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"I spoke out to put a face to the issue for the millions of women, men and children who suffer in silence and to say that you are not alone. Help is available." ~ Ayanna Pressley, Boston City Councilor (Photo by Christopher Mason)

Intern: Tanaha Simon

Summer 2012 Communications Internship: Fighting for Social Justice, Where Do I Fit In?

Walking in the doors of Jane Doe Inc. 7 weeks ago, I honestly did not know what was going to happen, and that was the exciting part!  I was ready to live in a new city and most importantly, I was ready to finally be directly involved in a cause I strongly support.  Of course, when I sat down to read file after file of material, I questioned whether this was going to be the invigorating nonprofit experience I had dreamed this internship would be.  Little did I know who my supervisor was and little did I know, as much as I had visited the website, the breadth of work done at Jane Doe Inc.  With an energy that I have come to admire, Toni immediately sent me on my way with a large list of projects.  I wanted to work hard, she expected me to, and I was not going to let her down.  I am proud to say that I have successfully made it through numerous lists of projects by now and what I have come to realize and learn has been a wonderful mix of emotions and thoughts.

The first few weeks, I had tunnel vision on my goals and assignments, but since the first day, every article or post I read, every statistic I came across, and every person I met widened my eyes and inspired my curiosity.  Why are these offences to human dignity perpetrated?  Why is having equal treatment and access to support, no matter gender, race, sexual orientation, or culture a difficult concept to understand?  Throughout this internship I have acquired an understanding of sexual assault and domestic violence issues I would have not gotten before.  I have also recognized the endless fields and efforts—advocacy work, legislation, prosecution, men’s initiatives, to name a few—that are crucial to the success of survivor support, perpetrator accountability, and violence prevention.  In all of this learning and enlightenment, I had a growing sense of dismay, the result of systems failing those who needed it the most, the reoccurrence of domestic violence homicide, the culture of violence, and the ever present gaps and communication breeches among organizations and institutions that hinder the support and prevention efforts that could exist.  As I became more and more aware of the progress that still needs to be made in our systems and culture, I felt increasingly unimportant in the cause.  I was also questioning if the field of communications and outreach was the area for me.  How does this tweet of mine help survivors find an attorney to represent them?  How did my two weeks spent on editing janedoe.org assist anyone?  I do not like anything that has to do with getting financial support.  I was not seeing the direct benefits of my hard work.  Not that I was looking for a glorified pat on the back, but I was simply yearning to know that my work mattered.  The non profit world makes a difference and I wanted to be a part of that, but was not feeling as if I was.  After this battle with myself and my future goals, I finally began to realize the lesson I was learning: what true altruism really is.  It is giving to others without expectation of reward, because it is the right thing to do.  Not to say that this field is without rewards, as they show themselves in one way or another each day, but the rewards are not the incentive, that is the crucial component I had to learn.  I thank each and every wonderful person I have encountered in this field for teaching me by their strong persistent example that lesson.

Just recently I have been coming to terms with the strides domestic and sexual violence prevention and support has made, and the long road that still lies ahead for equal support and treatment for all survivors.  With increased awareness, comes increased need, and an unfortunate drop in the means to provide such services.  Yes, this is an effect of the current economy, but I maintain the position that if there is a will, there is a way, the trouble is in finding that way.  Comprehending this gap between need and service once again had me questioning the ways in which I was helping our cause.  Then Toni gave me two projects: to write two new web pages for janedoe.org and to contact local TV and radio stations in hopes that they would again run our PSA featuring Diane Patrick.  Most of the media calls went the same way “leave a message after the tone.”  But one particular conversation made me realize that in these calls I was doing so much more than picking up a phone and taking up 30-60 seconds of airtime; I was ensuring that information was given to the community.  During this conversation I began to realize the extent of my seemingly mundane actions.  Someone could see or hear the message I made sure to get out there.  In that one moment they took our message to heart, their lives began to change, and that change could continue if they chose to reach out to a local program.  By getting that PSA out there, I was a part of that transformative process.  My work did matter, if only in that one life. As I continue to create the two web pages, I keep that message locked in my heart, and the reaffirming comments from helpful resources continue to add to my confidence.  Having multiple people so excited for the work you are doing really makes all the difference. 

Now that I have only three more weeks of my internship left, I persist with as much energy as possible.  I continue to tell myself that even if I don’t see it directly, my written words matter, a conversation that gets a PSA on the air matters, and if I can be a part of the cultural change that Jane Doe Inc. hopes to see, by golly I will be a part of it in any way that I can.  Through this internship I have felt hope and dismay, excitement and defeat, but each of these emotions have been necessary to understand that no matter what, any involvement I have in the cause to end sexual and domestic violence, does matter, no matter how small.  One grain of sand can tip a scale in the favor of our cause, and I only dream that that grain of sand could be me.


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