I have been a volunteer volunteered in the anti-sexual violence movement for over a decade; I have served as a volunteer with three different non-profit organizations, and these experiences have transformed my life; they educated me about sexual violence in the United States and around the world, provided me with training as a first responder in rape crisis situations, encouraged me to believe survivors of sexual violence when they tell their stories, and inspired me to commit my career to making the world a safer, fairer place for sexual violence survivors.
Advocacy at “Open Arms” Prison Reentry Program (2010 – 2012) During my dissertation research, I was committed to serving the needs of Open Arms clients as they dealt with the sometimes insurmountable challenges of reentering society after being incarcerated. I devoted a great deal of volunteer time to Open Arms while I conducted research and worked as a part-time staff member from 2010 – 2012. For one and a half years, I facilitated a weekly support group for clients at Open Arms; many of our topics were related to gender-based violence, because so many of these women had survived extreme levels of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. As a facilitator, I provide a structured safe space for Open Arms clients to discuss their feelings and opinions about many of the challenges facing them as they tried to return home from prison.
DC Rape Crisis Center (2009 – 2011)
Eager to return to hospital advocacy, I joined the ranks of the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) volunteers after moving to the Washington, DC area for graduate school. The DCRCC operates the DC Rape Crisis Hotline in addition to the hospital/medical advocacy services it provides. Additionally, DCRCC provides free and low-cost counseling services to sexual violence survivors in the DC metropolitan area.
In 2009 – 2010, I served as a volunteer hospital/medical advocate and rape crisis counselor. In 2010 I became a volunteer back-up supervisor. As a back-up supervisor, I coordinated the logistical needs of advocates while they were on hospital calls, and I provided emotional support for advocates and hotline counselors when they deal with difficult situations. As the back-up supervisor, I was also on-call to take hotline calls or hospital calls whenever the volunteers were not able to do so. For eighteen months, I volunteered as a back-up supervisor on a weekly basis; with few exceptions, I volunteered eighteen hours each weekend to provide logistical and emotional support to the hospital and hotline advocates. I served in this position through December 2011, at which time I concluded my volunteer service with DCRCC.
Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault (2002 – 2008)
After moving to Indiana, I joined Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault as a general office volunteer. I immediately became enamored with INCASA because of the staff members’ warmth, compassion, and unrelenting commitment to survivors of sexual violence. INCASA serves the entire state of Indiana by providing assistance with distribution of funding, development and enhancement of training programs, and professional networking opportunities for rape crisis centers and programs. INCASA directly works with policy makers to ensure that the legal, medical, and financial needs of survivors and their families are met.
I provided a variety of services to INCASA, primarily in the form of clerical and office support. Over the years, I developed a regular schedule and worked at the office on a weekly basis, assisting the staff with mailings and filing; I also helped them update and maintain their statewide service directory. Additionally, I assisted INCASA with special events such as fundraisers and educational programs. My time with INCASA was incredibly rewarding; while the work that I did was often mundane, the community spirit created by INCASA staff members provided me with a deep sense of pride to be included among these strong, independent, and unfaltering women as they dedicated their lives to serving survivors and working toward a world free of sexual violence.
I consider INCASA to be a fantastic organization that continues to provide crucial services at a statewide level, despite daunting funding and societal challenges. I am proud to have worked with INCASA and I am profoundly appreciative of the opportunity I had to serve Indiana through this organization.
Chicago Rape Victim Advocates (2001 – 2002)
In 2001, I joined Rape Victim Advocates (RVA) in Chicago as a volunteer hospital/medical advocate. This organization and training fundamentally changed my life. RVA is a very progressive, forward-thinking organization that provides a wide range of vital rape crisis services to women, men, and children in the Chicago metropolitan area. RVA’s volunteer training is incredibly comprehensive and provided me with an impressively solid foundation of knowledge; even today, over a decade later, I still refer back to the information I learned, and knowledge base that I developed, during my time with RVA. I am incredibly grateful to this organization for providing me with such a solid educational foundation for my future career.
During my time with RVA, I served as a hospital/medical advocate; I was on-call for two twelve-hour shifts per month, and I traveled throughout the Chicago metropolitan area to various hospitals. As a hospital/medical advocate, I provided emotional support, as well as basic information about legal rights and medical issues, to women, men, and children who had recently been sexually assaulted. This experience was life-changing; during my advocacy experiences, I witnessed firsthand the staggering social challenges that survivors of sexual violence must contend with. In Chicago, I observed a variety of ways in which structural inequalities—including sexism, racism, and classism—impeded the efforts of sexual violence survivors as they tried to access medical and legal services. These experiences fundamentally changed the way I viewed the world, and the lessons I learned from my experiences with RVA continue to inform the way in which I develop my research and shape my career today.
I consider RVA to be an excellent organization and I am deeply grateful to the staff for providing volunteers with such insightful, in-depth, and comprehensive trainings about sexual violence.