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"Educating our communities and elected officials about the needs of survivors in our local cities and towns requires year round focus. JDI is our pathway to informing and influencing the state and national agenda to end sexual and domestic violence." ~ Karen Cavanaugh, JDI board member and Executive Director of Womanshelter/Companeras, pictured here with a JDI delegation meeting with Congressman Niki Tsongas

Intern: Ren Kenney

Summer 2012: Policy and Systems Advocacy Internship

I first learned about Jane Doe while researching an academic project on women’s health. At that point, JDI’s website and network were valuable sources of information. As I searched the website, I became more and more impressed with Jane Doe as an organization. Their mission and values were similar to my own, and I shared their dedication to eliminating the root causes of sexual and domestic violence.   

I bookmarked JDI’s internship opportunities webpage and moved on to my next assignment. As summer approached, I began applying for internships, and realized that interning at Jane Doe would be the perfect opportunity for me. I have seen first hand the damage caused by sexual assault and domestic violence. This kind of violence is devastating to individuals, families, and entire communities. As an activist, I want to change the dialogue around sexual and domestic violence and take an active role in creating change. I decided that a policy and systems advocacy internship was a great way to gain experience in a new field, and in June my internship began.

JDI staff and my fellow interns were incredibly friendly and welcoming. From my first day, I could tell I was going to be comfortable and motivated in the office.

As the summer progressed, I worked on a variety of projects with Maureen Gallagher, JDI’s policy director. I got a crash course in the state legislative process and how the state budget is finalized, as well as learning what policy advocacy is all about and how the work is done. I familiarized myself with JDI’s legislative and budget priorities, and followed their progress throughout the summer. Most of my work was research intensive, and I was also able to hone my skills as a writer. I collaborated with Maureen on a review of JDI’s Fiscal Year 2012 advocacy initiatives, including a large project focused on housing accessibility. Another project was to analyze pending legislation, state laws and budget line items and summarize them in an accessible way. I’ve also had the chance to attend two meetings of the Governor’s Council to Address Sexual and Domestic Violence.

As a double major in Business and Management and Women’s and Gender Studies, I seek to work for social justice in the most effective and practical way possible. Through legislative reform and action, social justice can be achieved in far-reaching and concrete ways. Everyone is affected by public policy, especially survivors of sexual violence. Protection orders, violence prevention, other victim services and legal ramifications for perpetrators are all codified in state law. Survivors may seek help from local programs and services, which are partially funded by the state and federal government. Too often, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault “fall through the cracks” in the system, losing housing, employment, and enduring further trauma. There is a definite need for an effective safety net. By advocating for effective public policy, we can improve the lives of survivors and work to prevent and end sexual violence.

Maureen Gallagher, my direct supervisor, was an incredible mentor me throughout the summer. By sharing her knowledge and expertise with me, I’ve been able to develop my skills as an advocate and an agent for social change.

I’ve had a great experience as an intern at JDI. The knowledge and experience I’ve gained here have given me a strong foundation for my future work. No matter where my career takes me, the skills and knowledge I’ve gained at JDI have helped me become a better advocate and activist.


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