Speaker: Sheilagh Mescal Gunstensen, Sexual Assault Support Service Coordinator
Sheilagh Mescal Gunstensen: Good afternoon. I am Sheilagh Mescal Gunstensen and I am the Sexual Assault Support Service Coordinator at Womanspace.
Sheilagh Mescal Gunstensen: As the Sexual Assault Support Service Coordinator. I work with victim-survivors of sexual violence. I also in conjunction, with my domestic violence partner, train advocates and manage advocates who also work with victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Sheilagh Mescal Gunstensen: I have been passionate about understanding and aiding victim-survivors of domestic and sexual violence since my early adulthood. They are a particular group of victim-survivors who are not cared for or understood in society. Here at Womanspace, we provide that care and that compassion as a reflection of society's care. We provide crisis intervention through our advocates. We have counseling offices that do ongoing therapy with victim survivors so that they can heal and move on in their life's journey. We provide the safe house, we provide the hotline and we provide education in our community so that we can as a community come together to support and understand the experience that victim survivors live with everyday.
Sheilagh Mescal Gunstensen: When we meet with victim-survivors, there is no doubt that when we leave the room, we have had a positive effect on their lives and going forward, they are often extremely grateful. But I'd like to pivot that narrative on its head and say the privilege that it is to meet with victim-survivors of sexual and domestic violence can almost not be put into words. These victim-survivors exhibit such courage, such fortitude, such a sense of " i need to be able to take back control of my life" that is awe inspiring to be in the same room with them.
Sheilagh Mescal Gunstensen: Sexual and domestic violence are always about a perpetrator attempting to have power and control over the victim-survivor. Victim-survivors use whatever strategies they have developed over time, particularly in the case of domestic violence, or whatever society has taught a victim-survivor and how to stay safe during an attack. Victim survivors are the experts in their own lives. They know what has worked in the past. they know what their lives look like and we must always trust the decisions they make in terms of keeping themselves safe.
Sheilagh Mescal Gunstensen: Womanspace trains new Advocates twice a year to become response team members on the Mercer County response teams. We are the people who meet with victim- survivors at the police stations and hospitals immediately after their attack. If you are interested in becoming an advocate, please reach out to Womanspace and we will be happy to chat with you, sending all blessings to you. Take care. Bye bye.