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Who am I? Why am I here?
This is the standing title for my introduction slides when I'm teaching. Let's answer in reverse:
I have moved through several industries: disability services, sexuality education, violence prevention, higher education, throughout my career. Since my first unsuccessful round of college, I have worked in areas adjacent to human development and education. One commonality across them? Silos.
I started in the field of intellectual and developmental disability services in 2006, got involved in human rights advocacy shortly thereafter, and became a sexuality educator - specialized in sex education for people with IDD in 2008 by training with Pat Carney and joining the DDS Sexuality Educator Network. I worked in a number of group homes where folks could have benefitted from ANY kind of education about sexuality, but felt invalidated by a system that seemed to value credentials over experience and skill. I saw (and still see) my colleagues in Network have sexuality added to their “regular” job duties - an already substantial set of tasks.
So, in 2010, I decided to get credentials. I finished my undergrad at UMASS, looking at disability policy and education access around sexuality - paid for largely by my State Employee tuition remission benefits. I was fortunate to be able to start graduate school the academic year after my graduation. I completed my Masters in Education focused in Human Sexuality from Widener University in 2014, again focused in sexuality education and access for people with IDD.
Prior to graduation in 2014, I began working as the Intern and Volunteer Manager at the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health - an organization based in the ideals that all people have a right to pleasure and the information they need to access it. I was offered the position through connections from Widener.
In 2016, I joined the education team at New Hope, a domestic and sexual violence (DSV) service agency, and transferred into the position of Disability Outreach Coordinator in early 2017. In this position, funded by the Office of Violence Against Women, I worked with my counterpart at the Arc of Bristol County to makes both of our agencies better at serving folks with IDD who have also experienced domestic and sexual violence.
In late 2019, I started working in higher education at the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response, where I provide education and do community outreach to the campus community. In typical times, this looks like: running workshops and events throughout the academic year; providing orientation information about consent & healthy relationships, resources on campus, and supporting friends through disclosures; and collaborating with other offices to support sensitive programming.
Over my career, I’ve been privileged to meet many folks in different segments of many fields that relate to the sexuality, DSV, disability advocacy, trauma care, education, and policy development fields. This includes advocates with and without disabilities, academics, sex workers, community educators, therapists, writers, designers, bloggers, thought leaders, industry rebels and everything between...multiple communities of diverse folks, each doing amazing work to make sexuality and healing more accessible. Very few of the people in each industry were connected to one another - or had even heard of some of the work being done in other facets of our community.
Because of my history and connections, I end up on a lot of “short lists” in the sex and disability scene, especially in New England and sex ed circles. In 2018, I was invited to participate in two projects with large agencies interested in doing important, impactful work around sexuality education for folks with IDD (read more in my Portfolio). (Disclosure: I was paid to participate in different capacities for each). Each organization held a convening of professionals with a vested interest in access to sexuality education for people with IDD. The first convening was a learning day with guided discussion and was mostly attended by people involved in various aspects of the education and disability services fields. The second was a day of guided conversation and topic exploration with people from the public health spheres of education. Both events were productive, informational, and, minus a few of us “regulars” who had been invited to both, completely separate from the work the other organization was doing. These convening were held in the span of six months. Both events over represented the "professionals" and had very few community members involved.
The silos we work in - be they based on industry, professional cred, identity - are keeping us from making meaningful system wide change. They are also keeping us from building on each others’ effort to find practices that bridge across our industries. Think about this: