When asked why my work as an advocate is meaningful to me, my immediate thought is, “Well, how could it be anything but?” It is difficult to now put myself in a position where this work is not meaningful to me, but it wasn’t always this important on a personal level. In college, I interned and worked part-time at a nonprofit that provided healthy communication and conflict resolution courses to families that were going through divorce or separation. At that time, I didn’t put much thought into what led the families there or which factors may have contributed to their need for the courses.
A few years later, I started working for loveisrespect (a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle), taking online chats, text messages and phone calls from young people who were experiencing dating abuse. Similarly, when I started this advocacy, I didn’t really think about why people were contacting us. While I worked part-time for loveisrespect, I also worked for another nonprofit doing violence prevention work in schools. Prevention work helped me understand the reasons why intervention is so important. As a society, we aren’t educating people about healthy relationships and respect, and most of what we see in the media depicts unhealthy/abusive behaviors. People – especially young people – end up absorbing these problematic ideas and behaviors and practicing them in their own lives. This is why intervention has to happen; we get so many inaccurate messages about what is and isn’t okay in relationships and, generally, society is not countering those messages with education on healthy behaviors in relationships.
Loveisrespect and the National Domestic Violence Hotline do just that and more. We provide education on what’s healthy in a relationship and what isn’t, and we provide intervention when needed. I feel extremely honored to be one of the people who provides that education around healthy relationships. I get to do that every day for my job, and that is awesome! I also get to support victims and survivors of abuse every day, which is also amazing. I feel so special that I’m able witness the incredible bravery and strength of the people who contact us. Reaching out when your partner is threatening your life or controlling you in any way is scary. So, just contacting us is a huge step that takes so much courage. I get to experience that and equip callers and chatters with education, support and validation.
Often when I tell people what I do for my job, they feel a bit bad for me because of how traumatic this work can be. But really, what I do is beautiful, and I feel proud to advocate for victims and survivors of dating abuse and domestic violence every day. All of this and more has made what I do extremely important to me on every level, and I really can’t imagine a world where I am not devoting my time to this work.