This post was written by CCAHT Care Coordinator Danielle Green. Danielle is passionate about educating the public on the taboo subject of sexual violence and sexual health. She has more than six years of experience working in sexual assault and crisis intervention, experience with individual group facilitations, and building partnerships with other professionals and community organizations. She joined the CCAHT team in 2019.
Today is a Wednesday, and I have been working for 13 hours as I sit in the social security waiting room with Holly. I watch as she grows more and more anxious, outwardly frustrated. It was a two-hour drive to the appointment. We’ve been waiting for five. She’s overwhelmed.
Holly has experienced so much abandonment in her life since she was a little girl, and she has learned from her experiences that no one is honest or trustworthy. Everyone that has shown her any kind of “compassion” or “love” has had ulterior motive – abused first by her family, and then by a partner who claimed to love her. She has no reason to trust me, and she tells me several times that she doesn’t.
We wait for another hour until our number is finally called. As we rise from our seats, Holly asks me a question that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. “Why do you do this?” She wonders aloud. “Why are you here, and how can you be so calm?”
I tell her that I really care about her even though we don’t know each other very well, and I am calm because I know she is going to be okay. Holly’s body begins to relax, and she tells me that when she gets through all of this, she really wants to help other women who have been in her situation. I want that so much for her – and I have no doubt that one day she is going to do amazing things. She is one of the most compassionate and strong women I have ever met.
Today was hard, investing more than 17 hours straight when all was said and done. And by all means it wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last, day of its kind. But other days can be quieter at the office – days for catching up on paperwork or helping other coworkers with some of their projects. The majority of my work day consists of traveling back and forth to the shelter or out in the community to visit and meet with clients, working on treatment and goal planning. Shelter clients are typically focusing on obtaining stable housing and developing independence. Other examples of goals can include obtaining a full-time job, getting a checking and savings account, learning coping skills for various stressors though individual therapy, learning how to utilize community resources such as food banks and public transportation, obtaining their vital documents such as a birth certificate or social security card, among others.
Not every day, or even every week, contains a crisis, although there can be weeks where every day is a crisis. Every day working in this field is different and every day I am learning something new.
Holly is not just another client on my caseload. Holly is a real human, who has real and raw feelings, and has experienced things in her life that I cannot put into words. One person cannot do this work alone. It takes a compassionate community of people who practice empathy, humility, and kindness coming together as one. A community like this.