My Co-op at The Blue Bench sexual assault prevention organization: “Putting an end to sexual assault through prevention and care.” It’s what The Blue Bench has been doing in Denver, CO for over thirty years now. The Blue Bench is the only organization in Denver and the nine surrounding counties doing comprehensive prevention and care for sexual assaults and rape.
Canvassing for The Blue Bench has been an experience and a half. While canvassers are often mistaken for solicitors (we do look scarily similar), what we do at the blue bench is considered a public service. After winning a Supreme Court case back in the day, we are now exempt from certain “no-knock rules” that may impede on our ability to get resources to people who, statistically speaking, can benefit from education on their rights.
As a canvasser, you knock on doors. You hope and pray that someone will answer the door and, if they do, you begin a conversation on a heavy topic that most aren’t expecting to have on any given day–especially not at the door. Clearly and directly communicating what we do and why we’re there are key steps toward a successful conversation. Yes, we’re there at your doorstep to give you resources, and yes were asking for your money for those same programs and resources. Since most of the funding for the programs come from people donating at the door, a canvassers ability to effectively mobilize funds on a daily basis is imperative.
Working at The Blue Bench gives us the opportunity to change the world. You have the opportunity to challenge a stranger’s stereotypes by confronting victim-blaming as it happens on stranger’s doorsteps. On the daily we are activists directly getting involved in difficult dialogues and offering solutions. Our job is to get as many people as possible involved in the issue of sexual assault in whatever way and at whatever level they’re comfortable with.
At least once a day I’ll hear, “Oh, what’s a young girl like you doing walking around in the dark by yourself?! It’s dangerous!” “Doesn’t it seem kind of contradictory to your work for you to be out here?” And on the flip-side, male co-workers have gotten, “Thank god, they sent a man this year!” As if men are exempt from sexual assault and rape. While victim-blaming language can ignite quite a flame of fury, the best way to combat it is by informing people (who are often speaking from a place of good will) that 2/3 of sexual assaults will happen in the home or other place of trust. Most of the time people are surprised to hear how much sexual assault occurs and how rape is so prevalent right under their noses.
In spite of the challenges, this without doubt has been the most rewarding job I have ever had, but it also has been the hardest in terms of emotional labor. This job requires a continuous effort toward learning self-care and how to speak about intimate topics with complete strangers. So here’s to the Blue Benchers who go out and make the world better–one door at a time.
Photo credit: https://thebluebench.org/