23 August, 2009

My life...or how I got here

Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention Coordinator. Yeah, it's a mouthful. And for a long time, I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I went through a lot of phases. I was Political Science/Pre-law, then I was Philosophy (undergrad), then I decided I needed a Master's degree so I became a Philosophy grad student, and about halfway through my program, I realized that Philosophy didn't fill that place either.

It didn't just start this spring. I can distinctly remember going to the Take Back the Night vigil at St. Joe's chapel in April of my freshmen year (2005), standing up in front of a few hundred people, and telling my story. It was frightening. It was terrifying. It was SO worth it. I felt empowered, like I'd reclaimed (at least temporarily) a part of me that had been stolen. That was the beginning of my realization.

In the next year at SJU, I took a few more baby steps toward my ultimate goal. However, it really wasn't until I transferred to West Chester and got involved in the Women's Center that I really started to transform. On a whim (and after a particularly painful breakup) I decided to try out for the Vagina Monologues in November of 2006. I met some amazing women and began to find my place at West Chester. The following year, I became president of the Women's Center club, a student worker at the Women's Center, and the Coordinator for the Vagina Monologues. I also began to take my passion into the academic sphere, writing a paper for my Contemporary Moral Issues class entitled, "She Asked for It: Examining Victim Blaming in Acquaintance Rape Cases." That paper was accepted to a Philosophy conference that spring, and earned a 3rd place recognition out of all the papers submitted from across the state. I was thrilled.

I graduated in May of 08 having already been accepted to the grad program at West Chester. I started classes in the fall and began to realize that I may have made a mistake. I wasn't excited about Philosophy like I used to be. However, in an attempt to make the best of things, I used two of my classes as opportunities to further my real interest, acquaintance rape awareness and prevention. For my Existentialism class, I wrote a paper entitled, "The Traumatic Aftermath of Acquaintance Rape" and for my Aesthetic Theory class, I did a journal project using entries that followed the incident. Both were well received by my professors, and I began to feel whole again.

In February, I submitted the "traumatic aftermath" paper to five conferences, mostly to see if I'd get in to ANY of them. My paper was accepted to ALL of them. I didn't expect that. So in March, I flew to Cleveland and presented at the Eastern Society for Women in Philosophy; in April I drove to NYC and presented at the philoSOPHIA Feminist Philosophy conference, and in July I came full circle and presented at a Social Philosophy conference held at (you guessed it) St. Joe's. With my dad and his g/f in the audience, I felt like I was on top of the world.

While all that academic stuff went on, I had been doing a few things on the side. In April, I attended a screening of "Speak Out and Stand Up," a documentary produced by Security on Campus, which is an organization that focuses on Sexual Assault Prevention Education. I met with the program director and she hired me as a Peer Educator. I went to a high school in Bucks County and gave three 90-minute presentations on Sexual Assault Prevention/Awareness. I felt on top of the world. Security on Campus also hired me (and paid me $500) to design a study guide, discussion guide, and pre/post-test to go along with the documentary. These documents would be nationally published and sent to colleges all over the country.

A few weeks ago, I took a Crime Victim Advocacy class, which was a 40 hour training to volunteer with the Crime Victims Center of Chester County. I met some fantastic people, and a few of them had actually heard of me, which was a pretty incredible moment to experience.

Finally, Adale (the new director of the Women's Center) decided to give me a title and position in the Women's Center, which led to the mouthful title at the beginning of the post. I now coordinate all of the SRVP activities on campus, give presentations, design programs, begin to form a group for Men as Allies, and I'll be running a peer-based support group for Survivors of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence.

Last week, Adale and I participated in a sexual assault panel in front of about 50 new Resident Assistants. We both spoke, and afterward a few students came up to thank me for my presentation. I felt high. This is what I want to do with my life. Nothing up to this point has given me this sort of contentment. It feels great.

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