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 Yazmin Garcia, a Volunteer Medical Advocate. Read our interview to hear from Yazmin about the impact of Resilience Volunteer Medical Advocates and the challenges and triumphs of the work they do.

Read our interview with Yazmin below.

What motivated you to first get involved with Resilience as a Volunteer Medical Advocate?

For me, it was the fact that I was a survivor. On the day of my assault, I met my Medical Advocate and the SANE nurse. They helped me process my emotions and assured me that it was not my fault. Days after, I met my Legal Advocate, who guided me in obtaining an emergency restraining order. Without them and my support system, I would not be where I am today in my healing journey. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to help other survivors just like my Advocates helped me. Truthfully, unless you’ve been in the same circumstances, you don’t know 100% how it feels. So I wanted to use my experience to connect with other survivors and let them know it does get better. Whenever I meet with other survivors, we have a strong connection where we don’t need to justify anything because we understand. I know that may not make much sense to everyone. Nevertheless, it is reassuring when you meet a survivor and do not need to explain the situation to them. Using this as a Medical Advocate allows survivors to feel safe and 100% heard. So I rewrote my story and made it a positive outcome.

How has getting involved with Resilience as a Volunteer Medical Advocate impacted you?

Honestly, it was relatively tricky at first due to my personal trauma. During my first call, I almost decided to quit. Shortly after I was able to view things in a different light. At this moment, this was the best decision I had ever made. Being a Medical Advocate does come with some cons. Every shift, I get anxious when my phone rings or I get a text message. However, nothing else matters once I am in the emergency room because I know that has an impact. My goal in the emergency room is to create a safe environment for the survivors. 90% of the time, I can get my patients to smile and process their emotions for the first time. After a year and a half, I can still remember every survivor by name, story, and smile. This has made the most significant impact on my life.

Can you tell me about the role our Volunteer Medical Advocates play in supporting survivors?

It’s incredibly massive! Yet this goes even further than just the Advocacy team. Each individual at Resilience plays a crucial role in supporting survivors. We provide them with resources, information, and hope for the future.

Why is the work the volunteers do so important to survivors?

Survivors come to us during one of the most vulnerable times in their life. Individuals rely on us for support, guidance, resources, or just to be heard. At one point in my journey after my assault, I was trying to survive day by day. One day while I was in court, my Legal Advocate asked me, “Would you like me to place you in Trauma Therapy? I can put you on the waitlist.” I instantly said yes and didn’t have to worry about going through the process of signing up or anything. A small action like this may not seem life-changing, but for me, I felt like I could breathe fresh air in a moment of chaos. No matter how big or small the job as an Advocate is, we all know our job is important. One thing that keeps me going is seeing how much of an impact I have on each survivor. I know I have helped and done my job correctly when I see them light up. They can feel reassured that their needs are being met and heard.

Is there one particular story you experienced as a volunteer that demonstrates the impact of our volunteer program?

Honestly, there is not just one story; they have all impacted me immensely. I carry these stories daily as inspiration to keep me going. Frankly, these are not just stories but survivors’ journeys, and they all matter. Thinking back to those times, I remember seeing a child finally being a child again for that moment, by coloring or even by talking about their favorite show and laughing. Or a person who felt as if there was no one they could trust because they were in foster care, or homeless, or in an abusive relationship, or alone, yet they felt safe around me and opened up and processed their emotions and thoughts. When I call survivors and their family members to follow up with them, I can hear how delighted they are to hear from me. All this is motivating and life-changing because I know I am doing something right.

What would you tell someone who’s considering becoming a Volunteer Medical Advocate?

Definitely take some time to think about it. What’s motivating you? Why do you want to do this? What is your self-care going to be like? How will you take care of yourself during this? These questions are vital because being an Advocate can be pretty demanding. Future Advocates must have a healthy support system and coping skills to diminish burnout. By preventing burnout, they can take care of themself so they can continue helping survivors. Besides that, if your heart is in it, undoubtedly become an advocate.

What’s one fun fact about yourself?

I am obsessed with alpacas and have a cute floofy white dog named Capullo.

You spoke at our Associate Board’s Cocktails for a Cause event in February. Did you share anything there that you also wanted to share here?

Yes, during my talk, I wanted to be very transparent because our work is critical, but it is not easy. So much goes behind the scenes that are not always talked about. For example, when Medical Advocates are on call, it can be challenging for us. During the shift, our hearts stop when we receive a call or text message from a friend, family member, significant other, or telemarketer. Our minds automatically think that we are getting a page to be sent to an emergency room. No one ever wants to be paged to go to a hospital. When we do, that means a person was sexually assaulted. 

Another thing I brought up was the fact that Resilience was more than a not-for-profit organization here in Chicago. They cater to survivors, their families, staff, and the community. Resilience truly cares about its staff and volunteers because they know how hard the job can be. One thing I love about Resilience is that they prioritize mental health. In this line of work, we cannot vent to loved ones due to patients’ confidentiality. Yet we can debrief with our shift lead and join the Resilience staff support group. I have made genuine friendships at Resilience and have been offered incredible opportunities that allow me to share my story as a survivor.

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