We’re proud to celebrate the people who serve and connect our incredible community. Each month, we interview a different member of Resilience to hear more about the work they’re doing to empower survivors and end sexual violence. This month, we’re shining a spotlight on Katie Kirshenbaum, a Resilience Trauma Therapist. Read our interview below to hear from Katie about working with survivors in different ways, things we can all do to support LGBTQ+ survivors, and more.
Read our interview with Katie below.
From around the age of 12 all the way up to 18, I had close friends that were being harmed by their family members. When you’re 12, it feels like there’s not a lot that you can do to help besides being a supportive friend. From then on, I knew that I wanted to help survivors in some way. I started working with survivors in emergency rooms as a medical advocate when I was 18 years old, and I fell in love with the work! It has been over 10 years since I supported my first survivor in the emergency room, and I’m so proud to say that I am still supporting survivors through trauma therapy.
You’re a Trauma Therapist here at Resilience, but you’ve also worked in many different roles here in Programs as well as Advocacy. Why did you land on Trauma Therapy?
In previous roles, I only saw a glimpse into a survivor’s healing journey. For example, I might have been with a survivor for four hours in the emergency department right after an assault occurred, but after our time in the emergency room, and a follow-up call, there weren’t any other opportunities to connect with the survivor and see how they were feeling. Trauma Therapy is unique because the therapist becomes a support person for someone for several months, and the therapist will see progress from the beginning of sessions until termination. Watching someone heal from something so traumatic is powerful, and it’s an honor to be their support person.
What do you enjoy most about being a Resilience Trauma Therapist?
Resilience provides an amazing opportunity to expand on your own interests. For example, I’m facilitating two groups, the Queer Survivors Group, and the Drug-Facilitated Sexual Assault Group. If I was a therapist at any other organization, I wouldn’t have the autonomy to facilitate groups that I think will be impactful in our community. I also am part of an amazing team of therapists that are supportive, knowledgeable, and all-around just fantastic human beings!
As our fiscal year comes to a close, what is one thing you and/or the Trauma Therapy team are looking forward to in the next year?
This year, Trauma Therapy has done a really great job expanding our workshops and groups. Next year, I would like to see our workshops and groups continue to impact our community. I’m also looking forward to our new interns that will be joining us this coming school year!
Now that it’s June, Resilience is celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community who is also serving LGBTQ+ survivors, can you talk a bit about how folks can support LGBTQ+ survivors?
LGBTQ+ survivors deserve supportive and inclusive care. LGBTQ+ survivors need to be believed and taken seriously. Far too often I see LGBTQ+ survivors not being believed because of gender identity or sexual orientation. Another way to support LGBTQ+ survivors is to let them know the violence was not their fault. This can be a powerful message for those who are feeling shame or guilt.
At a societal level, it’s time to take out gendered language when discussing sexual violence. In media and literature, we only see a narrative of a male perpetrator and a female survivor. While the majority of data supports a male perpetrator and female survivor narrative, it erases LGBTQ+ narratives of sexual violence.
We know about some really staggering statistics regarding LGBTQ+ people and sexual violence, such as that 47% of transgender people have experienced sexual assault, for example. How can we remedy this and decrease these numbers?
Ugh, this is such a sad statistic. Decreasing these numbers starts with sexual violence prevention education. It is crucial to teach children about consent. We also need to teach children about gender identity, sexual orientation, preferred pronouns, gender expression, and LGBTQ+ issues so that as these children grow up they know more about this community and hopefully are more accepting and respectful.
Trans and non-binary folks also need a safe space to discuss their sexual trauma and heal. Resilience is one of the very few organizations that offers a support group for queer survivors. Knowing that you’re not alone is very powerful in the healing process, and my hope is that there will be more inclusive organizations in the future that can support trans and non-binary folks.
What’s one fun fact about you?
I love to garden! I have a HUGE backyard, and I have been filling it with my favorite plants and veggies. I’m growing jalapenos, tomatoes, peppers, lavender, different shrubs…the list goes on! I also have two amazing dogs, Scamp and Maude!