Meet Sarah E. King, the vice president of Resilience’s Associate Board.
Continue to read our interview with Sarah.
This year, we’re continuing to celebrate the people who make #OurResilience possible and telling the stories of some of our incredible clients, staff, volunteers, and supporters. It is more important now than ever to embrace and celebrate what connects us: our resilience. This month, we’re proudly shining a spotlight on one of the members of our Associate Board.
How did you get involved with Resilience?
I connected with Resilience through Sarah Layden, the Director of Programs and Public Policy –– she and I went to law school together. I moved to Chicago from Pennsylvania and went to the University of Pittsburgh. And while I was there, I started doing advocacy work around sexual violence and domestic abuse. Then when I moved here for law school and met Sarah, she knew that I had a passion for this work and she introduced me to Resilience. So last year I joined the Associate Board and the fundraising committee, and then this year I took on the role of vice president of the Associate Board.
What drew you to taking on a role with the Associate Board?
I had finished law school, but I have not yet taken the bar. So I suddenly had this space where I could pursue these passions outside of work and class in a way that was fulfilling and not an obligation. I knew that Sarah worked with the board and she and I started talking and she was the one that suggested to me that the board might be a good place for me to be able to contribute in a space that I’m very passionate about. It was a good place for me to get my feet wet in terms of volunteer work now that I was done with my education. And then after my first year, I loved it and I wanted to do more so I took on the role of vice president.
What is the board focused on at the moment?
We’re a new board –– this is our second year. So our first year we were trying to define our goals. A key one is obviously fundraising, but coming into our second year we did a lot of reflecting and realized that we needed to address race issues within the board and to connect with and advocate for communities in a purposeful way that we hadn’t been doing before. We’re also making sure that the space itself is a diverse and inclusive space for people to grow and collaborate and work together. So three goals: fundraising, advocacy, and equality and diversity.
How is Resilience putting these goals into practice?
We’ve made one of our goals to work with businesses owned by people of color, particularly from a fundraising perspective. The board is made up of volunteers and typically people think about the businesses that they go to in their own communities, which meant that a lot of the things we were pursuing were unintentionally always in the same demographic. So we have pushed ourselves to go outside of our own communities and our own comfort zones and networks to make sure that we are pursuing diversity and inclusion. And we’ve turned that inward as well. We’re working on recruitment initiatives to do the same thing.
This month, the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Racial Justice Coalition (RJC) is partnering with three organizations: CAASE, WINGS and Resilience. I’ve coordinated each of the programs and am moderating each. CAASE will present first on sex trafficking and race and the interplay between the two. The second program, by WINGS, is on the intersection between race and domestic violence. And finally, Resilience will present on race and everything else that falls within the interpersonal violence scope, including rape, sexual assault, harassment, and other topics not encompassed by sex trafficking and domestic violence.
Can you give a brief overview of the connection between race and sexual violence?
Much of it can be summed up by the case that Resilience will be discussing during the panel, which is a case that I worked on as a law clerk –– it was actually one of the first things I did when I came to the firm. It was a sexual assault case of an adolescent African-American girl who was groomed and abused by her coach. He was arrested and convicted in a criminal trial.
At the civil trial, all the jury had to do was determine a dollar amount for damages. The court had already said he was guilty, and all the jury in the civil trial had to do was decide how much money to award her for the damages of her experience. The jury put down zero.
In these cases, you’re asking the jury to determine the credibility of a survivor who is at an age where in society, people are starting to ask questions like, Did she ask for it? And things like that are even more amplified when you’re talking about race. So it’s my opinion that the jury came to the conclusion that she deserved no monetary compensation because of her age and her race. And to me, it was one of the clearest indicators of how race has an impact on how people view someone’s experience when we’re talking about sexual violence.
We appealed and were able to get a second trial and she was awarded $3.2 million from the court, and based on our research this is the first time that any court has held that sexual assault cannot result in no damages. So we created that case law with that ruling.
How can Resilience’s members support these efforts surrounding racial justice and sexual assault?
I think the best way to combat both issues is through conversation. I grew up in a very small rural town in Pennsylvania, and I learned from that experience that it’s really important to engage with people who may see the world a little backwards, but they see it that way because they haven’t had exposure to diversity. And the only way that you’re going to bring people into the fold and open their eyes is by conversation, even if that conversation can be very frustrating sometimes. It’s so important to engage in that. That’s what we want to do at Resilience going forward. We all need to make people question their own internal thoughts and beliefs, maybe things that they don’t even realize that they even think, because they haven’t had to answer anyone’s question about it before. And you challenge people. I think that that’s the only way you’re going to create change.
What drew you to work with the law firm, Romanucci & Blandin, one of Resilience’s key partners, and how does your work there relate to your work with Resilience?
I was introduced to one of the partners at Romanucci & Blandin when I was in my first year of law school, and after that introduction, I realized that the work they were doing was something I was really passionate about. I have a psychology degree, and that was what I had intended to do when I was an undergrad. When I came to law school, I was fully open-minded about where I would take my legal career. I met Mr. Romanucci and started talking to him and learned that they handle a lot of civil rights work and they also do a lot of sexual assault work. I realized that it was a space that I could expand my passion for advocacy into my career. I clerked for them for three years during law school and then I joined the firm as an associate in May.