I’m humbled to have the chance to share my story here. Mine is not an intentional story, but one I am beyond grateful to claim. I stumbled across Rebuilding Hope shortly after I moved to Pierce County in 2012. Having just completed 7 years earning two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree dedicated to the study of our criminal justice system and criminology, I was ready to dive into a long-desired law enforcement career. I tested well in Washington’s pre-screening system, but hiring freezes across several jurisdictions gave me an opportunity to expand my professional experiences while I waited to get called back by departments I had applied to. I was hungry during this “paused” moment in my plans to learn how Pierce County’s community worked and how crime impacted its community members.
I was urged to apply to Rebuilding Hope as a volunteer because I was told they actually trained volunteers to be confidential victim advocates, responding to calls 24/7 to offer support to victims across the community at emergency departments, courthouses and police stations as they navigated their options following what – to me – has always been one of the most horrific crimes an individual can experience – a sexual assault. I didn’t hesitate to apply and, fortunately, was given an opportunity to join the very next cohort going through training. The training and front line experience was overwhelming, revelatory, challenging, heartbreaking and inspiring. I’ll never forget my terrifying first shift on the hotline – I was so nervous I would say or do the wrong thing or I wouldn’t be able to keep laws, rights, processes and other information straight. I so strongly felt the responsibility for being, for many survivors, that first attempt to reach out and ask for help at a tremendously vulnerable, confusing and terrifying time and I wanted to do my best to be the type of support that survivors deserved to receive following such a horrific experience. I remember my first hospital call and my first court appointment like it was yesterday. I remember calling my Coordinator (supervisor) in moments of panic when a particular case or client presented circumstances that went over my head. I relished an environment where I could lean on field veterans and fellow advocates while we learned how to do our best as advocates by being a strong team dedicated to prioritizing the survivors we served.
After serving as a 24/7 hotline advocate for about 6 months, I started getting callbacks from some local law enforcement departments I had applied to that were inviting me to interview for openings as an entry-level police officer. It was a pivotal moment for me in retrospect, but ultimately the easiest decision I’ve made in my career so far. I had been so deeply moved by being a part of Rebuilding Hope’s work and so intensely impacted by the chance to be part of survivors’ lifelong journey to seeking healing and justice – I knew I had found a place where I could learn, grow and, hopefully, make a true difference in others’ lives, even if my path had taken a different turn from the law enforcement career I had spent years preparing for.
Now, 8 years later, I have to pinch myself when I think of all I’ve been privileged to learn, do and experience in the pursuit of better understanding the full spectrum of survivors’ experiences, needs and perspectives. I’ve been able to serve as an advocate, an administrator, a prevention educator, a case manager, a program coordinator and a program director. I had the honor of working with other agency leaders to build the community’s first program dedicated to serving youths and adults experiencing commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in Tacoma and Pierce County. I have worked with survivors whose strength, patience, resilience and compassion – to me – annihilated any illusion of power and control their perpetrators attempted to wield against them and others. I have made far more mistakes over the years than I have succeeded in any victories that are found in this work, but I have been fortunate to “grow up” in an environment like Rebuilding Hope’s where I was encouraged, challenged, trusted and developed to become a leader that endeavors to serve the organization – its staff, volunteers and, most importantly, its clients – with as much passion, expertise and integrity as I can.
In February of 2020, I was beyond honored to be appointed as the agency’s new Executive Director – a role I never would have imagined 8 years ago I would ever be prepared to take on. I believe in Rebuilding Hope’s mission, though, and have seen first-hand the positive impact we have the potential to make in survivors’ lives and in the community if we remain committed to meeting that mission. That belief and my continued hope that our work can help rebuild others’ sense of hope is all the motivation I need to face challenges like what 2020 brought to our whole community, especially to survivors and those at-risk. I look forward to introducing you to more members of our team throughout the year and appreciate you for supporting Rebuilding Hope. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or a member of our team if you are looking for support, have feedback for us or if you want to know how you can join us in this work. Together, we really can help support survivors’ in their healing and work to make Tacoma and Pierce County safer.