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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sexual violence is often referred to as a “silent” epidemic, so it is very important for organizations like STAR and its advocates to not only help survivors on a one-on-one basis, but also represent survivors’ needs in the greater community.
1. What is your relationship with STAR?
I began volunteering with STAR as a phone and hospital advocate in July 2013. I have continued as a phone advocate since fall 2014, when I moved to Alabama for graduate school.
2. What led you to get involved with STAR and/or join the movement to end sexual violence?
I have been an advocate for women’s rights and women’s health issues since I was in high school, but I was not very familiar with STAR or the movement to promote healthier relationships and end sexual violence until I was looking into volunteer opportunities in Baton Rouge.
I used to work in public health, and the word “epidemic” holds a lot of weight in the public health world. When I read more about how sexual violence was an epidemic in the United States and globally, I knew I needed to join the movement. Sexual violence is often referred to as a “silent” epidemic, so it is very important for organizations like STAR and its advocates to not only help survivors on a one-on-one basis, but also represent survivors’ needs in the greater community.
3. What do you find most rewarding about your participation in this movement?
I feel like I am able to give survivors a few minutes of acceptance and understanding while talking to them on the phone line. I feel like many survivors regularly confront resistance and judgment, so I approach each encounter with unconditional positive regard and complete acceptance. When I hear something like, “Thank you for just listening to me,” I feel like I did a good job actively listening to the caller and helping them get through the tough time they were having.
4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?
I know that many women and men have been through very difficult situations, and that is the main thing that motivates me to volunteer – I want to help. I feel like my difficult times pale in comparison, but when times are tough, I always remember the support I have from my partner, Mark, and my own family and friends. I have an amazing support network, so whenever I am feeling discouraged, I can always call or text someone, and everyone I love knows how to bring my spirits back up.
Also, I love being out in nature – whether I’m gardening or riding my bike around town – just being outside in the sunshine makes me feel wonderful, and much happier. I always try and help people try and remember what makes them happy, even if they are small things.
5. What are some simple, day-to-day ways you promote positive change in our community?
I will be graduating from my graduate program in genetic counseling in a few weeks, and as a genetic counselor, I work with families who are trying to determine if genetic testing is appropriate to determine if there is a genetic basis for their child’s symptoms.
There are a lot of psychological issues that accompany genetic testing decisions, and I do my best with every family to help them feel comfortable with their decisions and to connect them to appropriate resources. I feel like I use a lot of the same skills as a genetic counselor that I use as an advocate on the phone line, and these skills are always directed at promoting positive change in families and/or the greater community.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of this movement?
I think some people may hesitate to join the movement because they have not had personal experience with sexual violence, but that does not mean they cannot help someone who has experienced it. Being an advocate requires passion and some education, not solely a personal experience, and advocates are very needed to combat the epidemic of sexual violence.