Full Circle - Developing an advocate core trainingby Lydia Guy Ortiz on 03/24/11
I am always surprised at how life as well as this work seems to go full circle at time. The idea of cultural relevant sexual assault services has been an on-going theme throughout my work and core SA training was one of my first tasks in doing anti-rape work. I started my career at Seattle Rape Relief, which was one of the first rape crisis centers in the country as part of the education team in 1992, My fundamental values about the anti-rape movement and sexual assault service delivery system were formulated in that time. I had the dubious distinction of being the last programmatic staff member when the SR closed its doors. My current project is developing and facilitating sexual assault advocate training for Consejo in Seattle, a couple of miles from where the old SRR office was located. They have a federal grant to develop a culturally specific SA program.
In the early 1990’s the Education Department at Seattle Rape Relief (SRR) consisted of the Education director, community specific advocates (Black, Hispanic, API and People w/Disabilities) and a teen/youth advocate . We divided “general” request between us. The structure acknowledged the need for specificity even within a mainstream agency. We were not marginalized because everyone served a specific population with the idea that we were all assimilated enough to handle general requests.
It worked well or perhaps “well enough” until funding cuts required the elimination of one position, Specific grants paid for the teen and people with disabilities (project action) advocates but general education funding was being used for the community of color advocates. The decision was made to adopt a general approach with two out of the three advocates and to lose the one advocate-one community approach. Logistically that meant three people had to compete for two jobs in addition to the philosophical shift. I was the teen advocate so my position was secure but it was almost unbearable to watch. I do not think the team morale actually recovered from the process.
SRR was hybrid between a modified hierarchy and a collective and decisions regarding power, structure and philosophy were always difficult, usually involving tears, long meetings and struggle. This decision was true to form. What I learned was that community specificity is important in a comprehensive sexual assault service delivery that it can be hard to fund and that finding the right structure can be difficult. I look forward to training Consejo staff, in the hope that they will create a sustainable model. My hope is that federal, state and local funders will commit to funding these endeavors on a long-term basis.