In honor of Resilience’s 45th anniversary and our theme “Celebrating Resilience,” we’re celebrating the people who make #OurResilience possible and telling the stories of some of our biggest supporters. This month we’re shining a spotlight on Ashton McLean-Hall.
Ashton McLean-Hall is a former Resilience volunteer medical advocate and current CPD officer. Keep reading to learn more about Ashton and click here to learn about our volunteer program.
When did you start volunteering with Resilience?
ASHTON: I volunteered in the winter of 2014.
What are some of the reasons you decided to become a volunteer?
ASHTON: Rape has always been the main fear in my life. Since I was a child I always felt this fear that rape was inevitable and I constantly felt fear when I walked outside alone. I grew up in a small town and never knew anyone who had been raped but I constantly saw it in the movies, on television, and in the newspaper. My best friend was raped at a college party by her friend. She called me the next day and I remember documenting it in my journal as I felt it imperative to save her narrative because I knew she wasn’t going to be believed by family. And that’s what happened. I was so angry at the reactions of her family and boyfriend but I felt powerless to do anything. I wanted to directly support survivors so I signed up at RVA.
What was your training like? Can you describe how you felt after you completed your training?
ASHTON: I was blown away by the guest teachers we had and how many different agencies and sectors of advocacy there were. It was an eye opener. I remember writing down a script/cheat sheet that I packed with my advocate bag. I felt empowered and ready to sign up for shifts. I also was terrified of getting called and then forgetting everything I learned and in turn exacerbating the pain of the survivor.
How has becoming an advocate for survivors of sexual violence changed you?
ASHTON: I am definitely more aware of the masculine toxicity, victim blaming, and overall patriarchal fuckery around me. As a youngster I thought that being raped would end my world. Like how does one move on? I know now that there’s a vast network of survivors and allies and advocates that exist and being sexually assaulted doesn’t necessitate the end of one’s trajectory.
How has your relationship with Resilience impacted your work as a police officer?
ASHTON: I educate my partners about advocates and most of the time it’s the first time they are hearing about RVA. RVA gave me a lot of tools to help survivors gain control back and I try to utilize them when being called to respond to a sexual assault. RVA reiterated to me the power of knowledge and as an officer I try to inform folks about our process and communicate why we are doing certain things.
What do you wish more people working in law enforcement knew about supporting survivors of sexual violence.
ASHTON: That asking a survivor to endure the ispeck [evidence collection kit] and talk to detectives and file a report and sign complaints all after being sexually assaulted is overwhelming. I wish the academy included training that walked us through each step meticulously so that we had more empathy for the process. There’s doubt that creeps in or at least misunderstanding of why a survivor wouldn’t want to do everything to get the offender arrested as soon as possible. And that’s because the burden is almost entirely on the victim/survivor.