RCASA Case Management Sunday:Advocates: Hated for all the right reasons

In Sexual Assault Awareness on October 17, 2010 at 8:00 am

Advocates:  Hated for all the right reasons….

 Well this week was really, really tough.   I have had to address all levels of mental health this week, slapped with the reality that people don’t always want to help others, and seen the dark side of the system.  Yes, my friends, I had a little breakdown this week…what else is there to do sometimes but have a good ole fashion cry!  Which I did, prayed and then cried.

 So what is with the title of the blog??  Think it doesn’t make sense? Maybe hate is too strong of a word… maybe everyone doesn’t hate me…but let’s just go with it!

Let me start by reminding you what an advocate is: 

Sexual Assault Advocates go places and see things that most people don’t want to hear, see or to know about.  Often times we are the Cinderella agency that most people don’t want to deal with BUT people, sexual assault is everywhere and WE can’t let it go unnoticed.  While the courts plea bargain with the criminals who rape and molest; we have to help the victim understand even though the system doesn’t always work logically, they can still go on! While a woman needs help from the system to get her records to complete her legal documentation process, WE have to explain why the system’s political opinions are not allowing her to receive services but not to give up hope.  When people come in and we can see clearly that there is a mental health concern, WE have to move them through the system and make sure they don’t fall through the crack!  WHY???  Because advocates wouldn’t do this job if they didn’t care!  I mean let’s just be serious…I could probably go to the Feds and start rolling in the dough…well not really but financially I would be good.  Small non-profits are like grassroots organizations…  Folks this is a Damascus moment…  I don’t do this for the money.    

When I went to graduate school I bought into the whole idea of becoming a change agent.  Empowerment should have been my middle name!  I believe that society has a huge impact on whom and what we become.  And if you are not careful, society can make or break you.  That is one place that advocacy comes in:

(Let me get something straight, I am a faithful watcher of Law and Order SVU!  Okay, but please people stop living in a fantasy!  The show can give you an idea of how it works, but it pales to the reality!  Nothing ever works out quite as well in real life!  I just want to make this clear, in case you were starting to think watching Law and Order gets you some kind of pre-requisite credit.)

So, imagine being a young woman who was raped.  I see this woman and I know that somewhere someone let her slip the crack, in fact, the red flags look like they are tired of waving.  Let’s call her Lisa.  Lisa is young, under age, and she has some risky behaviors…drinking and not the best discernment when it comes to friends.  Well, she is raped.  They catch the guy and arrest him.  Keep him in jail.  Let’s also imagine this dude, already has a record of past sexual assault and/or rape.  Okay, so on the stand the defense attorney, totally and inappropriately questions Lisa, asking questions about sensations and length of time of specific assault actions…  Can someone ask for an objection?  Is he badgering the witness?  Uh…she is losing it up there!  Well, no you may not. Okay so you get the point, she was raped on the stand.   What does an advocate do?  Well, I know I have to be there for my client, to try to empower her to pick up the pieces, and remind her that she is justified by the truth.  Well let’s fast forward, explain this… The perpetrator who has a record of rape received a plea bargain for a lesser charge.  He’ll probably be out in a month or so.  So if this is how the system works (for the victim) now what?  If the court is fighting crime, who is looking at the victims’ rights…Well, advocates for one.   As an advocate I say keep a close watch your daughters (and sons) and educate them!!  Again, information that most of you are unaware of and probably don’t even want to think about…

NEXT!  As an advocates we have to collaborate with allied professionals.  Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it does not.  But since when do opinions and feelings about things like immigration or voter rights allow for the violation of someone’s right to information!  I mean is this a democracy we live in?  Imagine trying to facilitate the exchange of information (which may I remind you is the right of the client) and then being buried by a blanket of political dodo!  (It actually happens a lot, sometimes you can get blindsided). Really, who care about your politics, just give hand over the info!!!!  Folks let’s leave that one alone.

So as advocates, people often don’t like us because we are for the victim.  Even after the prosecutor is done and the police have decided there is no evidence: WE are still standing with the victim.  A victim who often times doesn’t understand the system.  We have to help remind them that the failure of the system, isn’t because they did something wrong.  It isn’t their failure.  So when I think about the systems I work with and why they sometimes get uncomfortable when they see me.  I wonder if it is hard for them because I may be a reminder that the system doesn’t always work for the victim or I remind them that they are a part a broken system.   Or maybe we just make their caseloads bigger?  Or maybe because we go places that most people don’t want to see, we dig up things that CANNOT be ignored!   (Don’t get me wrong all systems are not bad and I, for the most part, enjoy the people and systems I work with, but sometimes the system doesn’t always work the way it should.) I think advocates point out the ugliness of the world CANNOT be overlooked.  There are still people like me who really believe in the power of change.  It reminds me of a guy a long time ago…He fought for the underdog.  He went into homes that were unclean, touched and talked to people that no one else wanted to!  I think that guy set a great example!  Well for me, at least!  So that is why I keep going knowing that people may strongly dislike me when I do my work…but at least it is for the RIGHT reasons! 

Until next Sunday! 

PS : I love my Sundays!!!!

  1. Wow! It seems that there are many people who have no idea about the pervasiveness of this problem. Hopefully, your blog will educate people and lead to more holistic and collaborative services.

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