Kaitlin Wax - Albany County Victim and Family Advocate

Meet Kaitlin Wax! Kaitlin is a victim and family advocate in Albany, and is currently teaching the Sexual Assault and Peer Advocacy class here at Siena. I spoke to Kaitlin about her work in advocacy, and some things that we should all know about sexual assault.

Her Campus Siena: What is your educational background?

Kaitlin: I have a Bachelor's Degree and Master's Degree in Women's Studies from UAlbany. I have also completed a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management and Leadership, and I am currently in the process of pursuing an Associate's Degree in Nursing.

HCS: Where do you work in Albany and what is your official title/position?

KW: I work at Albany County Crime Victim and Sexual Violence Center (CVSVC). I am the Volunteer Coordinator/Family Advocate.

HCS: What made you want to work as an advocate?

KW: When I was an undergraduate, I took a few Women's Studies classes that discussed violence against women, particularly in the context of media. It was something I suppose I had always seen, but never thought deeply enough about. Women's Studies certainly sparked something in me, and I wanted to take action. In my junior year, a professor suggested that I intern at CVSVC. I began as a Hotline Advocate and assisting with Prevention Education programs and I loved it. Years later, here I am coordinating our Hotline Advocate team.

HCS: How did you come to teach the Sexual Assault and Peer Advocacy course here at Siena?  When you were first approached, was it an easy decision to teach the course, or did you hesitate?

KW: The previous instructor, Dr. Shannon O'Neill, connected with me each year to bring CVSVC's hotline training into the class. When she left to teach at another university, the course was open to another instructor. It was one of the easiest decisions I've made this year. I was a TA as a graduate student, and I've always loved teaching. I accepted without hesitation.

HCS: Being an advocate, student, and teacher of this course, you have a lot on your plate at the moment. How do you keep everything in balance? Do you have any organizational tips you could share with us?

KW: I rely very heavily on my planner to keep everything organized, and I make a lot of lists. If something pops into my mind that I need to do, I write it down on my to-do list. It helps to keep track of things, but it's also a huge stress reliever for me to check things off. Something I also do, which was advice from someone in the field whom I admire, is schedule self-care in my planner. I set aside set time for relaxing and hold myself to it - it's just as important as everything else in there.

HCS: As you've mentioned in class, it is fairly common for people to respond with sympathy upon learning that the person they are talking to is in your line of work. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

KW: The most rewarding part of my job is that there is always something new to learn. Whether I'm working with a volunteer, a victim, a survivor, or a class of kindergartners, I'm always being challenged and learning new ways to approach the work that we do. It keeps me in a place of growth, which I think is vital to the work that we do. It's also really fun and hugely rewarding.

HCS: Given its difficult nature and the societal norms and stigmatization surrounding it, the subject of your field is something people tend to avoid, either out of ignorance, fear, or because the topic makes them uncomfortable. Is there anything about sexual assault and/or advocacy that you think is really important for the average person to know?

KW: This is hard to answer, because there are so many things I want people to know. The most common misconception that I see over and over is victim-blaming; so, I have to say I believe it is incredibly important for all of us to know that sexual violence is never the victim or survivor's fault. We don't blame someone who was robbed or in a car accident - so, why do we do it with sexual violence? Victim-blaming has devastating, far-reaching effects. Establishing the belief that sexual violence is never the victim or survivor's fault is one of the first steps to dismantling victim-blaming.

HCS: What are some ways that the average person can be a good advocate for victims/survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence without being a professional advocate?

KW: In my opinion, the best thing we can do is to first believe - rather than questioning or doubting, just believe and honor someone for trusting and telling you their narrative. It's also important for us to support the survivor in seeking whichever options they feel are the safest and respect their right to determine which options are right for them.

Photos courtesy of Kaitlin Wax.