My motivation to peruse a graduate study in social work stems from my experience with social workers. I have volunteered alongside social workers but also been on the received services from social workers. Through my work, volunteer, and personal experience I have been exposed to some hard challenges and witness people overcome them with the help of social workers. The impacts a single person can have in another life has motived me, to want the opportunity to help others. The populations I hope to focus during my education and into my professional experience is women of sexual violence as well as their children. My goals as a future social worker would be to fight for the voices often left out and create more accessibility and equality among the Canadian populations.
A contemporary social issue is the sexual violence happening towards women. Sexual violence is defined as any form of sexualized behaviour that occurs without consent. This can include verbal or non-verbal actions and behaviours. Sexual violence against woman is consider a human rights issues as well as a barrier to gender equality. My understanding of this issue is that roughly 1 in 4 women is estimated to have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact in their life, and 41% of sexual are committed against students (ANOVA website).
I was first exposed to this issue through my work with the City of London Aquatics. It was my second summer as a lifeguard, and I picked up shifts at a pool in one of London roughest neighbourhoods. I remember guarding the wading pool when a young woman came and sat down beside with her child. We began to talk, and she eventually shared her story with sexual violence. She was only 16 years old when she was sexually assault and became pregnant with her daughter. That one event changed her life forever, she talked about the mental health issues that were a result, economic issues, and the issues of becoming a mother with no support. Her story stayed with me since that day.
I went several months without hear the topic until I experience sexual violence myself. That one event altered my life, I had to overcome a lot of challenges with the help from social workers. Now when I share my story, I use it as an event that I overcome, and that others can as well. I returned to university to finish my undergraduate degree, and now come to the end of my degree I have this feeling I need to peruse a education in social work. On top of finish my schooling I wanted to expand my ability to help other and learn from others in this field.
Upon talking to family friends from the field I was reminded about ANOVA. I had received counseling services from ANOVA and thought this would be the best fit to witness social workers in action while also helping woman that share similar experience. I began to volunteer with ANOVA this year, ANOVA is an organization that offers shelter services, helplines, counseling, and many other services to abused woman and their children. Their vision is “an inclusive world of shared power where everyone lives freely without fear of violence” (ANOVA website).
With my short time volunteering with ANOVA I have had the opportunities to listen and share my stories with other woman overcome similar challenges. They spoke of story about mental health, to using unhealthily coping strategies (e.g. drugs, alcohol), to learning new health coping strategies (e.g. goal setting, education and career building skills, counselling), to fight for their children’s safety. I felt sadness but also a sense of empowerment. I have also been able to watch social workers in action, some of the activities I have seen social worker arranges is educating skills (e.g. setting up a bank account, applying to the government sustainable housing project) , I witness some of the processes related child protecting services, and some of the techniques used to help them cope with their mental health and addictions.
When analyzing sexual violence against woman there are many different perspectives. The first perspective is gender relations. Historically in Canada men have been seen as holding power both physically and economically. However, with changes in gender roles and gender norms men could be using sexual violence as a way to gain back the power role. Another perspective is the intersectional perspective. According to an intersectionality each individual with experience reactions based on personal identify and social location. My experience was different then the woman I met at the pool because of our different privileges and oppressions. I have privileges of socioeconomic status, and my ethnicity, however one of the oppressions shared between me and the woman is that fact we are biological and sexual identify as female.