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.
I talk about difficult issues like sexual assault and HIV with my family and friends. I hope that by communicating with others about these issues, we can work toward reducing stigma and shame.
– La’Shantlen Russ
1. What is your relationship with STAR?
I am the Prevention Coordinator in the Prevention Department at HAART (HIV/AIDS Alliance Region Two). STAR is one of our amazing community partners.
HAART offers a complete continuum of care to people living with HIV/AIDS including housing, primary care, medications, case management, and an array of supportive services. In addition, HAART provides HIV prevention education and free testing to the Baton Rouge area.
2. What led you to your work in sexual assault prevention and/or response?
I didn’t know much about sexual assault prevention or response until my sister, Laneceya, started working at STAR. I would ask her questions about the agency and was astounded at the statistics in our area. I wanted to learn more so I started attending STAR events and have since joined their Prevention Action Coalition (PAC).
In 2014, our prevention department formed a partnership with STAR to provide assistance in accessing post-exposure prophylaxis, PEP, for survivors of sexual assault. PEP is an emergency prevention method available to individuals that may have been exposed to HIV during sex, through sharing needles, occupational exposure, or sexual assault to reduce their risk of contracting HIV.
3. What do you find most rewarding about your involvement in this work?
Making a difference in someone’s health, improving their quality of life is why I work in public health. Knowing that we have lessened a survivor’s burden is the reward!
4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?
My awesome coworkers and our clients are what motivate me to keep going when things get difficult. I know that we provide a much needed service to survivors and the broader community. Working in this field can be challenging and discouraging at times, but I can always find the help and strength to keep moving forward from my coworkers, family, and friends.
5. What are some simple, day-to-day ways you promote positive change in your community?
I promote positive change in my community by treating everyone I encounter with kindness and respect. You never know what kind of impact a simple smile or hello may have on someone.
I also talk about difficult issues like sexual assault and HIV with my family and friends. I hope that by communicating with others about these issues, we can work toward reducing stigma and shame.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of this movement?
I would say just go for it! I was new to the issues of HIV and sexual assault but I didn’t let that stop me from learning more and joining the fight to end them. Join the PAC, go to events sponsored by STAR, or become a volunteer advocate. These are all good ways to get involved in the movement to end sexual violence.
Get involved and make change with STAR!