car at my old apartment complex. But now that I moved to a house, I feel a lot safer,” said Caitlin Rendel, a junior at Valencia College and Orlando resident. “I normally try to avoid being out places late at night by myself and if I am, I’ll make sure I carry pepper spray with me when I go, which makes me feel a little bit safer. At my house, my roommates and I have bats that we keep in our rooms.” 

  According to a report published by UN Women, approximately 736 million women have been victims of intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.  Seventy six percent of women murdered by an intimate partner were initially stalked, with women aged 18-24 reporting the highest rate of stalking victimization. 

“I wouldn’t say domestic violence has gotten better or worse, but I will say that I feel people speak out against it more often now,” said Rendel. “We have a long way to go but I do think it’s a good start.” 

The body of Marcano, a Valencia College student, was found eight days after her initial disappearance from her apartment in Central Florida. 

 The Orange County Sheriff’s Department believes Armando Manuel Caballero, a maintenance worker at Arden Villas, is solely responsible for Marcano’s death. According to deputies, Caballero utilized a master key fob to access Marcano’s apartment and was waiting inside when she returned home. 

 “It’s critical to raise awareness around topics like domestic abuse and other forms of trauma, so we can support victims who reach out for our help,” said Nina Mendes, communications assistant at Valerie’s House, a nonprofit organization that provides counseling for grieving families in Naples, Florida.  “We can always work to better our understanding of grief and learn new ways to assist victims. Cases like these bring loss and bereavement into the spotlight.”

 The murder of Miya Marcano follows the death of 22-year-old Gabby Petito, whose body was found in Wyoming after her disappearance while on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé. The stories of both young women’s deaths sparked a resurgence in discussions regarding women’s safety within the country.  

  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and universities throughout the United States continue to implement new security protocols to protect their student population. 

 “Personally, my roommates and I have agreed to let everyone in our apartment know when we put in any maintenance requests, so we have a good idea of when people who work in our building should be entering and exiting our unit,” said Cassidy Batts, a junior at the University of Central Florida. 

 Mandatory sexual assault training, campus-wide safety buttons that summon university police and an increase of accessibility to Title IX resources have become commonplace throughout the country’s colleges, all serving as methods to protect young adults. 

 “A lot of people aren’t sure what to say or do in these types of situations,” said Mendes.

“By shedding light on these sensitive issues, we can provide various avenues of support to ensure lasting recovery and healing.”