Editor’s note: Like Humans of New York’s “daily glimpses into the lives of strangers on the streets,” Humans of CSU tells the stories of the people who populate our campus. Written by Collegian staff and told in first person from the subject’s point of view, this series aims to make each individual on campus relatable.
I kind of always wanted to do social work, but I never named it as social work. When I was younger, I wanted to be a child protection lawyer. Then I wanted to do journalism, but I wanted to do more, like, journalism that would help people. And then I wanted to be a therapist. It always circled around helping others and trying to create change. I was in school to be a therapist my first year with psychology, and I decided I didn’t want to wait for people to be able to afford my services to help them. Then I decided I wanted to work with victims of interpersonal violence, and so social work seemed the best track for that.
I saw (the Red Whistle Brigade) during my orientation when they did the skit about the Consent Café. It was the first time I heard about these concepts and really thought about it and it just totally clicked for me. It just felt like something I’d been missing in my life. I knew something was kind of wrong with the way our culture treats sexual assault and consent, but I had never learned about it and never learned that you’re supposed to ask permission and stuff. So for me, it just felt like this missing puzzle piece in my life had come together.
I didn’t think too much of it my freshman year, but then I just saw so many things while living in my dorm that just didn’t feel right. I declared a women’s studies minor going into my sophomore year, and my second semester, I took the class Intro to Gender-Based Violence in the U.S. Context and learned about rape culture. That’s also the class you take to apply to be on the Brigade. In that class and through my minor and learning about feminism, I learned why half the girls on my hall freshman year were sexually assaulted, why all these things had happened in my life and were happening — because we live in a rape culture. I learned how the Brigade tries to end that.
The Brigade came from a few student survivors, and they just wanted to make the campus a little bit better than they left it. They lobbied to get a student fee. That’s not the easiest feat, but these students — and it wasn’t faculty, it was these students — (wanted) to get a fee which allocated resources to the office, but also made the Brigade possible. The Brigade comes from the work of survivors who just want to make this campus a little bit better. That’s something I always try to remember. This didn’t just come from faculty, it came from survivors working hard. I think that’s really powerful, and it says a lot that students can create change and students can make this campus better.
It’s challenged me in ways I hadn’t experienced before in college, and it’s through that challenge that I’ve grown so much. It has really taught me how to use my voice, and taught me that activism looks like so many different things, and that there’s so many different ways people and myself can create change. It has taught me how to work with people, and something that it has definitely taught me — and I’m still learning through the Brigade — is how to foster my voice and my skills in order to create change.
We tabled for Relationship Violence Awareness Month, and that was something really special to me because I want to work with all areas of sexual assault prevention once I graduate. I got involved in this work because of wanting to help end relationship violence, and so for me, that’s something very personal. Being able to work on that and table for it and offer resources meant a lot.
I would say the most challenging part is figuring out my own unique way to create change. Through the Brigade, we always try to produce activism. I think just through society and especially being a woman, we were told not to raise our voices, not to question things, not to try to make things better — or, at least, I was. (I’m) having to try to (unlearn) that and figure out what my skills are, because with the Brigade, it’s really what us Brigade members want to do. It’s really unstructured, which has been really great, but it’s also finding the structure to make things happen.
Applying to be on the Brigade, I knew I wanted to work with sexual assault prevention and work with victims of interpersonal violence, but I really didn’t know the avenue I wanted. With the Brigade, I get the feeling that this is what I want to be doing for my career. I think I’ll always do some part of advocacy, but through the Brigade and finding my place, I really want to do more community outreach when I graduate. It’s totally helped me narrow my focus and has really shown me what I want to do, and I’m really grateful for that.
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