Intern Spotlight: Body Autonomy & Supporting Survivors of Abuse

Text reads Intern Spotlight: Jo. Jo smiles at camera in a burgundy dress and red lipstick.

Jo is a senior at Smith College currently interning at Safe Passage through their Jandon Activist Fellowship. Passionate about supporting survivors of violence, Jo has been an amazing addition to the Community Engagement team this year. Throughout this academic year, they provided instrumental support across the volunteer, outreach, and prevention programs. Learn more about Jo and their work below!

This interview has been edited for clarity and cohesion.

Name: Jo

Pronouns: they/she

Position: Community Engagement Intern

How long you've been interning: 7 months

Fun fact: They have only lived in states that start with the letter M!

Tell us about you:

I'm an astrology, art, music and dance-loving Smith student from Montana finding my place in this world.

Why do you intern with Safe Passage?

In high school, I was a part of a team where we taught sex ed, consent, and healthy relationships to many different demographics. I also volunteered for the domestic violence shelter in my hometown, working on their hotline and helping with childcare. Both of these experiences were life changing! A few years later, I wanted to return to this type of volunteering!

I intern at Safe Passage because anti-violence work is a mission I hold close to my heart. I’m specifically passionate about the preventative care Safe Passage provides to the community. I am driven by the mission of ending sexual violence, and domestic violence is connected to that mission.

Graphic reads: We all deserve to be in control of our own bodies and lives.What motivates you in the work of supporting survivors?

I’m really passionate about self-determination and being able to choose what is best for your body and yourself—and sexual violence opposes that extremely. I’ve experienced sexual violence, and I know how in-depth sexual violence and sexual assault can tear you down in all different ways—physically, mentally, emotionally—for years. I’ve experienced it myself, and I witness it with my friends all the time. I know how detrimental it is to someone’s psyche, and that’s why I’m so passionate about preventing it: I know how traumatic and intense going through that is, how it can change your life and change your reality and your perspectives, and it can take you off the course of your life, your career and your goals.

My own experiences and hardships and watching my close friends’ experiences and hardships really drive me in what I do, what my career goals are, what I spend my energy and time on, and what I choose to learn about in school. I go to school to learn about the intersecting oppressions of the world, and Safe Passage’s mission ties close to that. Safe Passage is doing work to aid some types of anti-oppression work, especially at a more community-level. I’m learning about community-level violence prevention, which is inherent to collective liberation. We all deserve to be in control of our bodies and our lives.

Graphic reads: I'm getting the opportunity to directly uplift survivors' voices and experiences and empower them.

What is a meaningful internship experience you've had in the past year?

Helping design our soon-to-be-printed Survivor Anthology has been a meaningful experience I've had. I've enjoyed learning about book making (with the help of my wonderful supervisor, Alec!), using my skills for aesthetics, and learning about ways to empower survivors' voices. I also have appreciated the collaborative work in this project and working to educate the community about survivors’ stories and supporting survivors.

The Anthology is impactful for me because I’m getting the opportunity to directly uplift survivors’ voices and experiences and empower them. In my personal life, I have the opportunity to support and empower my friends and the people around me but I think in this way, we can do it in other ways that aren’t personal. I don’t know these people [who are featured in the Survivor Anthology Project] personally, but it’s still important and influential to be a part of this and to be able to uplift their stories and voices.

Graphic reads: I intern at Safe Passage because anti-violence work is a mission I hold close to my heart.

How do bring your skills and experience to the work of supporting survivors?

I major in Women and Gender Studies and concentrate in Community Engagement and Social Change. Therefore, I get to use my academic knowledge in the work I do at Safe Passage. Connecting the dots between my education and Safe Passage has been a thrill.

I think that my passion for community shows up in my brainstorming and supporting the volunteer program because volunteers are so integral to Safe Passage and because volunteers are also community members! Connection with community members is really important to the mission … being able to connect with so many people and communicate the mission of preventing violence and knowledge of how to support survivors. Being able to have conversations with volunteers supports that. I’m able to support others in spreading their knowledge and awareness to their family members and their friends and other community members that may not be connected with Safe Passage.

What does “community” mean to you in your life and work?

Community drives me. The people who are close to me—my close friends, my professors, my mentors at Safe Passage—are what drives me and what sustains my energy because my relationships within my community are super important to me. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am.

I'd like to give a shoutout to the Community Engagement/Education team!!!

Staff testimonials:

"Jo is such a force of nature! They are creative, kind, empathetic, and so passionate about supporting survivors. Our brainstorming and co-working sessions bring so much energy and life to my workdays, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to supervise and mentor them in work they care about so deeply.

It's been an invaluable gift to have her support in making the Survivor Anthology Project come to life, as well as in training and onboarding new volunteers to the organization. Jo really embodies the values of Safe Passage and our commitment to empowerment, accountability, collaboration, and justice. While I'm going to miss them terribly after they graduate, I am SO excited to see all that she will accomplish and create in the future. I'm honored to have gotten to be part of her story.

–Alec, Community Engagement Coordinator


Thank you for being a part of Safe Passage, Jo!

To read other Volunteer Spotlights, click here. To learn more about the volunteer program at Safe Passage, check out the webpage here.