(3) Reflecting on my internship at REACH

This is the waiting room where survivors wait for their appointments.

I feel really fortunate to have had the internship experience I did this summer. I have never been a part of a team that is so supportive and appreciative of my work experience. This internship taught me many things, but it most importantly taught me the importance of a positive and healthy work environment. Especially in an organization focused on a social justice issue, having a stressful work environment can be detrimental to employees’ mental health, and therefore harmful to the mission of the organization as a whole. REACH emphasizes self-care and supporting one another, which is key since working with victims of domestic violence can impact people in different ways. This emphasis on self-care has made coming to work so much more enjoyable, and furthermore, it has made dealing with very difficult cases much more manageable. I feel comfortable advocating for myself and prioritizing my mental health because the organization I am a part of prioritizes these things. 

During my time at my internship here at REACH, I have been contributed to many logistical day-to-day tasks such as answering phone calls and supporting people via online chat. Everyone at REACH has many important duties, so I am happy I was able to offer this logistical support to their already very demanding jobs. I also offered some ideas on how to reach out to the community in order to recruit potential volunteers, and also to inform people who may need our services. 

Throughout this summer, I have grown a lot in my role at REACH. I wish I could have told myself that sometimes there will be hard days. I knew that this work would be impactful emotionally, but I do not think I fully understood the meaning and implications of that. I wish I had known that some cases will really hit close to home, and will impact me more than I would think and that this is okay. Even on the hard days, my supervisors made me feel supported, and I was able to do what I needed to do to take care of myself. Additionally, I wish I could tell myself how important it is to seriously reflect on what self-care is to me. Self-care is different for everyone, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to taking care of oneself. 

For the next set of interns coming to REACH, I would tell them exactly what I wish I would have told myself. I would tell them that sometimes, this work is hard, and it’s very important to reflect on how you can support yourself. It is easier to do this reflection before you have those hard days, but regardless, it is very important to have that conversation with yourself. I would also tell them that they should advocate for themselves and that this advocacy is very much supported and encouraged by the supervisors at REACH.

(2) The Connection Between Public Health and Domestic Violence Education

During the spring semester of my first year at Brandeis, I took a class called Health, Community, and Society with Professor Siri Suh. In this class, we learned about the sociological perspective of health inequality and how barriers and trauma can manifest themselves in physical health. While this concept is seemingly obvious, taking the time to unpack and analyze these trends was one of the most impactful and relevant things I have learned during my time at Brandeis. I was introduced to this concept during my first year, and it continued to present itself throughout my Health: Science, Society, & Policy coursework throughout my time at Brandeis. As a rising senior, I still feel as though health inequality impacts me more and more each time I discuss it in an academic setting.

As someone who has always had access to comprehensive and adequate health care, I did not know how pervasive and complex the issue of health inequality in America is. However, given how important physical health is to quality of life, it immediately became significant to me. I was always interested in the scientific pathway to disease but was never really given the opportunity to reflect on the social and environmental pathways to disease. While not all biological problems are easily solved, it seemed as though society created systems that lead to such problems, and much like biological issues, social factors are also not easily solved. There is, however, so much opportunity for education and prevention measures. I quickly became passionate about finding these effective education and prevention measures and implementing them in my own life.

This art piece was created by survivors of domestic violence and sits in the lobby at REACH.

REACH is an organization that serves domestic violence survivors, and much like physical health, certain groups face a greater risk of experiencing domestic violence. REACH offers services for those who are experiencing domestic violence, but the organization also creates prevention measures in order to better educate the community on how to understand what characterizes abuse and healthy relationships. They use this model of advocacy and prevention that I learned about in my coursework to better inform the community about domestic violence, and I find that inspiring. 

During my internship, I interact with a wide variety of people who have had a wide variety of life experiences. From different racial identities and sexual identities to different socioeconomic statuses, it is very important for me to be aware that these differences may exist when interacting with victims. Throughout my training, my supervisors spent a lot of time going over boundaries, proper language, and how to support someone experiencing domestic violence. While I still have a lot to learn, this training has made me much more aware of how to be aware of others’ traumas, and I am able to use this knowledge both in my personal and professional life. This training and internship is an example of the difference proper awareness can make in impacting social structures and community understanding. 

(1) Interning at REACH: Bridging the Gap in Accessibility

This summer, I am excited to be interning at REACH. REACH is a local non-profit organization that supports domestic violence survivors by offering a variety of services and resources, as well as providing advocacy and prevention resources within the community. They work directly with survivors to assist them in their current situations and ensure they feel supported and heard. When researching summer internships, I was interested in working with a non-profit that supports disenfranchised and underserved members within communities. REACH supports all survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial background, race, and sexual/ gender identity. I was immediately drawn to their work and mission because their philosophy is that any member within the communities they serve, even those who are marginalized, has access to their resources.

Domestic violence can impact anyone, no matter their social identity, but REACH’s definition of domestic abuse is when control and power are taken away from someone. REACH works to empower survivors by attempting to give them back their control and power. In every interaction, they trust that the survivor is the expert on their situation and allow them to make their own decisions. By offering a variety of services such as counseling, housing, and legal resources, they allow survivors to take control and leave unsafe or unhealthy situations if they wish. They also run workshops within different community groups (from faith groups to K-12 schools) to educate the community about what abuse is, how to recognize it, how to cultivate healthy relationships, and how to respond to abusive situations.

These mirrors are in the REACH waiting area, where many survivors wait before they meet with a REACH team member.

As an intern this summer, I will be working at the front desk, greeting survivors, answering the phone, and responding to anyone who seeks help on the online chat. The online chat is a place where survivors can ask for advice, emotional support, or seek resources. Additionally, I am responsible for small projects and data collection, such as updating manuals and collecting contact information for potential community partners. In all my interactions with survivors, whether it be through the phone, in person, or online chat, I am able to use REACH’s philosophy in trusting that survivors are the experts in their situation. Regardless of my own opinions or thoughts, I trust that survivors are making the best choices for them. Giving survivors their control back and empowering them can be a crucial step in ending the cycle that is domestic violence, and these small interactions can lead to major changes in someone’s life.

Domestic violence has been an issue for centuries, and unfortunately, will likely be around for a long time. Ideally, the change would be eradicating abuse as a whole, but change can also look like a changed social perspective regarding what abuse is and how it can be prevented. Through REACH’s work, more people in the community can recognize abuse and can feel empowered to seek help.