Actively becoming more aware of rape culture and taking a stand to not contribute to or indulge offensive comments, jokes, conversations, and actions that would continue to normalize it can make a much larger difference than you would believe.
– Mandy Roberts
1. What is your connection to STAR?
I am a volunteer hotline and medical advocate for STAR. I basically provide an environment of nonjudgmental emotional support and advocacy, safety planning, resource referrals, and any other assistance I can through the hotline or in person during hospital call outs.
The hours throughout the forensic exam process and potential police interview can seem long, invasive, and uncomfortable for survivors, and many of them can feel alone even when surrounded by others. I try to be someone who can offer a sense of comfort and unity by openly rooting for them and helping them focus on their strengths and any possible positives.
2. How did you come to volunteer with STAR and/or in the field of sexual assault prevention/response?
The topic of sexual assault in general as well as prevention and response has always been something that I considered important. One of the factors that made me aware of the subject even as a child was watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and being able to witness and discuss the injustice so many underwent almost on a daily basis. For so long, talking about sexual assault has been something of a “hush hush” conversation, and almost considered taboo to be open about in public.
The issue is associated with shame, doubt, and victim blaming, all of which are completely unacceptable to me. As a Psychology major at my University, I am provided the opportunity to learn about and discuss it much more openly on a regular basis with those who consider it as important as I do. This has really allowed me to see how unaware many are of the prevalence of sexual assault as well as its various effects, not only on the survivor, but on their families and community as well. When I heard about STAR through a classmate who thought I would be interested, I knew it would be the perfect opportunity for me to do what I can while I am also in school.
3. What do you find most rewarding about your work with STAR?
One of the biggest rewards about doing work with STAR is seeing the overwhelming compassion that many people give to others when they’re down and need it the most, regardless of how unsettling the situation may be for them. That fundamental human to human concern and support is something that comforts me each time I witness it.
While it can be easy to just focus on the ugly parts of this kind of work, which can make you start to accumulate a pessimistic outlook and even feel hopeless, the care that is shown by the SANE nurses, workers at STAR, fellow volunteers, and the community in general continually motivates and reassures me about how much good can really be found in others. Seeing people come together and give of themselves for a cause that so desperately needs it will forever inspire me.
4. What motivates you to keep going when things get difficult or discouraging?
There are instances where you see or hear something horrendous and just want to retreat inside of yourself and ask how it can even be possible for someone to begin to recover, but then they do. They learn to cope, persevere, and grow, and their strength and will continually amaze me. I’ve gone on a medical call-out that lasted several hours and I’ll never forget the amount of concern that was shed over my well-being, from inquiries about food to physical comfort within the room, all by someone who had suffered a truly horrifying injustice not half a day earlier. Their courage and determination humbles me, and promotes my own in turn.
In addition, I have a wonderful support system. My friends and family are always here and openly showing their support and willingness to aid me in any way they can, between providing me with activities to keep myself upbeat and positive to simply being an open ear if I ever need to vent out any frustrations. Self-care is extremely important, because I want to give the best of myself I can to someone. I love simply taking drives and singing along to the radio with a friend, and taking fun trips that lighten my spirit and recharge my mind.
5. What are some ways you promote positive change in your community, outside of your work duties?
I always try to be someone who’s openly available for others to reach out to. While I do discuss the seriousness of sexual assault and rape culture with family, friends, and classmates quite often, I also make an effort to be a person others will see as a comfortable and trusted place to go for someone to listen, ask questions to, or simply discuss something with. You never know how a simple conversation and just being there for someone to be heard in that moment can change everything. Training in suicide awareness at my university taught me that the smallest acts of compassion can change someone’s life — a simple “Are you okay? I’m here for you,” can be someone’s lifeline.
6. What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about becoming an active member of the movement to end sexual trauma?
From a small donation to crisis centers, raising awareness within your family, community, or other organizations, to volunteering or participating in outreach, anything helps. There is nothing you can do, no matter how small, that won’t be appreciated and valued in some way.
Actively becoming more aware of rape culture and taking a stand to not contribute to or indulge offensive comments, jokes, conversations, and actions that would continue to normalize it can make a much larger difference than you would believe. Do what you can and what you are comfortable with, but doing something is all it takes.
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