Extensive research exists about how to prevent issues surrounding health. Upon applying to an internship at the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, or MOCSA, I did not expect to be immersed in the field of primary prevention. Now, however, preventative action colors my world view for social change.
MOCSA is a rape crisis center in Midtown Kansas City, Missouri. The organization sits in the 4th floor of Penn Valley Towers in an office of about 55 people. MOCSA services six counties around the KC Metro area, providing counseling, legal advocacy, and education, all free of charge.
Half of my internship involved me answering calls on MOCSA’s crisis line, taking calls from victims, their families, or other service providers. Many people sought access to our organization’s free counseling or advocacy services. Other callers dialed the crisis line in search of local resources for a person close to them. Some were victims seeking someone to talk to. This required many hours of training in skills like trauma-informed communication and knowledge of legal processes of sexual assault reports. Learning crisis-response communication skills felt daunting. What if I said the wrong thing? Answering calls on the crisis-line allowed me to play a role in direct service to victims and their families, a goal of mine when considering this co-op.
The other half of my internship put me under the supervision of MOCSA’s sole Community Prevention Specialist, Vanessa. Vanessa’s professional history displays a long list of experience in campaigns, policy, and organizing. Vanessa’s main project is to supervise the Wyandotte County Sexual Assault Prevention Coalition (WyCo-SAP), and I assisted with a variety of the coalition’s operations. Whether it was performing outreach to community members and organizations to spur some interest in our coalition, compiling coalition meeting notes, designing a social media communication strategy, or attending the coalition’s community dialogues, this half of my internship provided a setting for me to observe and participate in community organizing.
My project for this part of my internship was to write, shoot, and edit an informational video for the coalition’s media and presentation needs. The project not only shows what WyCo-SAP does in the community, but also explains some concepts around violence prevention. In writing the script for the project, I had to come to understand that WyCo-SAP is seeking not to simply facilitate services for victims of sexual violence, but that its goal is to address the root causes of all forms of violence. What Vanessa explained to me (and later reinforced with links like this) was that the prevention of violence must happen at all levels. WyCo-SAP, with its Violence Prevention Planning, aims to create safer neighborhoods, increase community connectedness, and change the culture around violence within Wyandotte County. The coalition is bringing together individuals, organizations, and government agencies, to tackle the roots of violence in neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and in official county policies. Having the opportunity to work in media production and in community organizing represents the ideal intersection of my academic areas of interest, Media Arts and Political Economy.
My second co-op has developed my professional skills immensely. Acclimating to office culture, providing direct service to victims of sexual assault, producing media, and working within a community organizing setting provided an enlightening and challenging environment for my growth.