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I had just started my freshman year of college and I was required to take a “basic experience” class. It was pretty much just learning about how to be a better bystander, understanding consent, learning self defense on campus, partying, etc. Throughout the semester, I started to become acquainted with one of the girls in the class. We would talk before and after class, sometimes eating lunch before we were off to our separate classes. We’d save each other a seat, give one another a heads up if we weren’t coming to class…you know…basic college stuff. It was only natural that we started to talk details about our lives to one another. She told me about one of her exes from high school and from what she told me, this was a pretty crappy relationship. And honestly, a lot of horrible things happened to her that never should have happened.

I remember one day she was triggered by something in class that was centered around what had happened to her and she walked out. I went to check on her to make sure she was okay, and I sat down on the bench in the hallway where she was sitting. This is when she began to tell me more of her story and she just broke down crying. In that moment, all I knew I could do was hold her and tell her that not only was everything going to be okay, but that none of this was her fault. I just sat there with her and listened. I am not sure what it was that made her feel comfortable telling me what happened to her. But I am glad that she did, and that I was able to support her when she needed it. I cannot even begin to imagine the whirlwind of emotions that was going through her head that day.

Looking back on that moment, I think this was one of the main reasons that played into me wanting to become an advocate for survivors. Seeing another human that you don’t really know all that well share their most vulnerable self with you can be a life changing experience. After that moment, I started to open my eyes up more and more about what was happening around me, on the internet, and just everywhere really. How so many of us play into rape culture and may not even realize it. I wanted to change. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to take responsibility for myself and be the change that I wanted to see around me. Regardless of how cheesy that might sound, I think it is true. So that’s exactly what I did. I got an interview with my local rape crisis center, completed my 40 hour training, became a certified advocate, and for about a year now I have officially been volunteering with them. Taking hotline calls, responding to hospital visits, and most recently becoming a volunteer with AVFTI and responding to survivors’ stories online.

This is not an easy position to put yourself in, and I went into this work being aware of that. At the end of the day, regardless of what happens, I wanted to be that support for someone as they were going through the most traumatic and difficult moments of their lives because sometimes, you are all they have. Whether that be moments after it happened, or years after trying to recover, I wanted to be that shoulder for someone to lean on. As an advocate/volunteer, there are moments where you are going to wonder if you did enough. Did you say the right or wrong thing? What could you have done to make that phone call last longer? But you have to remember it’s not about how long that conversation lasted on the phone, or how long or short your comment was online. It’s about the fact that you listened, empowered, encouraged, and believed them no matter what. And providing those things in that moment can do more for a survivor than anything else. And that is why I am a part of this movement.

Click here to learn more about joining A Voice For The Innocent’s volunteer team or to submit an application.

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