Volunteer Feature: Emilija Kraii
Sexual assault is by far one of the most pervasive acts of violence in society. It is also an area of work that is difficult for those servicing survivors. Programs like Wayne County SAFE rely heavily on the community to provide quality and timely support for survivors of sexual violence. For example, volunteers contribute their time and skills to advocate for survivors of sexual violence. There is no doubt that Wayne County SAFE relies heavily on volunteers to provide outreach to the community, 24-hour crisis intervention, and other forms of support to survivors.
Emilija Kraii, featured in this post, is by far one of our most dedicated volunteers. Serving as a First Responder, she is empathetic, caring and compassionate when working with survivors. We are honored to have her as part of our family! Learn more about Emilija below!
Q: What led you to volunteer at Wayne County SAFE?
A: I, like many other people, was outraged at the discovery of the untested rape kits in Detroit. I’d seen how devastating sexual assault can be to a survivor and their immediate loved ones and couldn’t reconcile this with the low priority status given to the crime. WC SAFE’s mission perfectly aligned with my concerns.
Q: What do you like/love about volunteering at Wayne County SAFE?
A: As a first responder, I feel great satisfaction knowing that survivors of sexual assault are being treated with respect and affection in their moment of crisis. This volunteer work fills me with a sense of purpose and the organization is so welcoming that I continually feel appreciated and part of the family.
Q: Tell us more about your background.
A: I received a Master’s degree in social work from Wayne State University in 2011 and my field placement was in Southwest Detroit working with school aged children. I also worked at the Center for Urban Studies with the resident grant writer. I have been a stay at home mother of two wonderful girls for the last ten years and feel it is now time to put my social work degree to good use.
Q: Why is this work important to you?
A: I feel that this work is necessary and unfortunately a great need. Sexual assault is far too common and its harmful effects ripple out from the survivor into the wider community. Aiding in the healing is important work and very fulfilling for me.
Q: Outside of this work?
A: I have fallen in love with the work, staff, and volunteers at WC SAFE and will most certainly be applying for employment here if an opening comes along. Volunteering here for almost two years has given me a glimpse into the lives of survivors in crisis–I would feel privileged to play a greater part in their healing as well as work on ways to tackle sexual assault on a more macro scale through legislation and community organizing. My career goals underlie my goals as a mother: to be a role model for my girls, help create a better environment for them in which they can grow up confident and strong and teach them that social problems are not intractable when dedicated people work together to eradicate them.
Advocacy Through the Eyes of a Survivor
By: Benita Robinson, Crisis Coordinator
A moment in time…. Where everything stands still. Your life is forever altered, sometimes without you realizing it. Sometimes without you knowing if you will make it to the see the end. I will undoubtedly never forget the day, about 10 years ago, I was sexually assaulted and nearly died at the hands of a former intimate partner. It changed the way I thought and moved about the world. It changed the way I viewed people, including myself. I did not have a support system to provide emotional safety and support. No one told me what my options were. I was ashamed, embarrassed, angry, and blamed myself…. I felt alone and coped by burying it. It was a life-changing experience that informs my work as an advocate at Wayne County SAFE for other survivors of sexual assault.
I did not realize it at the time, but my experience was far from an anomaly or unique circumstance. The personal was and is political. Countless people’s lives are colored by sexual violence every day. Advocates from Wayne County SAFE and other organizations that support survivors of sexual violence see it repeatedly when working with survivors of sexual assault. Survivors share feelings of fear, embarrassment, detachment, shame, depression and anger. They are often blamed by others and ostracized by the community. They question their purpose and their lives…. Why an act so horrendous could happen to them. For these reasons, many survivors do not feel supported and do not disclose.
Unfortunately, we see and hear the statistics all the time. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetimes. 63% of these are never reported to the police. These numbers are even more startling when we consider other intersecting identities such as race, age, sexuality, and gender identity. There are people in our community suffering in silence, some for years and years. They are our friends, family, and neighbors. They sit beside us during service and frequent the same businesses we do. They work and go to school with us. The fact is, whether you realize it or not, there is someone you know that has been victimized by this epidemic.
As we raise awareness around the sexual violence that plagues our society, we should also challenge our own ways of thinking, experiences and how they inform our work and lives. We must continue to ask ourselves: What can we do in our own lives and communities to create a supportive environment for survivors and hostile one for perpetrators? Last month many events, trainings and rallies were held for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but we must remember it is much more than a time to raise awareness around sexual assault. It is also a time of reflection and revitalization. We must view healing and advocacy through the lens of survivors, even if some of us have not experienced sexual violence firsthand. As a woman of color, survivor and advocate the phrase coined by Founder and Director of Sasha Center Dr. Kalimah Johnson is even more relevant, “Healing is Possible.” Survivors are already resilient but with the support of the community, survivors can experience holistic healing. This month, as we do every day of the year, we honor the diverse survivors of sexual violence Wayne County SAFE serves for their strength and inspiration. From you, we draw our motivation and are revitalized. Because of you, we will continue to fight to ensure your voices are valued and heard.
About Author Benita Robinson
Benita Robinson is a proud graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is a passionate activist for equal rights and access to opportunities for underserved populations in metro Detroit, specifically around issues such as sexual and domestic violence, racial inequality, equal pay, feminism, prison reform and leadership development. She is currently the Crisis Coordinator for Wayne County Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners Program in Detroit, Michigan. In this role, she oversees the First Responder program and specializes in ensuring quality provision of crisis intervention and advocacy services to survivors of sexual assault. Benita also does outreach and community awareness events/trainings. She is also on the advisory board for the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Women and Gender Studies program and a member of the Michigan Theory Group at Macomb Correctional Facility.