Every time I sit down to write my “goodbye” blog I simply can’t do it. So, I’ve decided that it isn’t really goodbye, but rather, I’ll see you on the other side, EROC. After almost three years, though bittersweet, I’m ready to announce that I will be stepping down as Managing Director, and the wonderful Jess Davidson will be succeeding me. I’m honored to continue my commitment at EROC on the Board of Directors while I attend law school and hopefully beyond.
It is difficult to put into words what EROC has meant to me personally and professionally — but I’ll try.
EROC means trust.
I am eternally grateful to Andrea Pino for responding to my volunteer request email way back when. I learned more from her in our first two hour phone call in October 2014 than I could wrap my head around at the time. Afterwards, I looked at my partner, Shane, who had been silently and patiently cooking in our studio apartment, trying not to disturb my call (a talent he has now perfected), and said, “I think this is going to be big.” Andrea introduced me to Annie Clark and Sofie Karasek, two other EROC co-founders, and it moved quickly from there.
Andrea, Annie, and Sofie trusted me with the reins quickly. They believed in me before I believed in myself. I remember an evening following one overwhelming meeting in New York City, where I felt so wildly in over my head, and I broke down into tears with a friend. They asked me if I believed in my team, and I said that of course I did, they said, “then let them trust you.”
EROC means joy.
There’s something magical about young women on a mission. No matter what was thrown at us — a nasty on-air exchange, terrifying and aggressive online harassment, a mean e-mail, a desperate survivor, or a grieving parent — we refused to quit. With heads held high, we were always ready to throw our hair up into a messy-but-chic bun, put mascara on at red lights, and continue on. Our work is hard, it is grueling, and it is exhausting, but there’s nothing like it when we all get together.
We didn’t have offices in EROC’s first year, so we all worked from our respective homes (and anywhere with free wifi when we were on the road). After Annie and Andrea moved to Washington, D.C., we would often descend on their two-bedroom home for a week of intensive meetings. We’d talk late into the night — not just about work, but about who we were, what we wanted for ourselves, for our future, for the future of our world. We used to laugh about what a donor would think of us as we sat there braiding each other’s hair and drinking wine (seriously, we did that). Those late nights where we’d dissolve into laughter were filled with magic, with life, with joy.
EROC means belief.
I didn’t know how many survivors were really out there until I started working at EROC. More often than not when I met someone new and told them that “I work with survivors of campus sexual assault,” their faces would change, and they would ask me to go to the bathroom with them or pull me into a quiet corner. It would pour out: you’re the first person I’ve ever told; my mom told me it was my fault for drinking so much; what did I do wrong?; do you think anyone will ever love me?; I’m sorry to bother you with this.
To all the survivors out there who confided in a stranger: thank you for trusting me. I hold your story close, and no matter what, there’s someone out there who believes you.
To all the survivors, parents, guardians, siblings, and supporters out there whose lives I’ve intersected with during one of your most painful trials: I will always be here to shoulder some of the weight of your pain, and I hope that helps. Thank you for letting me in and for trusting EROC’s process, I hope we did right by you.
To all the survivors who lack a support network: we are here for you. We love you, we value you, and we will stand strong for you always.
EROC means pride.
I’m a young woman just under five feet tall (on a good day) and I can look anywhere between twenty and thirty — so it will come to no one’s surprise that I’m often overlooked, and so are my colleagues. The feeling we share when we take a deep breath before a meeting with a legislator who we know wants to gut protections for survivors, or before a donor meeting that we’re not sure is going to go well, or before stepping on stage before ten people or ten thousand people is brief but important. We manifest our pride: we remember who we are working for, and who relies on us.
I refuse to be modest when talking about EROC. When I began, we were four young women, nearly all a few years out of college (well, Sofie was actually still in college), and we were determined. Our work began as a scrappy group of 20-somethings building a grassroots movement, and now, three years later, EROC is continuing to support survivors and activists on the ground and have raised over a million dollars to date. We have remained dynamic in the face of a rapidly changing landscape and are staying true to our roots. I am so, so honored to have played a small role in the movement to end rape on college campuses.
I decided it was time to go to law school in the middle of a client meeting over a year ago. Annie and I were in a southern state, sitting by a lake with a grieving father whose daughter, a survivor, had taken her own life just ten days prior. We could help with media exposure, with a Title IX complaint, with support, but we couldn’t represent him in court. I’m going to law school for his daughter, for the life she should have lived, and for the justice she deserves.
I am so grateful to so many people. Thank you to my parents who have been supportive since day one, to my friends and family for being understanding when I missed birthdays, lunch dates, and happy hours, and to those around the country who freed up a couch, floor, or bed for me: all of us at EROC are so appreciative. Of course, thank you Shane, as ever.
The colleagues I have had at EROC are unparalleled. Annie, Andrea, Sofie, Colleen, Chardonnay, Jess, and our many wonderful fellows — thank you for putting up with my micro-managing, reminding me that I am, in fact, absolutely not “chill,” indulging me in my em-dash obsession, and above all, making my job easy and fun. Most importantly, Annie, Andrea, and Sofie — thank you for believing in me when I didn’t.
I’m proud to leave EROC with the absolute certainty that we’ll be around as long as we are needed, though I hope that is not much longer.
Managing Director, 2015 - 2017
Board of Directors, 2017 - present
You can reach Anna at her EROC email, at firstname.lastname@example.org for the near future or follow her on Twitter at @annasylvie for tweets about goats, politics, and her perfect terrier mutt, Marble.