As a sociology major at Brandeis, I’ve learned over and over how our systems and institutions fail many of the people they are supposed to help, but are actively designed to uphold patriarchal and white-supremacist norms. It’s clear to me, then, how much of a need exists for community resources that are trauma-informed and able to provide mental health services. This summer, I have the opportunity to work with the Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery (CVPR) with the Social Work Department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. CVPR is the department at Beth Israel that works to reduce community, interpersonal, and domestic violence in and around Boston, Massachusetts. Social workers from CVPR respond to and support victims of sexual assault and other types of violence. The Center also runs support and healing groups for survivors. In general, CVPR provides many of those resources that are lacking when a person seeks institutional support from law enforcement or even hospital services. Indeed, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault often face secondary trauma in the hospital or from engaging with law enforcement or the court system.
It is clear that institutional services that provide support in times of crisis are essential to our society and our communities; however, in reality, many of these institutions do more harm than good. I wanted to intern specifically with the CVPR because I see it as an example of what institutional services should include: trauma informed care, mental health services that are both responsive and ongoing, and an active effort towards combating the embedded racism, misogyny, and homophobia that are pervasive in our society.
In the past few weeks, I have gotten the opportunity not only to learn about what the CVPR does but to engage actively with staff and department activities. I have spent time updating the CVPR webpage, making it more accessible and relevant to visitors to the site, designing a flyer for a healing-through-gardening workshop, working with CVPR staff to update the Center’s new employee manual, and assisting with grants. I have also spent time compiling and writing up the latest research on trauma and mental health.
In addition to working with CVPR, I have learned about the broader social work department at Beth Israel Deaconess and to meet social workers who work everywhere from the Emergency Department to the NICU. I have begun to learn the workings and the rhythms of the CVPR.
Although my work is a small part of what is done at the CVPR, I feel that I have been able to contribute to this space that truly cares for the needs of its patients and the community. Spending time with the staff at CVPR, I am reminded that change happens slowly, but it happens when people who have a genuine care for their community do this type of work that is so greatly needed and so greatly lacking in most places around the U.S. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer will bring, and how much more I will learn about the world of social work.