You might have noticed that Sarah and I have the same last name, that’s because she is married to my adorable baby brother Norman. However, that is not the reason I have chosen to shine the Bosslight on her. Nor the reason her interview is first up in the series. Personal experience with Sarah has formed my opinion that she is always kind, listening, and exuding an infectiously positive energy. Seriously, it is hard to be in a bad mood around her, which I believe contributes to her thriving in both her professional and home life. Sarah is not only an awesome Wife and Mother, but also fills the roles of Daughter, Sister, and Aunt. At work she covers a lot of ground too, as Crisis Hotline Coordinator, Regional Care Coordinator, and Case Manager for the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children. Let’s dive a little deeper as Sarah shares her story and how she is able to help those who need it most, right here in Waco, TX.
HD: What are some of your professional responsibilities? What does your daily routine look like?
SH: Responsibilities include coordination and training of our volunteer sexual assault advocates, Data collection and case management for victims of human trafficking, and conducting intakes and assessing needs of clients. Day-to-day work life includes following up with clients, emergency financial assistance, needs assessments, and intakes with clients.
HD: What sparked an interest in this type of work? What steps did you take to get to your current position with the Advocacy center?
SH: My heart always has a desire to help people. I consider myself an empath and I am drawn to the work of providing for others. I started out with the Advocacy Center as a volunteer Sexual Assault Advocate. I stumbled across the opportunity in 2016 and was a volunteer for about a year. During my volunteer journey I found out that a close family member was a survivor of childhood abuse. That sparked my desire to be with the Advocacy Center even more. I got hired in 2017 as a Prevention and Education Educator with the Advocacy Center. I then moved into my current position as the Crisis Hotline Coordinator and a Case Manager in 2018.
HD: What has being with the Advocacy center taught you so far?
SH: I have learned about myself as a person. I realized that I have always been a social worker at heart. My passion is being able to hold space with people who might not have been able to talk to anyone about their experience before.
HD: As an empath, this role must get emotionally draining at times. How are you able to stay so strong for your clients and keep such a positive attitude and vibe about yourself? How do you decompress or recharge?
SH: The Advocacy Center is big on self-care for it’s employees. Our Executive Director and department supervisors always make sure to remind us to take care of ourselves. For me personally, my self-care is going to a coffee shop, taking a bath, going for a walk, doing something fun with my family. I also try to take time to talk to another co-worker if a day or particular case has been emotionally exhausting. It helps to be able to talk it out with someone. Since I can’t talk about clients and cases outside of work due to confidentiality reasons, I am thankful I have loving co-workers who are always willing to listen to one another.
Although I wish agencies like ours didn’t have to exist, I am thankful for them. The Advocacy Center provides a space for children and adults to feel safe in. They can talk about really hard things that maybe they haven’t been able to before. It is a space for healing and to understand that you aren’t alone.
I have a great support system through family and friends. Having that support is necessary to be able to do this kind of work. They understand when you need that self-care time and help you in getting it.
HD: Any advice for aspiring Social Workers?
SH: I didn’t know social work was the field I wanted to be in until I connected with the Advocacy Center. Now I wouldn’t do anything else. It can be really hard work and emotional work, but it is rewarding. If you have a passion for helping and advocating for others, then social work could be for you. I recommend volunteering for a place like the Advocacy Center to see if it is something you like.
HD: What are the advocacy center’s volunteers responsible for?
SH: Volunteers go through a 40-hour training that is certified through the Office of the Attorney General. The volunteers are responsible for carrying an agency cellphone to answer the hotline after office hours and on the weekends. They typically take 2 shifts a month each. They speak to callers through the hotline to provide general information, support and crisis intervention depending on the caller’s needs. They are also trained to conduct suicide assessments. The other responsibility the advocates have is to respond to the emergency room at either of the local hospitals. They provide advocacy and emotional support to survivors who are there for a SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner) exam . They are with them from the beginning, through the exam, and stay until the survivor is discharged. Interested persons can contact me either by phone (254-752-9330 ext. 121) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
HD: But volunteering isn’t the only way to help, what other options are available?
SH: Donations are a huge help! We accept new clothing (adults and children), toiletry items, new stuffed animals. We also utilize gift cards (Walmart, HEB) to give to clients who need emergency financial assistance for things like groceries and gas. We also use gift cards of all kinds to gift our advocates for birthdays, special recognition, etc. Donations can be dropped off during business hours or mailed to the agency.
HD: Do you have time for hobbies?
SH: I do attempt to make time for the things I like to do. I don’t really have a hobby, but I like to be with my family or hang out with friends. My daughter is probably my only hobby, and she is my favorite one. She brings a smile to my face and the cares of the day are washed away when I come home and see her.
HD: As a new mom in your line of work, do you have any tips for spotting potential abusers? Or things to watch for as indicators of previous abuse?
SD: I always refer to the material below provided by RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network):
Physical warning signs:
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Signs of trauma to the genital area, such as unexplained bleeding, bruising, or blood on the sheets
- Sexual behavior that is inappropriate for the child’s age
- Bedwetting or soiling the bed, if the child has already outgrown these behaviors
- Not wanting to be left alone with certain people or being afraid to be away from primary caregivers, especially if this is a new behavior
- Tries to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe
- Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics
- Resuming behaviors that they had grown out of, such as thumbsucking
- Nightmares or fear of being alone at night
- Excessive worry or fearfulness
Be cautious of an adult who spend time with children and exhibits the following behaviors:
- Does not respect boundaries or listen when someone tells them “no”
- Engages in touching that a child or child’s parents/guardians have indicated is unwanted
- Tries to be a child’s friend rather than filling an adult role in the child’s life
- Does not seem to have age-appropriate relationships
- Talks with children about their personal problems or relationships
- Spends time alone with children outside of their role in the child’s life or makes up excuses to be alone with the child
- Expresses unusual interest in child’s sexual development, such as commenting on sexual characteristics or sexualizing normal behaviors
- Gives a child gifts without occasion or reason
- Spends a lot of time with your child or another child you know
HD: Do you have a role model or anyone you look up to?
SH: I look up to the amazing people I get to work with, clients and co-workers. They inspire me everyday.