I want to do the kind of work you do. How did you get started and do you have any tips for me?

I’m so glad that you are interested in doing speaking and training. The first thing I did after my assault was get counseling and then join a victim support group, which I soon began co-facilitating. I facilitated support groups for many years as I worked on my own recovery and educated myself about the complexities of domestic violence, violence against women in all its forms, trauma and many related concerns. I also did quite a bit of volunteer work with victims, joined local leadership councils and met people who worked at local and state victim service agencies, the state domestic violence coalition, etc.

I became an activist very early in my recovery from abuse and helped organize a group of survivors who wrote letters about biased judges, created petitions, organized awareness and protest marches, arranged media interviews, held memorial vigils, etc. I also went back to college and sought a degree in Human Services, with a primary focus on violence against women via directed research and directed reading.

After several years, my survivor activist group and I partnered with our state domestic violence coalition to start a hospital crisis team for battered women. I wanted to provide support to victims who had been injured like I had and I developed the program and trained the advocates. By creating this program, I was able to train advocates and medical staff persons, my first professional trainings. I attended national conferences and worked on statewide, then national, projects where I learned from others working in the field. Connecting with others working in the field and creating a counselor certification training program for domestic violence advocates working in other agencies also helped build my reputation. My expertise was built over a long time and much of it came from the various jobs I did working at non-profits and government agencies. 

My advice to you is this: if you are a victim or survivor, first complete your own counseling and a support group with other survivors. Whether you are a survivor or not, I recommend volunteering or working with victims or survivors to gain as much knowledge and experience with them as possible. We learn best and most from survivors. I also suggest getting as much training as you can on as many subjects related to abuse as possible. (Much is free, on-line, such as that via the Office for Victims of Crime’s Training and Technical Assistance Center.) This way you will start to build your both your expertise and your resume’.

Join local committees, councils, boards of directors of related non-profits and your state domestic violence coalition. This is how you will develop a reputation as someone with valuable knowledge to share. I provided many, many free trainings, speeches and conference workshops over the years which did not pay me financially but which helped to build my reputation as an expert. I sought training from the best trainers in the field and read books by them. (I have a list of books I like on my Facebook page). I have never stopped researching and reading to stay on the cutting edge of knowledge. Having a “strictly professional” Facebook page, a fully developed LinkedIn profile, a well-built and constantly updated website have all been very helpful for me. (I have virtual assistants at Janandsusan.com who have helped me tremendously with these things. I recommend them highly if you are developing a business and will not have a staff to support you.) I wish you all the best in your efforts. Until the violence ends, we need many more passionate, dedicated experts and trainers.