How to Keep Advocacy Work Sustainable

Sexual violence takes a toll, on those who experience it and on those who work at agencies like SARC to respond to and prevent it. Read our volunteer, Jessie’s, article about how SARC staff and volunteers keep their work sustainable.

With any job, it is critical to practice healthy habits to ensure the work is tenable. When it comes to trauma-informed care for the advocates at organizations like SARC, sustainability can be difficult. When we talk about trauma-informed care and supporting survivors, we also need to talk about keeping this work viable for staff and volunteers. I reached out to current SARC employees and volunteers, as well as mental health professionals outside the agency who deal with trauma for their thoughts on sustainability and current coping skills.

An emphasis on staying centered and grounded in a stressful role was a recurring theme in people’s responses. Baili, a volunteer with SARC said, “I really rely on yoga to help me stay centered.” She also draws attention to the importance of checking out and silencing her phone at times. Disconnecting from the world can be a useful key to recovery from the stress involved in this work. Her last bit of encouragement is that she says volunteering with SARC has grown her support network and she has made connections to more people since starting here.

Lee Anne Dillon, a case manager who has been with SARC since 1994, lends some useful advice on staying grounded. She says, “Staying grounded is staying present with the client, and listening with the knowledge that I will be able to support them through whatever the story is.” It is so important to recognize that even if we cannot change what has happened, we can support people through their experiences and the sharing of their story. Balance is another key focus when it comes to keeping advocacy work sustainable. Finding a balance between what the client or survivor needs from you, versus what you realistically and practically have to give. Saving some of your resources for yourself is a necessary practice, as no one can pour from an empty cup.

Bri Ellingson, another case manager at SARC, states that her support system has also changed since working for SARC, and that it is important to surround yourself with people who support the work you do. She says, “When you’re fighting systems of oppression everyday, it’s important to have people around you who are also fighting the good fight, in whatever way the choose, or are at least open to the idea.”

This insight shows how crucial it is to hold space with people who recognize and appreciate that this work can be exhausting, and is also imperative. Surrounding yourself with other socially conscious people can help you feel like part of a community and less isolated. Sometimes it is easy to push down feelings of being overwhelmed and to “power through.” Having strong supervisors, and fellow coworkers or volunteers to check in with regularly helps counteract that impulse. SARC’s monthly volunteer meetings and weekly staff meetings provide structured space for that as well. Many people engaged in this work also have their own therapists and counselors they speak to outside of work.

Finally, finding things that fill your heart and soul with positivity and love will take you far. Take an overly indulgent bubble bath. Go on a soothing walk in the hills. Go to a chocolate tasting with a friend. Do some deep breathing for sixty seconds. Find things that help you take life one day at a time.

Photo credit: Eden Baron

Gardening Self Care Spotlight

Self-care is an important part of everyone’s mental health, in whatever way feels best for you. In this month’s spotlight, read our volunteer, Eden’s, take on gardening as self-care.

My garden. A beautiful oasis of healing, which offers itself so freely. The place I go when I need to feel closer to myself. A living being that grows, nurtures, and tends. As willingly as I nurture it, I find it is the garden that’s really nurturing me.

Towards the end of winter, I found myself having anxiety which inhibited me from doing my self-care routine. I usually turn to yoga, cooking, friends, (and when Portland offers it, the sun), but nothing this time seemed to help. I felt uncomfortable with the idea that the routine of self-care I had fallen into was no longer my safety net, but the very thing that stimulated these bad feelings. I thought, “how should I be allowed to care for myself, when there are so many people who do not have the privilege to do the same?” Right as I found myself at the pit of these solemn feelings, I considered the winter. It was dark, and I had been removed from my garden for too long. I had spent the past weeks working diligently in school, driving home in rainy weather, and looking at screens much too often. I found myself separated from nature and the growth of new things.

As an empath, I feel deeply the events which damage the Earth, and the people who are affected by these tragedies. Perhaps what I needed was to put life back into the Earth, even if it meant planting a single flower. With winter at its end, I decided to do some planting in my yard. Though premature, as the last frost of the year had not passed, I needed to get my hands in the soil and come closer to nature, as it grounds, centers, and can help set perspective.

As I planted these flowers, I thought about the survivors from SARC I worked with that winter, as well as people around the world who had been affected by recent events. Though it was a small gesture, I felt that with the planting of those flowers, I put a little bit of beauty and hope back into the world. That for me, was the best self-care I had done. To know that it was not for me alone, but also for the Earth and the memory of the strong people I have the privilege to share it with.

This month, I will once again be expanding my garden with vegetables, fruits, and flowers. I love planting all veggies, but the most fun to harvest are carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes. The exuberance of flowers popping up from the ground always brings me joy and gives me courage to express myself. One thing I love most about gardening is seeing the process of seed to harvest. A cycle that has inspired me to project a similar pattern in my own life. To be open to change, seeing my goals all the way through, and taking the time for self-reflection. Finding that strength in cultivating myself to becoming closer to who I am, and in doing so, being able to advocate for others so they can do the same.

Spring is the season of rebirth. What I have learned from gardening is to take it as an opportunity to find what it is that makes me grow. I also learned through this experience that your self-care routine can change, and that is okay. We are all capable of allowing ourselves to be a seed, while also being the water to help ourselves, or someone else, grow. Finding the courage to dig our hands deep into our personal soil, and acknowledge our roots of strength to help us overcome our obstacles. This season, I encourage you to plant something. Be it a flower, veggie, fruit, or herb. You may be surprised to find what grows.

Photo credit: Eden Baron

Spotlight: Melody Chow

Melody is a recent graduate of our Primary Prevention & Education training. Read her take on the great work she is doing with SARC!

Teaching has always been a passion of mine. While studying as a film major in college, I mentored several students on media production and theory. It was a joy to watch them expand their worldview and creative expression, and heartening to know that I had a positive impact on their education.

When I heard that SARC has a prevention education branch, I jumped at the chance to get involved. Over these past few weeks, I’ve been training with Jenna Harper and several PSU graduate students to become an instructor in high schools. Our job will be to present lessons about healthy relationships, communication, pornography, and media. Subjects like oppression were particularly eye-opening to me; although I was incredibly aware of the patriarchal, white-centric society in which we live, I didn’t have the words to express those conditions in an articulate manner. This training has given me those words.MelodyNewsletterPhoto

The cultivation of perpetration begins in childhood. Children are surrounded by a culture that encourages female objectification and victim blaming. They are taught at a young age that it’s okay to kiss someone without their consent because it’s “romantic” and that coercion is a viable means of communication. As educators, we can interrupt his destructive messaging and discuss the “why” behind these misconceptions. As we spark those conversations, students can come to their own conclusions about what it means to be an equal partner in a relationship and how they can rethink rape culture.

My first day of teaching is coming up quick and I couldn’t be more excited (and a little nervous). The lessons we will teach are so vital, and I hope that the students will be able to take our words to heart and fight perpetration.

Primary Prevention Q&A

SARC’s Primary Prevention & Education Manager, Jenna Harper, answers questions about sexual violence and prevention. This is just one of our programs we feel is so critical and paramount to helping to change the culture to help end sexual violence.

Q: How do we prevent sexual violence? 

JH: This question is one most of us have asked, whether we have experienced sexual violence, care about someone who has, or work in the field.  Although many have tried to solve the issue by telling people, mainly women, to carry pepper spray, cut their hair, or avoid walking home alone at night, those strategies have not affected rates of sexual assault.  In order to tackle the question of prevention, we must look at the root causes of sexual violence in our society.

Q: What causes sexual violence?

JH: There are many root causes of sexual violence. I’ll talk briefly about just one: oppression.

Anyone can be assaulted, but research shows us that all people don’t experience sexual violence equally. It is generally assumed that women experience sexual assault most often. But other identities like people of color, people with disabilities, and/or transgender people also experience higher rates of targeting. Reducing someone to one identity, like their womanhood, doesn’t give us a full picture. For example, 19% of white women experience rape, 22% of black women, and 33.5% of multiracial. While 35% of heterosexual women experience rape, physical violence, stalking by an intimate partner, the rate jumps to 61% of bisexual women. Bisexual men’s prevalence rate is 37%, which is 8% higher than heterosexual men (NISVS, 2011). Oppression is a root cause of sexual violence. Or as a colleague of mine would say, in our society, we put different values on different people’s bodies.

Other root causes include things like unhealthy norms promoted through media, male sexual entitlement, and more.


Q: What is Primary Prevention?

JH: Primary Prevention is the belief that in order to end sexual violence we need to focus on perpetrators and try to prevent them from ever perpetrating in the first place.

Through the critical examination of the unhealthy norms in our society and promotion of healthy norms, we seek to create a culture in our communities that values healthy relationships and sexuality.

Our prevention curricula are linked to state and federal health standards, and are based on literature reviews and best practices. They fulfill required Oregon educational components, as legislated by both Erin’s Law and The Healthy Teen Relationship Act. The curricula are regularly updated with the intention of staying timely, expanding on relevant topics, and improving participant outcomes. The sessions are highly activity-based and encourage students in the room to contribute based on their own knowledge, cultures, and experiences.

Q: What do we do when we know the root causes of sexual violence?

JH: We need to work to end oppression of all forms including sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and so on, so that people do not use sexual violence as a form of control to keep others disempowered. We need to talk to each other about what healthy relationships and healthy sexuality looks like, including consent, equity, respect, trust, and safety. With that knowledge and those dialogues, we can begin to hold our communities more accountable to the higher standards we set. Our prevention program takes this education into the classroom.


If you are interested in learning more about our curriculum, volunteering to teach, purchasing our curriculum, and/or participating in a ‘Train the Trainer’ course, please contact jennah[at]

Spotlight: Volunteer Support Line Advocates

This month with recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) we also recognize three of our support line advocates who volunteer their energies, expertise and service. We can’t stress enough how important our volunteers are to the success and continuation of SARC services.

We appreciate you!

This month, meet Tina, Lua, and Yi, three of our support line advocates.

Tina Tina_April
Started at SARC: February 2015
Outside of SARC: Tina works as a CNA and does Jiu Jitsu. She plans to become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).

“The first thing I did when I moved back home from college, besides eat and get rest and typical kid home from college stuff, was to get in touch with SARC and apply to be an advocate. I first learned about SARC through the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event, then volunteered as an advocate on the crisis line, and now I am part of the weekend on call crew. Previous SARC events showed me the philosophy and mission of SARC. I knew that when I was able to commit myself to a volunteer position of an extended period of time that it would be with SARC. I like the vulnerability I experienced with my training group, I LOVE ERIN [Ellis, SARC’s Executive Director], I like the motivation behind everything that SARC does. I like that we work with CSEC and Beaverton Police. SARC allowed me to work closely with my community and has helped me realize what profession I want to pursue.”

Lua Lua_April
Started at SARC: August 2016
Outside of SARC: Lua works in psychiatric research and spends her spare time with friends and family, playing with her two dogs, Thor and Loki, and learning songs on her ukulele with her husband.

“After moving around to pursue my education, when I finally settled in Portland I wanted to start being involved in the community. Working with SARC has been a great opportunity to help people at a time of crisis, when they might not have anyone else to offer the support they need in that moment. Aside from taking on the role of an advocate, one of my favorite things about volunteering is meeting and working with the wonderfully selfless (and overall awesome) group of ladies of SARC.”


Yi Yi_april
Started at SARC: February 2015
Outside of SARC: Yi works as a Domestic & Sexual Violence Case Manager supporting immigrant and refugee victims and survivors. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her bike, practicing yoga, reading books, and watching 24 and Game of Thrones with family — especially with Season 7 coming up!

“My favorite thing about volunteering in SARC is that I get to learn from and work with amazing women from all walks of life who are passionate and dedicated to support sexual violence survivors. SARC is a supportive and inclusive community that upholds practicing self- and trauma-informed care; this is reflected in its volunteer training and extensively in its crisis line advocacy. As a crisis line volunteer advocate, I often feel cared, encouraged and appreciated by SARC staff. In navigating career paths after college graduation, volunteering for the crisis line has fulfilled my desire for gaining human, direct service experiences and ultimately led me to find the job of my dreams. It’s precious to me that volunteering for SARC enables me to connect with myself and others on a meaningful and deeper level. I continue to volunteer for SARC because it has a special place of my heart.”

What will you do for SAAM?

What will you do for SAAM?


April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), but SARC wants you to be more than just “aware.” This year, we organized a series of events around our action-oriented theme: “ACT. EDUCATE. CARE.”

According to Google, awareness is a “concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.” To be aware is important. It means to be continually conscious of sexual assault in our communities and how sexual violence thrives in our culture. Awareness, however, can also easily slip into passivity. Once you are “aware” of the stark reality of sexual assault, what comes next?

To be part of the movement to end sexual violence, we must use our awareness as a springboard into action. This month, SARC is offering a variety of options for people to get involved.


We can ACT. Use our voices, bodies, and influence to share our stories as people affected by sexual violence, directly or indirectly. SARC’s philosophy reflects our knowledge that sexual assault impacts all people regardless of their gender, race, socioeconomic status, faith, immigration status, age, disability, sexual orientation, and all the other complex identities that make us human. It is our diverse experiences that make us resilient and courageous. We can write letters and make phone calls to our representatives. We can volunteer. We can interrupt sexism and other forms of oppression in the daily ways we witness and experience them.

And we can actively support our community members when they take action. Voices Against Violence on April 8th 6pm-9pm at Coyote’s Bar & Grill, is our first SAAM event, where local performers will share their music, poetry, comedy, and more to address sexual violence through their art.

We can EDUCATE. Misinformation and ignorance surrounding the dynamics of sexual assault abound. SARC believes in educating from a place of humility. We believe in calling in rather than calling out. All of us have the ability to educate those around us. By pointing out the normalization of sexual violence in our media. By challenging victim-blaming or perpetrator-sympathetic comments in the news and within our communities. By engaging in primary prevention, working with youth to define and model what healthy sexuality, consent, and healthy relationships look like.

And we can actively continue to educate ourselves. Let’s Talk About Sex(uality) on April 17th 6pm-8pm at the Beaverton Community Center, is our second SAAM event, where a panel of community partners will answer questions about what healthy sexuality and relationships mean to them.

We can CARE. Being supportive of those who are dealing with the impact of a sexual assault is one of the best ways we can counteract the trauma of violence in the first place. Being present, listening, respecting survivors’ choices, allowing each person’s unique healing process to run its course, and focusing on someone else’s needs rather than your wants for them is an incredible way to show that you care.

Whether you’ve survived an assault, are supporting a survivor, or are doing work to end sexual violence, it takes a lot of effort. Part of taking care is having compassion for yourself, which is why SARC’s third SAAM event, Dare to Self Care on April 30th 1pm-4pm at Taborspace, is a whole afternoon dedicated to self-care activities and sustainability.

Awareness and action don’t end when April is over. Think of these events as an invitation to join SARC for the first time, or as a chance to continue your commitment and relationship. The movement to end sexual violence is not SARC’s alone; it is all of ours. We cannot do this without you.

All events are free, open to the public, and family friendly.SAAM 2017 Poster 8.5x14

You can help spread the word. Here are is our poster for these SAAM events, we appreciate your help to distribute through any and all channels and onto community boards, at your workplace break-rooms, schools, you get the picture!

Legal size >

Letter size >

Learn more about how to volunteer >
Learn more about how to donate >
RSVP for 40 Year Anniversary Fundraiser >


We Love our Volunteers!

Our holiday volunteer meeting was full of laughter, fun, food, games, and crafting!  We are so grateful to for each and every one of our rock star volunteers whose kindness, compassion, and commitment to social justice not only fill our hearts with joy, but enables SARC to provide support and resources to survivors of sexual assault and exploitation, as well as survivors’ families, friends and community partners, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  THANK YOU!!



Spreading the Love!

Thanks to IStandForLove and the LifeIsBeautiful calendar matching weekend, 300 inspirational calendars were donated to SARC!  We will be spreading the love throughout our community by sharing these calendars with those we serve as well as our amazing volunteers who make it all possible.  A huge thank you to everyone who purchased calendars over Thanksgiving weekend, and of course, to Sarah Love for her kindness and sharing her creation with us!

To support a local Portland artist and continue spreading the love, you can purchase the LifeIsBeautiful calendar here:

Volunteer Opportunities at SARC

Are you looking to get involved in the community, make a positive impact toward ending sexual violence, and gain direct service skills? We are currently interviewing for both Support Line Advocates and Prevention Education Volunteers.

Detailed position descriptions here

Contact us at with any questions or to set up an initial interview.

Winter Training starts February 2nd, so contact us today!

Interested in getting involved in a different capacity? Our volunteer opportunities are continually evolving to fit the needs of our community as well as the desires and goals of interested volunteers. If you have skills you want to share or ideas that would support our programs, let us know! We’re always looking for new ways to collaborate. Below you will find a list of our current opportunities, with more coming soon.

Contact us for more information today!

Spread the love!

Spread the love!

Sarah Love, the creator of these fabulous calendars and the istandforlove moment, was kind enough to offer to host a matching event! For every calendar sold over from Thanksgiving through Giving Tues (November 26-December 1st) she will donate a calendar to SARC!

These make amazing gifts, so considering purchasing a calendar and please share this event with your networks. For more info and to order calendars (on or after Thursday), check out their website here

A HUGE thank you to Sarah for her extreme generosity, warm heart and willingness and dedication to filling this world with love!