Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to be a policy intern at Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence (JDI). JDI, along with their 59 member organizations, brings together people committed to ending sexual assault and domestic violence and advocates for change through state and federal legislation and funding to improve access to services, resources, and justice for those impacted by violence. JDI advocates for responsive public policy, promotes collaboration, raises public awareness, and supports their member organizations to provide comprehensive prevention and intervention services. JDI’s policy framework does not just challenge issues solely related to sexual and domestic violence; it encompasses racial equity, human rights, economic justice, education, and prevention. JDI embodies this intersectional policy framework because in order to approach anti-violence work holistically, it is imperative to center other social equity issues.
I became interested in pursuing an internship at JDI–and in advocacy for those affected by sexual and domestic violence in general–through my job at Brandeis’s Prevention, Advocacy, and Resource Center (PARC). At PARC, I serve as both a peer advocate for students impacted by sexual and domestic violence, and as a violence prevention educator. In these positions, I have come to understand how cycles of violence and oppression manifest and perpetuate themselves within our communities, and I have become extremely passionate about creating the sustainable, structural change that is needed within our communities and institutions to disrupt these cycles. Working in these positions, I learned more about the reporting and Title IX processes, and gained an understanding of how institutional and legal systems we have in place can often be re-traumatizing for those impacted by violence. These experiences led me to pursue this internship because I am passionate about supporting those impacted by violence on a wider, structural level through policy and legislation change. I want to actively work to change the structures that we have in place that are perpetuating cycles of violence, and my internship with JDI is allowing me to learn how to advocate for this change on a state-wide level.
In my capacity as policy intern, I have been supporting the development and execution of JDI’s overall policy agenda for 2021-2022. One of the projects I have been working on is an analysis of JDI’s language access and survivorship survey. JDI hopes to use this data to better understand the experiences of bilingual advocates, and to expose the gaps in state services surrounding language access in order to support bill H.3199, An Act relative to language access and inclusion. This legislation would require state agencies to meet language access needs for those impacted by violence. I have also been involved in updating written testimony to support bill H.2267, An Act prohibiting non consensual pelvic examinations. One final project I have been working on is analyzing legislation through JDI’s policy framework and developing talking points about whether or not we support the legislation. For example, I have been researching hate crime legislation in Massachusetts and drafting talking points explaining why JDI does not support hate crime legislation that expands hate crime prosecution.
While at JDI, I have also been able to attend some incredible events during my first few weeks. I attended virtual advocacy days organized by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and was able to meet with the staffers of Massachusetts senators and representatives in order to lobby for policy that would support those impacted by sexual and domestic violence. This past week, I also had the privilege of attending JDI’s Directors’ and Advocates’ Institute, which brought service providers together from across the state of Massachusetts to network and learn from each other.
I am so excited that the written work that I will be producing–in the form of qualitative research analysis, talking points for legislation, and written testimony–will be used directly to lobby for legislation that supports individuals impacted by sexual and domestic violence. In this way, the work that I will be doing will hopefully lead to concrete policy change that will support those impacted by violence within the intersectional, trauma-informed framework that JDI embodies. I have absolutely loved my internship experience at JDI so far and am beyond excited to see where the next few months take me!