Agents of Change: Dana Rock

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 I have a great amount of respect and awe for survivors and their willingness to be vulnerable with me. I feel privileged to be a witness to their change process. Seeing that I am making a difference, whether that is from a therapeutic breakthrough or a simple “thank you for listening” at the end of a session, is very gratifying.

– Dana Rock

1. What is your position at STAR?

I am currently a Counselor in STAR’s Baton Rouge office. I provide both individual and group counseling to survivors of sexual trauma and their loved ones. I work to help survivors process and learn how to cope with their trauma by providing a supportive, nonjudgmental space.

2. How did you come to work at STAR and/or in the field of sexual assault prevention/response?

I first came in contact with STAR as a Master of Social Work intern during my first year of graduate school. I always had an interest in sex crimes, which at the time meant that I loved to watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. My internship showed me how little I really knew about sexual violence. My eyes were opened to the depth and gravity of this issue. I saw the multiple barriers that survivors face when trying to find both justice and healing and realized that this was not just an interpersonal issue, but a problem that affects the entire community.

Serving sexual assault survivors and working with the inspirational staff at STAR awoke a passion in me. I decided I wanted to focus my career on trauma recovery, and I was lucky enough to be hired as a counselor at STAR directly after graduating.

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

There is so much shame and secrecy surrounding sexual assault. Often, clients have held onto this secret for years and suffered in silence. It takes a great amount of courage to come to a stranger and talk about such a painful experience, and I have a great amount of respect and awe for survivors and their willingness to be vulnerable with me. I feel privileged to be a witness to their change process. Seeing that I am making a difference, whether that is from a therapeutic breakthrough or a simple “thank you for listening” at the end of a session, is very gratifying.

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

The work can definitely be difficult, so there are several things I do. First, I try to focus on what I can do for someone with the one hour that they are in my office each week. I focus on giving them a space to feel heard, validated, and believed.

Second, I remember to focus on the positives. I think about the inspiring work that I have seen clients do: the survivor of childhood sexual abuse who finally feels free after 30 years of pain, the survivor of rape that now wants to be an advocate in order to help other survivors, the man who now understands that the abuse he suffered was not his fault. Survivors are constantly reminding me that there is hope for healing.

Finally, and most importantly, I lean on others for support. STAR staff are incredibly supportive and we encourage each other to talk when the job is challenging. Also, I am lucky enough to have an amazing group of family and friends to turn to when I am having a hard time.

5. What are some ways you promote positive change in your community, outside of your work duties?

I think the importance of being kind is often underrated. I am often told that I am too nice, but I see this as a positive thing! I strive to be compassionate with others both inside and outside of work by remembering that you never know what someone else is going through.

Also, I educate my family and friends about sexual assault. There are many myths out there that perpetuate rape culture and further discourage survivors from seeking help. When I hear incorrect information, I gently correct people. I’ve had several friends ask me for advice on how to support someone they knew who was assaulted. Simply being known in my small social circle as a trusted person on this issue can have a positive impact on survivors that might not necessarily come in contact with STAR on their own.

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

I would have to say that your help does matter and it is definitely needed! Every step in the right direction, no matter how small, helps put an end to sexual violence. Whether you are currently aware of it or not, this movement is close to you in some way. Statistics show that sexual assault is, unfortunately, very common. There is someone in your life, possibly a friend, family member, or coworker, who is a survivor.

Many people feel at a loss for how to get involved, but it can be as simple as being available to someone else. Survivors are often afraid that their loves ones will not believe them or understand what they have been through. I have three simple suggestions for you: listen, believe, and don’t judge. You cannot imagine the positive impact you can have on someone’s recovery if you do just those three things.

 

If interested in STAR’s free and confidential counseling services, call 1-855-435-STAR. 

Get involved and make change with STAR:

Click here for more ways to get involved.

Agents of Change: Ann Guedry

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There are many people in the communities we serve who are 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.


Doing this work has…made me so much more socially aware about the fact that society doesn’t always work the way we would like it to. Doing this work helped me to see how certain choices will make things better for people who don’t have power, and to really understand what it means to lack power.

– Ann Guedry

1. What is your current connection to STAR?

I am currently serving on STAR’s Capital Area Regional Council. Prior to this, I was asked to serve as a founding Board member of STAR during the organization’s transition into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

2. You’ve been involved with STAR/Rape Crisis since the beginning. What led you to care about sexual violence as a community problem, and how did you initially get involved with community efforts to address the problem?

My background was in nursing and it actually prepared me very well. I had worked with mental health patients where we did support groups, and I also worked as an emergency room supervisor, which brought me into contact with not only all the usual mayhem but with problems with sexual assault, too, so I was aware of these things.

In 1986, my youngest daughter had just started college and I was looking for something different and interesting to do, so I began working with the District Attorney’s Rape Crisis Center. I started as a Volunteer Advisor after I found out about the job opening from a friend who was leaving her position there, and I fell in love with the work.

After a few years, I began doing crisis counseling and support groups with survivors. The adolescent group was my favorite because you see a lot of change and growth. You see people, after they have been there for several weeks, reaching out to help each other and new people in particular. I also did outreach and community education work, and that was a part of the job that I very much enjoyed.

3. What were the needs of the community in the early days of the Rape Crisis Center? How have you seen the community response to sexual violence change for the better?

Sexual assault at that time was not being discussed openly very much. I think that one of the reasons it wasn’t being discussed was because, in general, people were not reporting because they were afraid of what might happen. Many people felt that it was up to the woman or the victim to put a stop to the behavior and that if she didn’t, then it was her fault. So there was a lot of victim blaming.

In those days, it was a big step forward just to bring this problem to the forefront, and to have people begin to understand that this is a crime, not just an interpersonal disagreement. I remember that Oregon was the first state that made it a crime for a husband to rape their wife. I don’t remember the year, but it was years later when a similar law was passed in Louisiana.

The person who really got behind the early Rape Crisis Center was the East Baton Rouge District Attorney at that time, Ossie Brown. He originally did a lot of outreach to doctors to get them to perform sexual assault forensic exams on a volunteer basis. Then, he got the Junior League of Baton Rouge to do a pilot program. There were probably 10 or 12 Junior Leaguers that spent a lot of time for a few years on this. That is how we ended up having a core of people who had been from the original Junior League pilot program as volunteers. Those Junior League volunteers were some of our most dependable, reliable, long-lasting volunteers, so we will forever be grateful to them. And one of the nice things about Junior League’s involvement was that this made it socially acceptable to women in the community to talk about the issue and to get involved.

From what I have read, we were one of the first Rape Crisis programs in the country. And in the early 1980s, The Baton Rouge Rape Crisis Center was given a national honor as an exemplary program by the United States Department of Justice. That was before I came on board, but the program was very proud of that.

Over the years, we have continued to receive support from the DA’s Office. Current East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore was instrumental in supporting our transition to nonprofit status and remains a positive force for increasing access to services for victims of crime. I do think that the community response has improved and I think that having the Children’s Advocacy Center has been a great improvement because then we can concentrate on what is really the specialty for us—serving teen and adult survivors of sexual assault.

4. What needs do you see in the community today, and what changes do you think are still needed to better address the problem of sexual violence?

One of the things that I think is a big problem is drinking on college campuses. Many guys have the idea that you can’t be held responsible for something that you do if you’re drunk, and ask the question of why they are responsible if you’re drunk and she’s drunk. My response to that was always that rape is actually a violent act, and if you are the actor and the other person is the receiver of the act, it makes a big difference.

I think that we need to do a better job of not only education in the high schools, but it needs to start pretty young. Girls need to know that they don’t have to go along with sex if they’re not okay with it, and guys need to know that they need to get an okay every single time. Another thing that we run into is where people say that “she can’t say no in the middle.” Well, yes, she can.

I think people knowing it’s okay to talk about these things and how to talk about them is really important.

5. How have you been able to sustain your involvement in these efforts over decades? What motivates you, and what advice do you have for others about getting involved and staying the course?

I’ve seen an awful lot of people get burned out, but I actually think that my particular background doing emergency room work helped me. I learned to be able to close the door and go home and go to bed. I’m very good at compartmentalizing and sometimes that might not be such a good thing, but it’s a good thing to be able to separate your work life from your home life.

A lot of my friends have said to me over the years that they don’t understand how I can do that work and not just be depressed all the time. I tell my friends that I think I never got depressed because this is one of the most rewarding types of work you can do. You don’t do it for the feedback, but it’s very motivating to have someone come in and see the difference between the first appointment and several weeks or months later. For probably 5 years after I retired, I would continue to get notices of high school graduations, college graduations and wedding announcements as time went on. People would write a little note and say, “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for you.”

6. How has your involvement in these efforts contributed to your life?

I think that doing this work has contributed to me being much more open to people, learning to meet people where they are, and to really hear about other people’s lives. It also made me so much more socially aware about the fact that society doesn’t always work the way we would like it to. Doing this work helped me to see how certain choices will make things better for people who don’t have power, and to really understand what it means to lack power.

I have had the opportunity to develop relationships with incredible people over the years. Early on I was lucky to work with and learn from our volunteers and staff. Later on, I had the opportunity to form relationships with Board members who have done so much for the organization, as well as Racheal, who is just amazing to work with as the leader of STAR.

This work has been a passion for me since I first got involved. I’m not a deeply religious person, but I really feel like this is what I was called to do. I liked working with survivors and their families, I liked working with volunteers, and I loved doing the public speaking part of it. When I came to work for the original Rape Crisis program, I told my husband that I had never worked at a job I didn’t like, but that I felt at home here and just felt like it was a great fit.

 

Get involved and make change with STAR:

Click here for more ways to get involved.

Agents of Change: Raven Duncil

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There are many people in the communities we serve who are 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.


I think that community leaders need to learn more about the ways sexual violence is impacting those around them, and that this will hopefully inspire them to be more vocal supporters and enact change.

– Raven Duncil

1. What is your connection to STAR?

My connection to STAR started with arm wrestling. I was the “Mistress of Ceremonies” for Baton Rouge Arm Wrestling Ladies (BRAWL), hosting tournaments that raised money and awareness for local organizations/charities that benefit women. In April 2013, we held our first event with STAR as the beneficiary.

The STAR staff and volunteers were amazing to work with, and even participated as arm wrestlers! It was amazing to see them become totally immersed in their arm wrestling persona “The Stigma Stomper and her Sirens of Social Change.” Soon after, I became a donor and joined the Prevention Action Coalition (PAC).

2. What led you to get involved in sexual assault prevention and/or response?  

When I started college, I became involved in Spectrum, a LGBTQ+ student organization at LSU. I became interested in getting involved in other groups, and supporting sexual assault survivors and advocating for prevention was a mission I’m passionate about supporting.

3. What do you find most rewarding about your involvement in this work?

Since I began volunteering with STAR, I’ve watched the organization grow from one office in Baton Rouge to having additional offices in New Orleans and Alexandria. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that more survivors have access to support services, and that more communities learn about prevention and response.

Photo Credit: Jared Landry

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

My biggest motivations are the fellow volunteers and staff at STAR. The PAC meetings are such a supportive environment. Each member brings their own perspective and experiences, but we are all there under the common goal of ending sexual violence. I have also greatly appreciated the compassionate, flexible, and understanding staff who place great importance on self-care.

5. What are some ways you promote positive change in the community, and what change do you think is needed? 

I think that I have been most effective in promoting positive change by questioning others when they perpetuate victim blaming and rape culture, and trying to engage in a dialogue about why being aware of those things is important. I also share the things I have learned from STAR in casual conversation with coworkers, friends, family, etc., which is often an opportunity for us to learn from each other.

I think that community leaders need to learn more about the ways sexual violence is impacting those around them, and that this will hopefully inspire them to be more vocal supporters and enact change. I think these are the first steps to a bigger goal of institutional change in schools, businesses, and government to have programs in place to educate people about consent, prevention, support, and response.

6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant to get involved in the movement to end sexual violence?

If you don’t know if you are ready to become a volunteer, all it takes to get involved is being supportive of survivors. When I first became interested in volunteering, I was hesitant because I feared that my anxiety and depression meant that I could not be a positive support to others. STAR let me know that any assistance someone gives makes an impact, and during the times when staying involved becomes too difficult, you have a non-judgemental support system surrounding you that all support the same mission.

Just by being supportive and educating others (if you feel comfortable), you are making a difference. Whatever reason you may be hesitant, know that you can reach out to STAR staff for guidance and support in getting involved.

 

Get involved and make change with STAR:

Click here for more ways to get involved.

Agents of Change: Meta Smith

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There are many people in the communities we serve who are 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.


I believe that if we can get to the root cause for the things that put folks at risk for contracting HIV, we stand a much better chance at getting the community viral load to zero.

– Meta Smith

1. What work do you do, and what is your connection to STAR?

I am currently the Assistant Director of Prevention at HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two (HAART). I am also co-chair for the Louisiana Chapter of Positive Women’s Network (PWN-USA), a national organization started by and for women living with HIV, that has the goal of creating leaders in the community.

My connection to STAR is multi-faceted. My organization works closely with STAR on many of the issues surrounding women and violence and I am also a member of STAR’s Prevention Action Coalition (PAC), which I so love being a part of.

2. What led you to become involved with STAR and the fight against sexual assault? How does the issue of sexual assault connect to other issues you are passionate about?

I became interested in getting involved with STAR sometime last year when Rebecca, STAR’s Vice President, did a presentation for our PWN chapter. I was struck by her commitment, dedication, and passion for ensuring that assault survivors’ voices are heard. It was of great interest to me as I am a survivor of sexual assault and know many folks that have survived as well. Here was a chance for me to be a part of getting out not just information, but honest feelings about an issue that has affected so many others.

It also connects to my professional work and my work with women living with HIV. I believe that HIV is like the flower you see on top of the earth, but all the facets of its growth and changes are underground at the root. I believe that if we can get to the root cause for the things that put folks at risk for contracting HIV, we stand a much better chance at getting the community viral load to zero.

3. What do you find most rewarding about your work and community activism?

The most rewarding thing is just being of service to others, especially women. I believe that only in giving can you receive. At one time, I had no voice and did not think learning how to find it was even an option for me. Boy, was I wrong and it got me to thinking that there must be others who felt the same way–disconnected from society and not quite good enough.

When I contracted HIV, what I thought was a voice quickly went away. Having a super support system help me to stand, and I truly feel that I have an obligation to speak for others until they find their voices. It is my gift back to God who thought enough of me to create opportunities for me to be of service to others.

4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging? How do you practice self-care? 

More than anything, what motivates me to keep going against all challenges is my real and deep desire to work at making sure no one ever has to feel that they are alone in whatever their challenge is. To see the light come on in the eyes of a woman that finally believes in herself and her dreams, well let me just say there has never been a greater feeling for me.

Self-care for me is my “me-time” days. I take a day or two and watch lots of Chris Rock and Katt Williams and laugh uncontrollably.

5. What are some ways you promote positive change in the community? What change do you think is needed? 

I like to think that I promote positive change in my community by speaking up about the changes that I feel strongly about. I encourage others to know that ALL OUR VOICES matter, that we must be involved in the changes we want to see, and that the only way to get things done is collectively. You see, an open palm is just 5 fingers, but when you make a fist out of the fingers, well now you got yourself some power.

I think and feel the change that is most needed is putting the UNITY back into COMMUNITY. Baton Rouge is our city and it is going to take Baton Rouge to UNITE and be the change we want to see.

 

Get involved and make change with STAR:

Agents of Change: Megan Wilson

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There are many people in the communities we serve who are 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.


Our efforts have already made important impacts in the lives of individuals and on our culture and they can continue to do so. Even small steps are moving us forward.

– Megan Wilson

1. What is your position at STAR?

I am a Resource Advocate at STAR. I work one-on-one with primary and secondary survivors to provide emotional support, assistance, and advocacy. I work with survivors in a variety of ways, including accompanying them to court proceedings, helping them fill out the application for crime victims’ reparations, connecting them to housing resources in the community, or helping them develop a safety plan. Every survivor needs something different. I also coordinate our volunteer program and help with outreach.

2. What led you to your work in sexual assault prevention and/or response?

In college at Northwestern State University, I became involved with the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, a feminist group on campus and my first real introduction to social justice. Through this group, I met all types of people in the community fighting to end sexual violence. They helped me educate myself and become more involved in the movement. We eventually formed another social justice group called Demons Support Demons, a student-run organization whose only goals are to end sexual violence and support survivors of sexual trauma. (The campus mascot is Vic the Demon.) Seeing the way our efforts changed the climate on our campus inspired me to pursue a career that would help me combat these and other social injustices.

STAR came to my attention a few years back while attending a conference with the Feminist Majority in Baton Rouge and again at a conference in New Orleans with Demons Support Demons. When I heard STAR was opening a branch in Central Louisiana, I knew I had to be involved. Fortunately, STAR has created many opportunities for community members to be involved in their mission, including by volunteering, interning, and working there. I’m grateful to be working at STAR and encourage everyone to get involved in any way they can.

3. What do you find most rewarding about your involvement in this work?

Seeing the way our everyday actions in Central Louisiana have impacted both the individuals we work with and the community has been the most rewarding aspect so far. I get to be involved with such an important organization and get to help further their mission knowing that we’re succeeding in making a difference.

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

Even if things are hard or seem hopeless, I still have the power to affect people. I can see the differences we’ve made in the individuals I help, our culture, and conversations with loved ones. Our efforts have already made important impacts in the lives of individuals and on our culture and they can continue to do so. Even small steps are moving us forward.

5. What are some ways you promote positive change in your community, outside of work?

I try to not let the work stop completely when I’ve clocked out. In my free time, I continue to educate myself and involve myself and others in the movement. Having discussions with family and friends helps me educate others and learn things myself, so I’m always ready to talk to people. Participating in other community events gives me a chance to meet others and find allies.

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

Do what you can! Every little bit is helpful. If volunteering is not something you can handle, you can help organize events or donation drives, you can donate money or items, or you can just start having conversations with people you trust until you’re more comfortable branching out. Educating people and helping survivors is rewarding, so if you want to start now, take a small step!

To learn more about STAR’s services in Central Louisiana, call (855) 435-STAR (7827).

Get involved and make change with STAR:

Agents of Change: Micah Fincher

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There are many people working to create positive change to end sexual violence in the communities we serve. We want to feature as many of them as possible. To submit a recommendation, email prevention@star.ngo.


I would advise young men that we need more role models demonstrating healthy masculinity. Too much of our collective time and energy goes into teaching young women about self-defense and safety tips, and not enough goes to teaching young men about healthy relationships and consent.

– Micah Fincher    

1. What is your connection to STAR?

I have been a donor and supporter of STAR for many years. I currently serve on STAR’s board of directors and as President of STAR’s New Orleans Regional Council.

2. What led you to become involved with STAR and the fight against sexual assault?

STAR’s experience and effectiveness led me to support its work. STAR does incredibly important advocacy and outreach that is desperately needed in our community. It takes a highly professional approach to addressing these issues and supporting survivors, as well as taking a long view toward preventing them in the future through its community change programming.

3. What do you find most rewarding about your involvement in this work, and what motivates you when things get tough?

Working with STAR’s talented management and staff is very rewarding and several have become close friends. A generally positive and optimistic attitude prevents me from getting discouraged.

4. What are some ways you promote positive change in your community?

I promote positive change in my community primarily by supporting STAR and other non-profit organizations. I also strive to practice mutual respect in my own relationships with friends and family, and I try to use my privilege to interrupt unconscious bias within myself and others.

5. What advice would you give to men who are hesitant to get involved in the movement to end sexual violence? 

First, I would advise men to read Asking For It by Kate Harding. In the United States generally, and the South in particular, we live in a rape culture. Harding’s book sets forth the undisputable facts that show how survivors of sexual assault are often marginalized and victimized twice: first by their perpetrator and then again by our criminal justice systems and communities that are prone to victim-blaming.

Second, I would advise young men that we need more role models demonstrating healthy masculinity. Too much of our collective time and energy goes into teaching young women about self-defense and safety tips, and not enough goes to teaching young men about healthy relationships and consent. In my opinion, this is the single greatest barrier to reforming those social norms that sustain and reinforce our rape culture, the destruction of which would dramatically reduce sexual assaults in our community.

 

Get involved and make change with STAR!

Agents of Change: Kirsten Raby

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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.


When a person is victimized by sexual trauma, they are stripped of their right to use the word no. In that moment, they are told their words, feelings and needs don’t matter. Be a person that fights for those who are struggling to get that power back.

– Kirsten Raby    

1. What is your position at STAR?

I am the Capital Area Regional Director at STAR’s Baton Rouge branch. I manage staff and daily operations of the branch, support improvements to our services, and work to build community partnerships and increase access to STAR’s services in the Capital Region.

2. What led you to your work in sexual assault prevention and/or response?

I’ve had a close connection with STAR since 2009, when it was still the Rape Crisis Center. I started working at the EBR District Attorney’s Office as a Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC), which at that time was under the same umbrella as the Rape Crisis Center. I’ve worked with victims of sexual trauma and assault my entire career, although during my time as a VAC, I also worked with victims of other types of crime. My experience as a VAC allowed me many opportunities to see firsthand how sexual violence and rape culture can tear people’s lives apart. I have always had a passion for assisting those that have been traumatized by sexual violence and assault.

3. What do you find most rewarding about your involvement in this work?

Although I do miss direct service and contact with survivors, I really enjoy being the behind-the-scenes person. I love that I am a part of the procedures and processes that help this organization give survivors the very best. I enjoy being a part of a movement that is bringing about change in the way people think about sexual violence and its prevalence in our community. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to play such a vital role with STAR.

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

When I hear a survivor talk about how much our work has empowered them to keep going; when I come home and talk to my oldest son about consent and he actually understands that message and talks openly to me about his relationships with people; when I get an email from a stranger saying they saw us on TV or read about us in the news and they are supportive of what we do and the lives we are impacting…these things keep me going.

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

I’m a mother of two boys and I talk very openly with them about what it means to be a good person and how to be an active bystander when they see something that isn’t right. I talk to them about consent and how to treat their potential significant other, as well as friends and strangers. I think that by giving them these tools, they will grow up to be men that fight for equality and they will go into their schools and be leaders, not followers. I talk to them about the work I’ve done so that they know I’m not just talking about it, I’m putting action behind it as well.

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

I would say to think about how good it feels to have the power to say NO to the things you don’t want, and then think about what it might be like to have that power taken away from you all while being violated. When a person is victimized by sexual trauma, they are stripped of their right to use the word no. In that moment, they are told their words, feelings and needs don’t matter. Be a person that fights for those who are struggling to get that power back.

 

Get involved and make change with STAR!

Agents of Change: Tercel Harris

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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.


More men are needed to join the movement against sexual violence and honestly I feel it is our fight first and foremost. We carry on the ideas that boys are just boys and what happens to women is their fault. We need to change our mindsets to help those in need.

– Tercel Harris    

1. What is your relationship with STAR? tercel-1

I joined STAR as an intern in their Capital Area branch back in August 2014. After my internship ended, I continued an active role with STAR as a volunteer hotline advocate.

2. What led you to your work in sexual assault prevention and/or response?

A number of close female friends in my life are survivors of some form of sexual violence. The stories they told me made me feel angry and also powerless because I didn’t know what to do to help, or what to say to make it better. It was then that I knew I had to take a stand against sexual violence and the rape culture that makes those sort of actions seem okay.

I came to realize that men need to rise up and challenge rape culture, not condone locker room talk. We as men need to take a more proactive role to address this issue.

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3. What do you find most rewarding about your involvement in this work?

The most rewarding aspect is knowing that I am actually making a difference in lives of those that have been hurt before. Through the hotline, I can provide hope to those that feel hopeless and be a resource to survivors that feel no one is there to listen to them. It is also rewarding to hear about the role STAR has played in the lives of survivors when I table for STAR in the community.

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

Now that I know what to say and do to help, talking to friends is my motivation because of the impact I have had on their lives. They can finally open up about the trauma and handle it in a healthier way. Another reason I don’t lose focus and push on to make a differences is because a person very close to me was a victim of sexual violence at a young age. So in the back of my mind, I always think about that when times get difficult. I know that I can’t give up because there is so much left to do.

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

I promote positive change in my daily life by educating others on the issue of sexual violence. Being a man, I point out the offensive ways my male friends make jokes or do anything else that promotes negative views and rape culture. I also try to bring the issue into my school life by joining organizations that stand with the movement and educating my fraternity about the issues so it starts a trend for other chapters around the world to join the movement.

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

My advice to men is to stand for something or fall for anything. More men are needed to join the movement against sexual violence and honestly I feel it is our fight first and foremost. We carry on the ideas that boys are just boys and what happens to women is their fault. We need to change our mindsets to help those in need.

If men out there don’t want to do it for others, at least do it for your loved ones that may be affected by sexual violence. I couldn’t live in a world where I condone the violence that is being done to someone else or my loved ones. Men, we are needed in this fight to challenge the men that create rape culture. Just doing simple things like educating other men is a step forward in the right direction.

 

Get involved and make change with STAR!

Agents of Change: Lisa Mount

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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.


I love when people ask me what I do. It may be awkward at first, but it is usually a great opportunity to talk about STAR and the important services we provide. It also brings attention to the fact that these services are needed in our community – this is not something that only happens somewhere else.

– Lisa Mount    

1. What is your position at STAR? 

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I am the counselor at STAR’s Central Louisiana Branch. I provide individual and group trauma-informed therapy to adults and adolescents of all genders who are survivors of sexual abuse or assault. Because the support system is a vital part of the recovery of survivors, I also provide individual and group therapy for the support persons of survivors. This may include parents, grandparents, friends, significant others or spouses. The CenLa branch is brand new and I am also helping with program development activities so that we can get the word out about the services that STAR is now providing to this area of Louisiana.

2. What led you to your work in sexual assault prevention and/or response?

I became interested in learning more about responding to the needs of survivors early in my career. In every setting where I provided Social Work services, I was encountering people who had experienced some sort of sexual violence, or who had a loved one who had. I took steps to educate myself, then in 2007 I had the opportunity to work at a sexual assault center named Stuller Place, now Hearts of Hope, in Lafayette, Louisiana.

I continued to grow and learn through that experience and through my experiences as a board member for LAFASA, the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault. Even after I left Hearts of Hope, I continued to provide counseling to survivors in community-based and mental health settings. I was very excited when I got the opportunity to work with STAR to provide counseling and support to survivors in my home region of Central Louisiana.

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3. What do you find most rewarding about your involvement in this work?

It’s the little things — the accomplishments that we see among survivors and their families as they move along in their journey towards healing. It’s the moment in counseling when the person realizes something that is important to their recovery — it is like a light comes on and you can see a little bit of the weight lift from their shoulders. It’s the day someone shows up for their first session, despite their fear of starting counseling. It’s when a person expresses a feeling of empowerment or the day someone lets you know they were able to do something they were not able to do before, like go grocery shopping or sleep through the night. It’s when parents of a child that was abused start healing and showing that they are more confident in their ability to help their child.

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

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Although everyone at STAR is working different angles of the mission, we are all working toward the same things. The culture of the agency supports growth and provides an environment where we learn from and support each other. This teamwork and support helps me to keep going even when things are difficult or discouraging.

Still, this is hard work. Support and self-care are important. My family and friends are supportive. I also make sure to do fun things like spending time with family and friends, getting my nails done, or hiking and kayaking every chance I get so that I can take care of myself. The passion I have for working in this field is also great fuel that keeps me going. That passion, compassion, and desire to help others helps me turn setbacks and roadblocks into hurdles to be overcome and problems to be solved.

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

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It is important to live the change you want to see in your day to day life.  This is something I have found impacts others by setting an example and helping them feel like they have permission to stand up against things in our culture that normalize or justify rape, assault, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual abuse.

I am always educating others. I love when people ask me what I do. It may be awkward at first, but it is usually a great opportunity to talk about STAR and the important services we provide. It also brings attention to the fact that these services are needed in our community – this is not something that only happens somewhere else.

Many times the people I’m talking to disclose that they are survivors or know someone that was abused.  When I hear someone say something uninformed about sexual abuse or rape, I immediately speak up in an effort to dispel the myth and educate the person. These little steps are witnessed and repeated within my social circle.

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

Anybody can be part of the movement to end sexual trauma.  Everyone has their own unique strengths and skill sets.  The most effective way for someone to get involved is to find their own personal way to contribute to the effort. There are no small actions. You can make a difference by doing things as simple as educating yourself, talking to those in your social circles, reporting and not spreading posts on social media that promote rape culture or myths about sexual trauma, and choosing not to listen to music or watch movies that normalize sexual violence. Everyone can make a difference.

To learn more about STAR’s Counseling services in Central Louisiana, call (855) 435-7827. 

Get involved and make change with STAR!

Agents of Change: Cherita McNeal

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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.


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? 

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!