I began my social justice career by fighting campus sexual assault and supporting survivors at Gonzaga University in the early 00’s. I trained as volunteer sexual assault victims’ advocate advocate with Lutheran Community Services and spent the greater part of my 20’s staffing a 24 Hour Hotline and accompanying rape survivors at hospitals during forensic exams in Spokane, WA. Being a victims’ advocate taught me a great deal about our medical and criminal justice system, but more importantly, it taught me how to be a calm, nonjudgmental presence for others.
At 29, I accepted an offer to become the Executive Director of SAFE of Columbia County. SAFE provides advocacy for over 500 survivors of domestic and sexual violence annually and delivers education and prevention programs throughout Northwest Oregon. As a young, gay man, the role was not one most people expected, but I saw working with SAFE as an opportunity to blend the kindness and compassion I had for others with the practical skills I’d built as an artist and contractor. I knew we would succeed, and I was right.
Our team of advocates rebuilt the reputation of the once-struggling nonprofit. We developed partnerships with foundations; healthcare and public safety systems; housing and social services; school districts; and State legislators, boards, and task forces. We grew the agency’s operating budget 61% and established a reserve. We wrote and distributed new governance and program policies, procedures, press releases, and marketing communications that shared them with our peers, providing the field with templates for success. While I was sad to leave an outstanding team and an amazingly resourceful and supportive community, I left confident that our strategic plan, policies, and formal partnerships that I developed will help guide SAFE toward achieving its mission.
Working in this field has allowed me to garner the following certifications:
- Motivational Interviewing, Oregon Health Authority, 2015
- OCADSV Anti-Oppression and Allyship Curriculum, Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, 2014
- Mental Health First Aid, Columbia Community Mental Health, 2014
- Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, Columbia Community Mental Health, 2014
- Domestic and Sexual Violence Victims Advocacy in Multi-Cultural Settings, Immigrant and Refugee Coalition of Oregon, 2013
- Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma-Informed Practice, Washington Family Policy Council, 2010
I am proud to carry these skills as I move forward in my career. Advocating for survivors, expanding awareness about gender-based violence, and supporting others in their resilience are huge passions of mine. I want to help everyone support their colleagues, friends, and loved ones who might experience these issues, and I want to help each of us foster healthy, violence-free relationships with each other.