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 celebrating the staff who put their leadership and skills in the service of empowering survivors and ending sexual violence at Resilience. Resilience has thirty-five staff members working in our Advocacy, Trauma Therapy, Education & Training, and Development teams, as well as in critical administrative roles. We’re proud of all the passionate, dedicated people working at Resilience.

At sixteen years, LaShanda Nalls, Director of Trauma Therapy, is Resilience’s longest serving staff member.

Dr. LaShanda Nalls, Director of Trauma Therapy and Resilience’s longest serving staff member 

When did you start working at Resilience? When did you first start working with survivors?

LASHANDA: I’m proud to say that I started working at Resilience fifteen years ago, September 1, 2004 to be exact. I initially started working with survivors in 2002. While in grad school at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology, I worked with homeless African American teen girls at a transitional living program in the south suburbs as a counselor and caseworker. There is where I received my first disclosure, from a teen girl who was being prostituted and sexually assaulted. From there, I created a weekly group space for program participants to gather, get support and talk about their experiences of sexual assault or abuse. Unaware of who would show up or who had been affected, at the time, I was very surprised to find that every single girl in the program had some experience with sexual assault, abuse, and/or domestic violence. Experiencing the raw, misunderstood and neglected emotions among these girls, I knew in that moment I wanted to work with this population.

In addition, while in my graduate program, I completed a clinical internship at C4-Quetzal Center, a former Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) funded rape crisis center that has since closed. Here is where I learned many facets of trauma, the impact, rape culture, and working with a diverse population of survivors. This is where my journey began!

What brought you to this work? What inspires you to keep working with survivors?

LASHANDA: My own survivorship and healing brought me to this work and is something that motivates me to continue. When I think back to my experiences as a child, my silence, my lack of knowing that what happened to me was wrong, I have since then translated all of my childhood pain into believing, empathizing, understanding and have poured it into each client that I have worked with over the years. The inspiration behind my continued work with survivors is my belief in all survivors and their healing, whatever that might look like. I believe in the survivor who shares their story to give voice to other survivors, I believe in the survivor who was never believed and is struggling with self-love and understanding, and I believe in the survivor who is silent and may never tell their story, however working on healing within. I believe in all survivors; their stories, strength and resilience has been rewarding and the utmost honor. There is so much more healing work to do and I appreciate the opportunities that I’ve had to do this work this far, here at Resilience.

What is your favorite memory of working at Resilience?

LASHANDA: I have lots of memorable moments; however I will share one. Years ago, some of my co-workers and I attended one of ICASA’s anniversary galas at the Palmer House, downtown Chicago. There I got a chance to meet one of my favorite actresses, Gabrielle Union, who was the keynote speaker of the evening, along with the amazing Nikki Giovanni. I remember shaking her hand, being star struck and honestly speechless. I got up enough courage to thank her for sharing her story and for being there. I always knew Gabrielle to be a dope actress; however, after hearing her story and witnessing her resilience and vulnerability, my view of her and all she stands for changed, for the better of course. This is one of my most memorable moments at Resilience.

How did you talk to family and friends about your work with Resilience? Are there any conversations that stand out to you?

LASHANDA: After moving to Chicago, many of my friendships were built while working at Resilience. My friends were always aware of my passion and the work I do with survivors. The conversation with my mom definitely still stands out for me. When I first told her that I would be a counselor working at a rape crisis center, she paused, there was a bit of silence and then surprisingly she burst into tears, over the phone by the way, being that she lives 600 miles away in Alabama. I asked why she was crying, and she said that she was so happy and that all of the individuals I counsel are so lucky that they get to work with me. She went on to tell me about how proud she was of me for helping others and doing difficult work, and to not ever worry about the non-supporters who don’t believe in the work that I do. Fifteen years later, she is still proud and so interested in my day-to-day responsibilities. We often talk about how sexual assault survivors are impacted and she always makes sure that I stay on track with self-care. My mom is definitely my number one supporter.

In addition, raising three children under thirteen in this society, we are constantly having conversations about consent, healthy/unhealthy relationships, how to protect themselves, and all sorts of things. They think my work is pretty cool, but of course they have so many questions. I find myself trying to answer all of the questions and simplifying scenarios so that they can understand, which is always interesting but mostly insightful and pleasing. The fact that they are curious and want to learn about a subject matter that is not talked about in their circles is fascinating to me. I appreciate our open conversations and I can live peacefully knowing that my children understand rape culture and understand at an early age how to help end rape.

Is there someone who embodies resilience who has had a strong influence on you?

LASHANDA: Of course! Each client who walk through our doors to receive services, each client who receives services through one of our contracted hospitals, and each person who reaches out to us via phone or through our website to ask for help embodies Resilience.

In addition, I have the great opportunity to facilitate survivor support groups for black women each year. In these groups, hearing stories about their sexual abuse experiences and the extra layers of oppression that they have to navigate on a daily basis is oftentimes unbearable to hear in a group setting. However with time, witnessing internal bonds being formed among group participants, levels of trust resurfacing, and unlimited support and constructive feedback being given to each other–this is RESILIENCE! Clients who I have worked with over the years in addition to my own Trauma Therapy team have been great influences and help make me a better clinician, supervisor, and overall a better person.

What are your hopes and dreams for Resilience? What are you looking forward to?

LASHANDA: When I reflect back on my time at Resilience, I am still surprised by how much we’ve grown in our space, staff and intern opportunities; financially; in programs; and in extended partnerships. My hope is that we continue to expand and be creative in our expertise; continue to be inclusive in populations we serve and no matter what opportunities we are faced with; and never lose sight of our mission, vision and foundation in which Resilience was created. Honestly, I am looking forward to just seeing what’s next.

Joining Resilience three months ago, Japhie Sarantos, Trauma Intervention Specialist, is Resilience’s newest staff member (although she has previously served as an intern).

Japhie Sarantos, Trauma Intervention Specialist and Resilience’s newest staff member

When did you start working at Resilience? When did you first start working with survivors?

JAPHIE: I started at Resilience the day after MLK Jr. Day 2020. What a perfect first day! I began working with survivors in Spring 2009 when I started volunteering at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago’s Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline.

What brought you to this work? What inspires you to keep working with survivors?

JAPHIE: I began doing this work when I was going through a lot of difficulty in my personal life. I needed something outside of myself and my struggles to focus on so I began volunteering with survivors on the Chicago Rape Crisis Hotline ❤.

What is your favorite memory of working at Resilience?

JAPHIE: I had a wonderful client when I was a counseling intern who we’ll call Jane. Jane would always poke fun at me about how I was constantly cold and wearing a sweater or a wrap in the summertime because the office was so cold during that time. One day, Jane brought the me this picture that she found because it made her think of me and we spent like a fourth of a session laughing at it. That was the day that I learned that laughter is one of the most important pieces of healing:

How do you talk to friends and family about your work with Resilience? Are there any conversations that stand out to you?

JAPHIE: I made the difficult choice to be direct and realistic with my friends and family about the work we do at Resilience, because I love my work and I’m wildly proud of it. I enjoy sharing both my victories and challenges in this space. This includes discussions of things survivors need in our current social environment, wonderful moments that I’ve had the opportunity to experience with clients, how resilient survivors can be in the face of seemingly insurmountable, how we can solve certain problems, address rape culture as a community and more. I have a lot of friends who are social workers and so they are always interested in hearing about this specific population and their needs.

Is there someone who embodies resilience who has had a strong influence on you?

JAPHIE: For me, someone who embodies resilience is a little girl who just passed away from COVID-19.  There’s a child in the community of folks with epilepsy named Charlotte Figi. Charlotte was having 3,000 seizures a week until her parents began exploring alternative medicine and her seizures dropped to 5 a week. Charlotte grew stronger and began developing similarly to children not living with epilepsy. Charlotte and her family were persistent and brave and they kept fighting until they found a treatment that worked for their daughter’s care. Charlotte was wildly resilient and I cannot wait until I get to celebrate “National Charlotte Figi Day” on April 7, 2021 to celebrate her life, her strength and the brave choices that she and her family made that helped an entire community of people. Charlotte reminds me to have hope. She reminds me that as bad as things get, and things can easily (well, obviously) get bad. If I’m persistent, curious and open, I can find an answer to any problem.

What are your hopes and dreams for Resilience? What are you looking forward to?

JAPHIE: I cannot wait to be back in the office, say hi to Tony [at the building front desk] every morning, hug my work wife (Erica Hungerford, Office Manager, of course) and get back into this work with clients. My dream for Resilience is that we would be able to develop a South Side presence. I love how much of the city and suburbs we are able to work with and I hope that we will continue to grow and thrive, offering services to survivors in all corners of our amazing city. The longer I’m in quarantine, the more I realize that Resilience is truly a gift and I hope to share this gift with all of Chicago!

45th anniversary, Celebrating Resilience, Japhie Sarantos, LaShanda Nalls

Verified by MonsterInsights