Agents of Change: Angela Schifani

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


What motivates me to keep going are the people in my community who are actively trying to create positive social change. Look around, they are everywhere.

– Angela Schifani

 

1. What is your position at STAR? 

Me and Cherita

I have the immense pleasure of working as a Resource Advocate at STAR’s Capital Area branch, along with my incredible co-workers, Laneceya, Florence, and George. We call ourselves the A-Team because we truly are amazing at what we do.

You may be asking yourself, “What exactly is it that they do?” Well, as Resource Advocates, we work directly with primary and secondary survivors of sexual trauma. We provide services and resources that can assist them along their paths to recovery, healing, and justice. The journeys that survivors face are often the most difficult circumstances they will meet in their lifetime. Our job can be hard, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what our clients often experience.

2. How did you come to work at STAR?

Me and Jason

In 2014, I entered into my last semester of undergrad in the field of Mass Communication with a focus in public relations, and was scrambling to find an internship to help boost my resume. I had only one previous internship, so I was looking for the perfect position to impress potential future employers. At the time, I was a brazen feminist (I still am) and was very interested in initiatives that addressed oppression against women. Soon this interest would expand to a much broader scope of marginalized populations, but at the time I had only heard whispers of intersectional feminism.

I reached out to an acquaintance of mine who worked at STAR. She spoke highly of the organization and encouraged me to apply for an internship there. After applying, I was quickly interviewed and offered the position. I expressed that I needed time to weigh my options, but after less than 24 hours of deliberation, I realized that this was potentially something that could really broaden myself as a human being, not just as a member of the workforce, so I accepted the position at STAR.

After that semester-long internship, I accepted a full-time position as the Administrative Coordinator, which included communications-based job duties. Eventually I joined the Social Change team as the Community Engagement Coordinator, but more and more I felt myself becoming interested in and passionate about direct services. I started answering the crisis line more frequently and initiated conversations with the resource advocates and counselors about their jobs. Now I’m here as a Resource Advocate, and it’s been the most rewarding part of my journey at STAR thus far.

Me and Courtney

3. What do you find most rewarding about your work at STAR?

There’s a lot about my job that brings me joy, but I think the most rewarding part is witnessing clients benefit from the services I offer them. Most often that entails connecting them with a free resource that they really need, but didn’t know about. Sometimes it’s offering a supportive presence during a difficult forensic exam. Other times it’s providing a listening ear and comforting voice on the other end of a crisis call. Big or small, the relief a client feels from their burden is a triumph for me.

However, I cannot answer this question without expressing the most discouraging part of my job: having to participate in a system that overwhelming fails survivors means that I, too, sometimes fail survivors. The times when I am powerless against the barriers that stop survivors in their tracks are devastating. These are the times when I need my own advocates.

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

MY CATS

My advocates! I am truly privileged to have so many of them. When I am having a difficult time navigating a case, the A-Team is always there with a wealth of knowledge and experience to assist me. When I question whether I’ve done enough for my clients, my wonderful, beautiful partner willingly reminds me that yes, I am doing a good job. When I feel tired and burned out, my family and friends are there to express their gratitude for the work I do. Even though it may not impact them directly, they know how much my services are needed in this community. Oh, and I can’t forget about my cats. When I wonder if there is anything good left in this world, my sweet little angels can be found purring and playing and just being all around adorable.

Most importantly, what motivates me to keep going are the people in my community who are actively trying to create positive social change. Look around, they are everywhere.

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

One of the most common things I do is try to meet people where they are during conversations about difficult topics. Not everybody is “woke,” and calling someone out by getting angry and raising my voice might not help them get there. I stay calm when someone just doesn’t seem to get it. If you’re compassionate and deliberate, you both may learn something from each other.

The most important thing I do outside of my work duties, however, is hold myself accountable when I am in the wrong. How can I create positive change within my community without first examining myself?

Sara and Denee

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

It’s actually not all doom and gloom! When meeting people for the first time, they often get uncomfortable when I tell them about my job. It’s hard to talk about, I know, but it’s also full of light and hope. The strength and courage that survivors have often outweigh the darkness of the issue itself.

I recommend starting by getting comfortable just talking about sexual violence. Then you can look to your community to see what actions you can take from there. Baby steps are fine. You don’t have to start out of the gate doing the work that we do at STAR! Trust me, we didn’t wake up one day and decide to start working at a rape crisis center. We listened, we talked, we researched, we explored. We tried and failed, and tried again. Have patience and lean on others for support when you need it. We all have the same goal to end violence and oppression in our community. We’re here for each other.

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