This is the third in a series of blog posts on the ways joining the organization has impacted individual members of the Pomona Advocates. We are currently accepting applications, which can be found here, and hope sharing our personal experiences with the organization encourages people to apply!
posted by Anonymous, Advocate
TW: sexual assault
I was scared of Advocates.
There, I said it, now I can relax. It seems pretty silly now that I’m a part of the organization, but when I applied to Advocates I could barely convince myself I had something to offer to the group, let alone that anyone else would value my opinion. Visions of judgmental Gender and Women’s Studies majors laughing at (or worse, ignoring!) my poorly worded and insecure feminism mocked me as the Advocates application deadline approached.
My experiences with sexual assault weren’t particularly violent, I hadn’t screamed for help or tried to fight back, and I was not black out drunk. I had slept with this person many times before those nights and none of our many shared friends would have ever suspected that the “great guy” I dated could ever rape me, the “self-identified nympho” (a mutual “friend” once claimed I said this). Besides, he was my best friend and “the only one I could trust” (his words and mine), which is why we broke up and got back together so many times.
For months I refused to believe he had sexually assaulted me. He loved me, so how could he have? Despite my ongoing depression and dealings with trauma, I reasoned it wasn’t sexual assault because it didn’t fit the “normal” narrative of rape I had been fed all these years. As my denial gave way I yearned to reach out to other people including the Advocates for support, but my own assurance that I was a survivor was shaky at best and I worried others would claim I was overreacting. After an excessive amount of late night drunk tears and enough bad poetry to fill an entire notebook, I had gained enough courage open up as a survivor to some trusted friends and apply to be an Advocate.
I went into my application interview expecting to have to prove my knowledge of sexual violence and that I am a survivor; I came prepared with a mental checklist to combat any assertions to the contrary. To my surprise the interview went well; the Advocates were—gasp!—nice people! Indeed, as I became more involved in the organization it became clear that a vital part of being an Advocate is reserving the judgment I was so worried about and providing the best support to a survivor on their terms. Most of us are not in fact Gender and Women’s Studies majors and learn most of the feminist vocabulary and theory after joining the organization. I joined a group of people eager to welcome and listen to anyone willing to help, recognizing that we all have a stake in the work that we do. Without even knowing I am a survivor, my fellow Advocates provide me with support and the comfort of working with people who are as passionate about changing our culture as I am.
To this day the only Advocate who has asked me to prove I am a survivor was myself.