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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
At STAR, I am provided with the unique opportunity to help survivors get justice…I am grateful that I am allowed to be creative at STAR in finding solutions for survivors with the law as my aid.
– Cherita McNeal
1. What is your position at STAR?
I am a staff attorney for STAR and provide a variety of legal services at our Capital Area branch and Greater New Orleans branch. As a staff attorney, I have the opportunity to represent survivors of sexual assault in areas including privacy, safety, employment, immigration, housing, education and criminal justice advocacy.
2. What led you to your work in sexual assault prevention and/or response?
I have always been actively involved in social service organizations. The importance of giving back to the community and helping other was instilled in me at a very young age. After I finished law school, I was looking for a career that would align with my Bachelor’s degree and Juris Doctorate. STAR was the perfect place for me because it aligns with my passion for helping others and provides me the opportunity to make a difference in the community as an attorney.
3. What do you find most rewarding about your involvement in this work?
The most rewarding part about working at STAR is seeing the effect I have on survivors. The victories small and large are rewarding to watch, especially watching survivors regain control after such a devastating incident. At STAR, I am provided with the unique opportunity to help survivors get justice. Justice is subjective; it can be an arrest, a protection order, a job transfer, or a lease termination. I am grateful that I am allowed to be creative at STAR in finding solutions for survivors with the law as my aid.
4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?
I am motivated by the support I receive from my family, friends, and co-workers. Having a supportive circle is the best thing in the world; it reminds me that I am not alone in this fight. When the system fails a survivor and I feel like I have done all I can, I look to my support group for inspiration. They remind me of the opportunity I have to make a positive impact on the world by making a difference in others’ lives. This motivates me every day.
5. What are some simple, day-to-day ways you promote positive change in your community?
On a day-to-day basis, I try to have conversations with people to educate them on how sexual assault impacts people. By talking about sexual assault in my social circles, I am able to bring awareness to the issue. Since I have started working at STAR, I have noticed that my friends and family also bring awareness to issues regarding sexual assault. One powerful and inspiring time that I often think about is when my mother called me to tell me how she dispelled a rape myth at work and that alone was so reassuring of the impact I have on others.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of this movement?
What do you have to lose? There will never be the perfect moment where you will feel 100% comfortable to talk about sexual assault, but by starting the conversation you are taking steps to end sexual violence. Educate yourself on the realities and myths of sexual assault and then have a conversation with someone. It all begins with you!
To learn more about STAR’s Legal services, call (225) 615-7093.
Get involved and make change with STAR!