Agents of Change: Alix Tarnowsky

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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.


Being able to provide the survivor a safe space in which to process their feelings and not be judged is important to me. Knowing that a survivor feels supported and believed after leaving the hospital makes me proud to represent STAR.

– Alix Tarnowsky

1. What is your position at STAR? 

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I am the Advocacy Director for the Greater New Orleans office. As the AD, I manage and support our Resource Advocates, part-time Medical Advocates, and dedicated volunteers as they work with survivors. Additionally, I work in the community to establish partnerships, recruit volunteers, and help raise awareness for STAR and the work that we do.

2. How did you come to work at STAR?

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be Olivia Benson [of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit] when I grew up. The way she supported and championed all survivors impacted the way I viewed sexual assault. At one point, I even considered joining the NOPD to become a Sex Crimes Detective.

Prior to joining STAR, I was running a program focused on developing healthy relationship and conflict resolution skills for teens and young adults. Through this work, I found myself being drawn towards working with survivors of sexual trauma but didn’t have the capacity to do so at my agency. When I saw that STAR was hiring for its New Orleans office, I immediately applied and provided an offering to the goddess of dream jobs.

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

The most rewarding aspect of my job is being able to offer support and assistance to survivors. Too often, survivors are ashamed about the assault and arrive at the hospital alone and nervous.

Being able to provide the survivor a safe space in which to process their feelings and not be judged is important to me. Knowing that a survivor feels supported and believed after leaving the hospital makes me proud to represent STAR.

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

When the crisis line is ringing non-stop or I’ve spent countless hours at the hospital with a survivor, I try to take a moment and think back to one of the first survivors I helped. When she was leaving the hospital, she turned to me and said, “Thank you so much for being here, you made this bearable. I wish you had been there when I was raped the first time.”

On the rare occasion that doesn’t work, I look in a mirror and tell myself, “Make Olivia proud,” which usually does the trick.

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

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It can be difficult to confront a friend or family member when they make comments or jokes that are offensive or inappropriate. I’ve found that the easiest way to address their bad joke is to tell them, with a straight face, that I don’t understand it. When I challenge the joke, it often provides a space for us to discuss the ideas perpetuated by the joke. If that doesn’t work, it at least sends the signal that I don’t tolerate that type of humor in my presence.

Also, I hold the door for others and hope that they pass it on.

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

Start with something small, such as thanking a friend when they disclose and telling them that you believe them. Acknowledging and accepting a survivor’s experience helps challenge rape culture while working towards ending sexual trauma.

And once you’re ready to be more involved in working directly with survivors, give me a call and I can set you up in our volunteer training! We are always looking for dedicated individuals who want to provide support to survivors.

 

Get involved and make change with STAR!

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