Being active means being educated on the injustices that victims face every day. Educating the community is the only way that we can change the way the world views sexual violence. -Stefanie Hanley
1. What is your relationship with STAR?
SH: I am a volunteer advocate for STAR in Baton Rouge. I completed my advocate training in September of this year. I am seeking a degree from Western Kentucky University in Sociology with a concentration in Family, Gender, and Sexuality. I want to focus my career on helping survivors of sexual trauma, and STAR has been a great way for me to get involved in the movement to end sexual violence.
2. What led you to get involved with STAR and/or join the movement to end sexual violence?
SH: When I was eight years old, I was molested by an employee at the daycare center I attended. Child sexual abuse was a hot topic in the 1980s, and I remember my mother asking me if anything “unusual” had happened to me. I told her no. I didn’t remember the experience until I was an adult, shortly after my son was born in 1994. Even then I didn’t tell anyone. It wasn’t until much later that I sought counseling to deal with my trauma and realized that that experience as a child had affected every part of my life. I was doing research on the RAINN website one day for resources for survivors, and there was a link with information about volunteering. I got involved with STAR because I felt a need to share my experience with and help other survivors of sexual trauma.
3. What do you find most rewarding about your participation in this movement?
SH: Working with STAR has allowed me to meet people from many different backgrounds. It has been rewarding to see how committed everyone is to the organization and educating others on the epidemic of sexual trauma. I have had the opportunity to represent STAR at a few community events, and it is encouraging to me when people stop and ask for information or say thanks for the work that we do.
4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?
SH: I am motivated because this is what I want to do. I feel that all the experiences I’ve had have led me to this point and that this work is what I was meant to do. The feelings of satisfaction and confidence I have gained since starting this journey are invaluable to me.
5. What are some simple, day-to-day ways you promote positive change in our community?
SH: My training at STAR has completely changed the way I look at the world. I’m constantly pointing out instances of victim-blaming to friends and coworkers. I’m more aware of occurrences of discrimination and racism that I see on a daily basis. I have continued to expand my knowledge of sexual assault and share that with others.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of this movement?
SH: I understand why some people are hesitant to get involved. Sexual assault and trauma are something that no one seems to want to talk about. Sexual violence can happen to anyone: your mother, your sister, your child. Supporting survivors is important not only to the people who have already been affected, but also for future victims who are afraid to report their assault. Being active means being educated on the injustices that victims face every day. Educating the community is the only way that we can change the way the world views sexual violence.