By: Valerie Parker, Stepping Stones Therapist
I could not find a more perfect job for me than my position as the Stepping Stones Sexual Assault Therapist at YWCA McLean County. The mission of YWCA McLean County is a reflection of my life mission. I have been a feminist and a social activist for the past 20 years. My focus is on social justice and women’s rights. As a graduate student, my concentration was feminist psychological theory. Our funders, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, require us to provide feminist based counseling services. Feminist based counseling services are victim centered. Victim-centered counseling focuses on empowering clients by providing them with information, validation, empathy, and support. Feminist therapists believe that the client knows best what he/she needs. The role of the therapist is to help the client accomplish goals that the client has created. Bibliotherapy is an important tool for feminist therapists and I often use it in my position. This type of therapy utilizes written materials and therapeutic writing to help process issues related to a variety of concerns including traumatic experiences like sexual assault.
Working for this organization has allowed me the chance to make a difference in the lives of people every day. Working with victims of sexual assault is an awe-inspiring experience. Although each individual survivor has a different story to tell, they all have one thing in common; they have the opportunity to heal from the assault. To be a part of this healing process is such an honor for me. I find inspiration from the courage my clients show every day by coming in and working through their traumatic experiences with me. I learn from each and every one of my clients. My child clients teach me about resilience and hope. My adult clients teach me about perseverance and overcoming adversity. My favorite time of the year is when we have the Take Back the Night Event in April. Our clients who have come to a place in their healing process where they feel they can speak out about their experience with violence do so at this event. The bravery it takes for them to get up in front of an audience and speak of the atrocities they have experienced is incredible.
Empowering women and eliminating racism, and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all has been my mission long before I came to work for YWCA McLean County. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work here.