There are many people in our community working to create positive change to end sexual violence. We want to meet as many of them as possible. If you would like to submit a recommendation, please email email@example.com.
My response to someone who is hesitant to get involved is: if not you, then who?
1. What is your role at STAR?
RH: As the President & CEO, I oversee STAR’s operations. My day-to-day job ranges from macro (big picture focused) to micro (individual focused) initiatives to fulfill STAR’s mission and vision. This includes grant writing, major donor development, human resource management, policy development, and research on best practices.
2. What led you to get involved with STAR and/or join the movement to end sexual violence?
RH: During my time as an undergrad at LSU, I became active in student organizations and local community-based organizations focused on supporting and empowering women. One of those organizations was the Baton Rouge Rape Crisis Center (now known as STAR). I began volunteering at Rape Crisis Center in 2007 as a hotline and hospital advocate and started to understand how prevalent sexual violence is in our community. When the opportunity to work at the organization a year later presented itself, I took it and was hired as the volunteer coordinator. As a staff member, I worked with our small team of three to examine the ways our community supports survivors and responds to sexual violence and implement better services and prevention measures. Now, only a few years later, STAR has become a beacon for survivors in our community and beyond. I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity to do this work.
3. What do you find most rewarding about your work with STAR?
RH: Witnessing a change in others—the “ah-ha” moments—is the most rewarding experience about my work with STAR. Whether it’s during a training or 1-1 conversation with someone, when I educate others about the destructive impacts of a culture that blames and shames survivors, and they get it, it’s the best feeling. Educating and mobilizing individuals is the biggest reward because it’s a small action that has a ripple effect on our society—that person will then work to educate others and increase the impact of the work that we do.
4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?
RH: First and foremost, I love being in a position where I can improve my community and impact the lives of survivors and their families every day. Many people don’t realize how important an organization like STAR is until they have a horrific experience that leaves them confused, terrified and voiceless. STAR helps provide support during one of the worst times in peoples’ lives.
With that being said, I’ll be honest, this work is challenging. However, I am lucky to have such a great support system at STAR. I surround myself with positive and exceptional people that not only provide critical emotional and social support, they also help carry the workload when it gets overwhelming.
You have to have a passion for this job, and I am so fortunate to work beside a great team of knowledgeable, enthusiastic, compassionate and caring individuals. Everyone on our staff, our volunteers, Board members and community partners are so committed to the mission and vision of STAR. I can see our work changing the community and impacting survivors. Even when I have a tough day or have to deal with an especially difficult situation, I know there are people there to listen, make me laugh and lift my spirit.
5. What are some simple, day-to-day ways you promote positive change in our community?
RH: Change is never simple. It’s much easier to follow the status quo. But the simplest way to promote a more positive culture is to change your individual outlook. To take a personal investment in this issue, I suggest these two small shifts in your thinking: 1) allow for the possibility that sexual violence happens and 2) believe survivors when they come forward.
We are conditioned as a culture to blame and shame survivors as a way to rationalize the violence that is committed against them. Time after time, when a news story about a sexual assault or case of abuse is posted on Facebook, the first comments often imply that the victim is lying or that the perpetrator is an upstanding citizen and would never have committed violence. In some way this makes us feel safer. But in reality it makes us less safe. Violence persists when perpetrators are allowed to get away with their crimes and violent, anti-social behavior is unchallenged. If we collectively held offenders accountable for their violence and supported survivors and empowered them to follow through with the criminal justice process, there would be fewer perpetrators in our community.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of this movement?
RH: My response to someone who is hesitant to get involved is: if not you, then who? The responsibility to end sexual violence is on all of us, not just a select few who work formally with survivors each day. We all interact with survivors of sexual trauma, everyday. In order to make a collective impact and fulfill our vision of a healthy community free from oppression and sexual violence, it takes the work of many. Get involved and don’t look back!