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Jennifer Storm – Victim’s Rights Advocate

06 Mar Posted by in • Epochalips Interviews | Comments Off on Jennifer Storm – Victim’s Rights Advocate
Jennifer Storm – Victim’s Rights Advocate

Jennifer Storm is the Executive Director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg, PA.

E: Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be a victims rights expert.

JS: I myself was a victim of rape when I was 12, which was in the 1980’s when the victim’s rights movement was really starting to form in our country.  I did not have a victim’s advocate nor was I told I had rights under the law.  I was pretty much lost within the criminal justice system and my parents basically made all the decisions for me without really consulting me.  They thought by doing so they would lessen my trauma, when in reality by not allowing me to fully engage the system, they harmed me further. I dealt with my victimization by masking my pain with drugs and alcohol.  I was also dealing with my sexuality, I knew I was gay as young as five. I had an attraction to girls and was told harshly by a teacher and then again by a best friends father that I was going to hell for my feelings. I drank and drugged to avoid my feelings and myself.  I spiraled downward in addiction for years until age 22 when I finally made the decision to find recovery.  I went on to attend Penn State University where I finally dealt with my past and came bursting out of the closet right into activism on campus. I became the go-to-gay on campus and was involved in everything often landing me on the cover of the local newspaper holding various rainbow flags and picket signs. This lead me to be a target for a hate group which resulted in my receiving death threats of a very graphic nature.  We were able to find out who was sending them and I found myself once again a victim of a crime, but this time I was informed of my rights and I began to research this whole concept of victim’s rights. I left college and landed a job lobbing for hate crime legislation in PA, we got the law passed and I then moved onto the position I currently hold, Executive Director of Victim Witness Assistance Program, a non-profit organization that helps over 8,000 crime victims annually.

E: I assume you are an out lesbian in your public persona. Has that affected your credibility as a victim’s rights expert and advocate?

JS: Yes very, I am unapologetically myself in every way. I think it has helped actually because one of my victimization experiences was because of my sexual orientation.  When I tell people my story, I am able to educate them as a survivor of a crime that also happens to be about my sexuality, in a way it throws people off and puts them in a empathetic place first before their own prejudice may have a chance to kick in.  I feel like it opens a door for me to have a deeper dialogue about how we are all free to live without the threat of violence.

I am a strong leader and I have found a way to ensure that I am at all the tables that matter within the criminal justice system.

E: You are a recovering addict and sexual abuse survivor, how have these experiences shaped you as a person?

JS: They have made me who I am today, without those experiences; I wouldn’t have the strength that I have.  I am a very resilient person with a deep wealth of experiences that most people never have in a lifetime let a lone within their first 20 years. I believe challenge and adversity builds character and I am proud of the person I am today.  My recovery forces me to take a deeper look within myself to ensure I am honest in all my encounters that I live with intention, dignity and integrity and that I live a life that makes me proud.

E: Anything else you’d like to add?

JS:I am saddened by the amount of addiction that exists within the lesbian community and I know from my years in experience that most of that addiction comes from a past trauma or victimization that has been left unchecked.  I hope through my writing and speaking that I can reach some people and show them that life can be an amazing ride sober, clean and free from past harms

Jennifer Storm is the author of three critically acclaimed books on addiction, recovery and victimization. Picking Up the Pieces Without Picking Up: A Guidebook Through Victimization for People in Recovery, Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery  and Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America.  She is available for all speaking engagements, including keynote presentations, workshops, panel discussions, and book signings.

www.jenniferstorm.com   
www.facebook.com/jenniferstorm119
    
www.twitter.com/JenniferRStorm

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