The Rape Recovery Center volunteer team consists of nearly 150 incredible individuals who give their time, talents, and passion to furthering our mission of serving survivors and educating the community about sexual violence. This month, we are so pleased to spotlight our wonderful Outreach and Education volunteer, Fiona Kuzmack!
While Fiona has only been with us since January of 2019, she has quickly become involved in outreach events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and Education workshops for our center. Fiona always represents the Rape Recovery Center well, and engages community members with kindness, compassion, and a lot of heart! Our team is so grateful for Fiona, and the expertise she lends to the field of addressing sexual violence.
What motivated you to become a volunteer at the Rape Recovery Center?
I don't think it's hard to recognize that the systems that need the most fixing are those that are the most pervasive. Resources, including the RRC and Planned Parenthood, have become - and have been - so polarized that it's often hard to show the underlying work that is being done, the important messages that are being relayed, to those who might just think of them as single-issue organizations. I want to be able to have a conversation about the importance of consent, of female autonomy, of access to education, of gender equality, and of personal empowerment, with my community.
What have you enjoyed most about your time as an RRC volunteer?
This is probably not uncommon, but if the people who work here (and volunteer!) weren't so dang lovely, I don't know that it would be such a successful organization. I never once have entered the center and felt like I wasn't supposed to be there. I can't stress the importance of that in the work that we do.
What is most challenging about your volunteer work at the RRC?
I have only helped with a handful of classes, but in those that I have, a skill that I'm working on is trying to shape information in a way that makes sense to people. I think one of the foundational aspects of teaching any subject - especially one that might foster discomfort or that people might have preconceived notions about - is being able to converse with someone in their own language and not forcing them to speak yours.
Tell us a little more about how you spend your time outside of volunteering for the RRC - hobbies, passions, work, school?
I have a degree in Art History from Lewis & Clark in Portland. Museum work has always been a main goal of mine, and I'm currently meandering toward some version of that. At the moment, I'm working three jobs: at the Natural History Museum as an administrative assistant; at a local frame shop, Signed & Numbered, making wooden frames; and I walk a little dog named Pepper. I'm also a visual artist, and I use mostly pen/ink and watercolor. You can find my work at Signed & Numbered!
You have immersed yourself in the very difficult work of addressing sexual violence. What gives you hope as you approach this work?
To be honest, I don't know many people in my immediate community who are adamantly against resources like the RRC. I know that people do have their qualms with the things they believe it represents, but the movement toward support on a grand scale is so encouraging. It's especially apparent at the initial 40-hour training that you must complete in order to become a volunteer: most everyone who shows up either wants to educate themselves or wants to better their own education to help others. My training had 40 or 50 people, and they do this training every few months! That's potentially hundreds of people a year who are choosing to educate themselves! That's incredibly hopeful.
What is your message to others looking to get involved in this work, or considering volunteer work at the RRC?
Go to a training! (While RRC's training is more specifically geared toward potential volunteers and employees, UCASA offers similar classes.) Even if you consider yourself informed, its a fantastic overview of so many concepts that you might not even have thought of. Not only does it cover how to deal with potentially difficult situations having to do with survivors, but it also schools you on implicit bias and everyday nonsense that you might not notice that even YOU are guilty of! It's great. It's also a great way of introducing you to how the work is truly heart-wrenching at times. You get to hear from people who have been to the hospital visits, people who counsel survivors (and perpetrators), and you get to ask them about it. Before you jump in, learning as much as you can is incredibly important.
The RRC is a great place to give your time and energy, but I think the most important thing is what you can do outside of it. Communicate with your peers. Interrupt inappropriate behavior. Be deliberate, be informative. Most rapists don't know that they're rapists. We should change that.