Agents of Change: Mandy Cowley

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There are many people in our community working to create positive change to end sexual violence. We want to meet as many of them as possible. If you would like to submit a recommendation, please email prevention@brstar.org.


 

We know that beliefs lead to actions, so challenging our own beliefs and the beliefs of others is a great first step to creating meaningful change. –Mandy Cowley

Mandy 11. What is your relationship with STAR? 

MC: I am currently a member of the Prevention Action Coalition, which is a group of concerned community members who are committed to working towards preventing sexual violence and empowering others to also work towards primary prevention. I am also a really, really big fan of STAR and all the work that they do!

2. What led you to get involved with STAR and/or join the movement to end sexual violence?

MC: I am actually a survivor of sexual violence myself. After experiencing the trauma of sexual violence firsthand as a teenager, I was interested in doing whatever I could to prevent others from having to experience anything similar. In 2010, I came to LSU to pursue a doctorate in Sociology with the goal of learning the causes of interpersonal violence and the ways we could prevent violence. While I was at LSU, I became aware of the work happening at STAR. Immediately, I knew that I wanted and needed to be a part of the movement happening here. One of the things that I initially loved most about STAR and continue to love about their work is the commitment to prevention. While providing excellent services for survivors is critical (something that STAR does exceptionally well), one of the best things I believe we can do for our community is work towards preventing violence from happening in the first place. STAR is working towards that goal every single day, and I feel incredibly grateful to be a very tiny part of that effort.

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3. What do you find most rewarding about your participation in this movement?

MC: The thing I find most rewarding about being part of the PAC is networking with so many passionate and committed community members who share my goal to see an end to interpersonal and sexual violence. The most rewarding part about living out the prevention effort in my own life is seeing even small changes in the people and community around me. I love when I am interacting with somebody and they begin to recognize the ways in which power can influence our interactions. Those power dynamics contribute to situations where violence is both possible and likely.

Small changes in the way we react to violence or talk about what is or isn’t healthy can end up leading to more significant changes in our community. What starts as a seemingly simple conversation between two people can snowball into policies changing in a work place or legislation being passed. It’s a really cool process watching one person’s passion or growth contribute to larger changes in the community.

Cowley44. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?

MC: I have a 4-year-old son, and even when the task of preventing interpersonal violence seems impossible, I look at him and know that I need to leave the world a better place. Not only do I hope to facilitate change myself, I also hope to raise a change agent. I know that in order for my son to feel empowered to change these big systems of oppression that lead to violence and to feel confident enough to attempt to tackle these “giant” social problems, I need to model that behavior for him.

5. What are some simple, day-to-day ways you promote positive change in our community?

MC: Every day I try to work towards change by first checking my own privilege and examining the ways in which I might use my own power while I interact with others, which can unknowingly sustain systems of oppression. I always want to make sure that I am leading by example by treating every individual person with the respect and dignity they deserve and by using language that reflects that belief.

The other way I try to work towards change every day is by engaging in discussions with other people within my sphere of influence, either in person or through social media, about what’s going on in the world and how we can best react to these situations in order to tear down systems of oppression. In general, I don’t hesitate to speak my mind, and people close to me know that I will bring attention to their behavior if I think they are being unfair, misguided, or inappropriate. We know that beliefs lead to actions, so challenging our own beliefs and the beliefs of others is a great first step to creating meaningful change.

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6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of this movement?

MC: Start where you are with what you have. Every action matters, no matter how big or how small. What starts as a small action often leads to bigger action. Also, we need you! One person is not going to end sexual violence; it’s going to take a movement of people who wake up every day and recommit to the effort. You have a role to play in preventing sexual violence, and if you get involved with prevention efforts, you will meet some of the most inspiring and encouraging people that will take that journey with you. I feel more fulfilled because I am surrounded by people who are committed to preventing sexual violence, and I hope you join the movement too!

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