Find Balance in Advocacy Workflow through Tech
By Susan Sullivan, Prevention Campaign Specialist at NSVRC
Working in this space we call advocacy, we hold up many realities at once. We raise alarm about the impact of past abuses while raising awareness on how to prevent them in the future. We recognize that every experience with abuse, trauma, and healing is different while understanding that every experience is valid. We also know that values central to the movement to end violence — like respect and consent — are brought forth into the world when we live them, in both our work lives as advocates and our personal lives as friends, parents, and neighbors.
The pandemic has both complicated this balancing act for advocates and opened new doors. It’s reshaped big-picture realities like the way we think and talk about public health and safety, rapidly expanded how we’re using technology to connect, and shaken up the boundaries between our personal and professional lives. While technology increasingly acts as a gateway to greater accessibility — from digital services, virtual programming, and online learning opportunities to global social movements and social media activism — constant notifications and inbox alerts and the rapid pace of news and new opportunities can easily overwhelm us. The more ways we can be connecting, learning, and doing can reinforce a constant pressure to do more. Grounding in our values can help us to set much-needed boundaries with technology, and it can also be an opportunity to mindfully engage with the options available to us in ways that feel empowering rather than depleting.
Many of us also know that spending too much of the day behind a screen can pull us out of balance with our bodies and the environment around us. Terms like Zoom fatigue have been coined to explain the exhaustion or burnout that many people feel after online meetings or conferences. Ironically, it’s technology that provides us some solutions to this — as apps, mobile devices, and online resources are allowing us to move away from the screen and also add variety to the workday. A balanced workflow will look different to everyone — but by finding what it means to you, you’re not only deepening your connection to the issue but also defining the future of what it means to engage with this work as an advocate.
Take your favorite podcast on a walk or into nature
Podcasts are not only connecting the field in new ways but also humanizing how we approach our work. Through podcasts we can share lessons learned with one another, no matter the distance; we can hear directly from survivors who choose to share their stories of harassment and abuse; and we can amplify the voices and lived experiences of individuals and groups who haven’t been given space by traditional media outlets.
You can find advocacy-centered podcasts being created on all levels of this work — at the national, state, and local level — which in turn allows us to get a broad picture of the field. To explore what’s being created, check out NSVRC’s podcast, Resource on the Go. In each episode our staff chats with advocates, researchers, and one another about emerging trends in the field of sexual violence prevention. Recently, we released a Male Survivors series for advocates wanting to strengthen their support for men who have experienced sexual abuse and assault. Some other podcast recommendations include PreventConnect’s podcast, Time’s Up & Sista Brunch Series, and PA Centered — a podcast from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) covering the life-changing work happening at sexual assault crisis centers across the state.
To find even more episodes centered around this work, try searching your favorite podcast platform for keywords and topics like healthy relationships, consent, trauma and healing, sexual abuse, and more. One idea to help you keep your podcasts organized is by creating a playlist through your favorite streaming service — like Spotify or Apple Music. Now that you’re able to listen as a way to engage, you have the flexibility to multitask, which could mean going for a walk or sitting in nature, tidying up, doing a workout, making a craft or project, taking a drive, or crossing other items off your to-do list.
Feed your inner bookworm (without the blue light)
When it comes to finding balance, understanding our field’s moment in time is critical. Books on more contemporary topics, like the MeToo Movement, can help us to contextualize our place in feminist history for instance. Although the pandemic has added a new layer to our work, we can be guided through the unknown with a strong understanding of how challenges and breakthroughs of the past — both long ago and more recently — were navigated. Books also help us take an in-depth look at topics, like other social movements or the impact of pop culture and media, to broaden our perspectives around this complex issue and make meaning in our current space.
Books may be the most old-school way to learn, but apps like Audible and other e-readers can allow you the freedom to learn on the go. To get you started with some e-books, try these titles, which are both available on Audible: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, a cornerstone book on trauma, and a more recent release on prevention, Sexual Citizenship by Jennifer Hirsh and Shamus Khan. Or you can search for find a title that supports your research through NSVRC’s library — the nation’s largest collection of resources on sexual violence. Although our library does not loan books, you can use the library website to identify books that you can then purchase online or find through your local library. (FYI, NSVRC’s library does share scholarly journal articles, reports, etc. with the public upon request.) Our librarian also maintains a blog with timely book recommendations for advocates.
Like podcasts, blogs have become a way that our field is exchanging information in real-time. Accessibility tools, like screen reading tools Apple VoiceOver and ChromeVox, render text to speech and allow you to listen rather than read the blogs. Try this audio option out with our recent blog series on the topic of online harassment, abuse, and trauma. Start with a blog from our partners at NO MORE: We Can End Digital Victim-Blaming: How to Support Survivors of Sexual Violence Online and then explore the whole collection of blogs where our national partners like RAINN, Planned Parenthood, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children weigh in on ways we can build safe online spaces. Another blog recommendation is 20 Events that Shaped the History of Ending Sexual Violence in the Last 20 Years, where you can learn more about the contemporary history of the movement to end sexual violence.
Slow down with an old-school study session
Advocates’ work is supported when it’s informed by the latest information and research from the field. However, it can be challenging to fully engage with these resources when online notifications or email alerts are splitting your focus. Create space for your own learning by making a conscious decision to disconnect before digging in. One idea is to print your resources (or take notes as you read from the screen) with your favorite notebook, pens, and highlighters. Jot down new things you’ve learned, make connections to experiences you’ve had, and identify how this information can be used in the future. Bring self-care into the study session experience by preparing some brain food in advance — think peanut butter and apples with iced tea or a smoothie to sip as you read.
You can find the latest reports and research on sexual violence prevention on NSVRC’s website, such as this new report, A Health Equity Approach to Preventing Sexual Violence; NSVRC’s biannual magazine for advocates, the Resource Spring 2020 Edition; and a go-to guide for communicating about our work, Moving toward prevention: A guide for framing sexual violence. Another idea that channels this same vibe is doing some reflective journaling outside or in a space with fresh energy. Here is a journaling prompt taken from NSVRC’s Foundations of Advocacy: Training Manual on Caring for Ourselves and Each Other to give you an example of what this could look like.
First, watch or listen to this TED Talk by Amy Cunningham on Drowning in Empathy: The Cost of Vicarious Trauma. Then in a notebook, reflect on the clip by writing your responses to the following questions: 1. What are you taking from the video? 2. What were the themes? 3. What resonated and what didn’t? If you enjoy this activity, try exploring other sections of the manual that you can adapt and make your own. Or if you’re looking for a physical version of our resources — many print materials are available for free upon request through our website.
Hopefully, these ideas give you some fresh ways to look at your workday and also highlight some of the resources and tools that NSVRC has to support advocates. Now is a time when structures are shifting and deeper connections are necessary to find balance. When we are able to make decisions about how we spend our time and energy and honor how others choose to do the same, we are also centering our values of respect and consent. By experimenting with new ways of working, we make room for new ways of thinking about this work and give shape to what it means to be a sexual assault advocate in 2021, 2022, and beyond.
- Teal Talk from the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence (OAESV)
- PA Centered from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR)
- Wednesday Workshop Podcast from the Women’s Center
- Victim Service Center Podcast from Victim Service Center of Central Florida
- Sex: By Invitation Only from Moving to End Sexual Violence (MESA)
NSVRC Library and Books
- NSVRC Library Catalog
- NSVRC Library Blogs
- These Books Capture The #MeToo Era by Refinery29
- 15 Essential Novels of The #MeToo Movement by Bustle
- We Can Build Safe Online Spaces Blog Series
- 20 Events That Shaped Sexual Violence Prevention in the Last 20 Years
Research and Resources