Where Are They Now?

Where Are They Now?

What’s life like after a DC SAFE Internship? Find out what some of our amazing former interns are up to now. Don’t forget to apply for a DC SAFE internship today.

jha, Chandini

Chandini Jha was an Court Advocacy Intern from May 2014 until April 2015.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“I wanted an internship that allowed me to take the values I learned in the classroom– survivor-centered, compassionate advocacy– and apply it to real life. DC SAFE allowed me to do that and more.”

What are you doing now?

“I am finishing up my last year at Georgetown, before embarking on a Fulbright Grant to research gender violence in India.”

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

“It pushed me out of my comfort zone, and helped me grow as an advocate. The internship taught me the value of truly listening to survivors and empowering their choices.”

What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?

“I recommend this internship without reservation to anyone who wants to make an impact in gender violence work. It was my favorite experience in undergrad.”


 

Fessinger, Melanie

Melanie Fessinger was an Court Advocacy Intern during the Spring of 2014.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“I had always been interested in how the law and psychology could intersect and wanted to find a position where I could learn about both. I knew I wanted to pursue research in this area but first wanted to get real experience of working in the legal system. The Courtroom Advocacy Program at DC SAFE sounded like the perfect fit for me to get the experience that I was seeking and the use my interests in a meaningful way.”

What are you doing now?

“I have spent the last two years as a Research Assistant in a National Institute of Health (NIH) funded Social Psychology and Law laboratory. I’ve been conducting research examining children’s involvement in the legal system, focusing specifically on child forensic interviewing. In Fall 2016, I am heading to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln to work on my Ph.D. in Social and Cognitive Psychology and my Master’s in Legal Studies.”

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

“My experience as intern at DC SAFE showed me how complicated the legal system can be. Without training on court processes, it can be really hard to understand. Learning this lesson sparked my passion to conduct research to improve the system for the layperson. The internship also made my following accomplishments possible because it allowed me to begin my research career with a foundation of legal knowledge. SAFE really set the trajectory for the rest of my academic success.”

What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?

“I came in to my internship looking for specific things came out with so much more. Everyone at SAFE really goes out of their way to make you feel like more than an intern. It’s not an easy job to do but you come out of it with knowledge and experience that are really invaluable going forward. I’m so grateful for my experience as an intern at DC SAFE and would (and have) highly recommend it to anyone who is interested.”


 

Hughes, Sara

Sara Hughes was an Supportive Advocacy Intern during the Fall of 2015.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“I had some background in working with domestic violence survivors, researching women in the criminal justice system, and riding along with police officers. I wanted to obtain a better understanding of the court process and the role of advocacy groups. DC SAFE offered an opportunity for me to witness just how difficult it is to meander the criminal justice system.”

What are you doing now?

“I am now a Research Assistant with Michigan State University, on the SPIRIT Trial (Suicide Prevention Intervention for at-Risk Individuals in Transition). This is a randomized control trial funded jointly by the National Institute of Justice and the National Institute of Mental Health. Specifically, I interview pre-trial detainees that have had suicidal ideation or attempts within the past month. The ultimate goal of the study is to implement Stanley and Brown’s Safety Planning Intervention in order to reduce suicide following the year after release from jail.”

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

“Interning at DC SAFE honestly changed my life (and nobody is paying me to say that). Before my internship I had plans of being a police officer after graduation. My experiences at DC SAFE allowed me to see all aspects of the criminal justice system and in short, I realized just how messed up the system really is. As I heard stories of survivors, I realized how impactful childhood experiences really are. Many of the survivors had grown up in a home where violence was prevalent, just to find themselves in the same situation as an adult. Seeing this cycle of violence day after day first broke my heart, but then sparked a passion in me to affect change. I am now applying for Social Work Master’s programs, and I am planning to be a social worker for children experiencing abuse, neglect, or other hardships. After gaining more of a perspective in the field of social work, I would like to affect change at a macro level through policy and criminal justice system reform.”

What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?

“Your time at DC SAFE is not going to be easy, but I promise it will be 100% worth it. My biggest fear in my internship search was obtaining an internship where my most meaningful task was to get the correct number of cream and sugars in my boss’s coffee. I was blown away with the amount of hands on experience I received, and the amazing morale of the entire staff.”


 

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Perri Kruse was an On-Call Advocacy Project Intern specializing in the Lethality Assessment Project starting during the Summer of 2014.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“During the summer between my UCLA MSW program (and after living in California my entire life), I decided I wanted to expand my knowledge about gender-based violence on a national level, and understand the similarities and/or differences across state lines. I came with a strong understanding of domestic violence through my many trainings, hearing stories from survivors and those impacted, and after surviving domestic violence myself. I felt DC SAFE’s mission, location, and the intersection of both micro and macro work would be powerful and important for my development as a social worker.”

What are you doing now?

“I recently graduated from UCLA with my MSW, and have been working for the last two years on developing and shaping sexual assault policy on University of California college campuses, under the direction of President Janet Napolitano. I am currently a social worker at DC organization, Community Connections, assuming the role of Assistant Team Leader for Young Mother’s with co-occurring disorders and trauma.”

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

“I was fortunate enough to work in an extremely supportive environment, with those that shared the same passion as I. I was able to gain extensive knowledge on the judicial system in the District, and challenges/barriers in accessing resources in the area. I gained a special appreciation for the two DV judges in the Superior Courthouse, and realized the importance of having judges with this specialized knowledge working on survivor’s cases—as Los Angeles is sorely lacking in this area.”

What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?

“At DC SAFE you will be treated as a professional and given a great deal of independence, along with a real-life experience and understanding of domestic violence. Get involved in as many areas of the organization that you can (i.e. ride-alongs, crisis hotline, research, court advocacy). You will be challenged, fulfilled, and appreciated.”


 

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Ayla Engelhart was an On-Call Advocacy Project Intern specializing in the Lethality Assessment Project starting in the Summer of 2013 until Spring 2014. Ayla was a contract Court Advocate during the Summer of 2014.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“When I applied to intern with DC SAFE I was finishing my first year of graduate school at The George Washington University, and I was really focusing on issues of violence, specifically gender based violence and structures folks have to navigate through when dealing with interpersonal violence. My partner had also interned at SAFE and spoke very highly of the position and organization. I felt like it would really allow me the opportunity to do tangible, important work while simultaneously challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone.”

What are you doing now?

“Currently, I work as a Hall Director at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The community I work in has a program specifically focused on providing programming related to social justice and LGBTQ+ communities.”

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

“My experiences at DC SAFE played a huge role in helping me figure out my specific interests both professionally as well as academically. I learned a lot about the way privilege impacts how I navigate through the world on a daily basis. I also gained firsthand knowledge/experience navigating through many aspects of the legal/judicial systems and the difficulties folks face when trying to gain access to certain resources. I furthered my skills as an educator, and advocate for racial, economic, gender, and sexual (and many other types) of justice. DC SAFE helped me apply theory to practice and I’m not sure I’d be able to navigate my current position without my experiences at DC SAFE.”

What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?

“At DC SAFE you will be given a lot of opportunity to learn about navigating systems (legal, judicial, social, etc.). You will also be given a lot of autonomy and will learn from actual and tangible experiences. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll get to me a lot of rad people, whether staff, volunteers, interns, or clients, who are progressively minded and working towards radical social change.”


 

hlape

Hailey L. was a Crisis Intervention Intern specializing in the Lethality Assessment Project during the Summer of 2014. Hailey continued as a dual Training and Outreach/Crisis Intervention intern through May 2015 when she was promoted to a staff position.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“I came to SAFE for a change of pace and to get some direct advocacy experience. Before coming to SAFE I was interested in campaign management, a previous internship gave me some insight to DV policy and I realized that my true passion was helping survivors of gender-based violence. While I enjoyed the policy work I wanted to work with clients directly.”

What are you doing now?

“I’m actually still at SAFE as full time, Supportive Advocacy Services advocate now! I am also finishing my last semester at George Washington University.”

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

“Working at SAFE changed my life plan. Pretty early into my internship I realized that I wanted to pursue a career empowering survivors of gender-based violence, and I threw all plans of a career in campaigning to the wind. Working one-on-one with clients is incredibly rewarding and my knowledge of the complexities of domestic violence has increased exponentially. Working at SAFE isn’t always easy and there are days when it can be draining, but knowing that I made an impact to empower a survivor of domestic violence makes all of our efforts worthwhile. Working at SAFE brought to light all of the obstacles that survivors have to face, and has made me realize I want to dedicate my career to system reform and domestic violence policy.”

What would you tell a prospective intern?

“If you work with SAFE for a semester or a summer you will learn more about domestic violence than you could ever learn in a classroom. Direct service is not always easy but it is fulfilling and will give you real experience that can help guide your career. (Also dress in layers–it’s cold in the Courthouse.)”


 

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Nesta Johnson was a Court Advocacy Intern specializing in the Lethality Assessment Project during the Fall of 2012.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?
 
“I knew I wanted to work in child welfare and that DV cases are very common. I wanted to learn more about DV and gain hands-on experience working with survivors of trauma and people in crisis.”
 
What are you doing now?
 
“I represent youth (ranging in age from newborns to 21) in child abuse and neglect cases in Brooklyn Family Court.”
 
How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?
 
“It cemented my desire to work in family law, gave me a huge appreciation for how desperately services for survivors and their families are needed and for what a huge effect organizations like SAFE can make. It also helped me understand what practical needs survivors have – from lock changes to phones to housing.”
 
What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?
 
“Definitely do it! You will learn a lot and you will feel good about what you’re doing for people. Stress and secondary trauma do happen – but your colleagues will be a great support system.”

 

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Katharine Donohoe was a Development and Outreach Intern during the Summer of 2012.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“I think I was most interested in interning with SAFE because it combined two of my areas of study really well — communications (essentially) and women’s studies. Also, I had to meet an internship requirement for my major and also wanted to get a bit more ‘real world’ experience.”

What are you doing now?

“Currently, I’m a technical writer for Cvent, a SaaS (software as a service) company based in McLean. After graduating college in 2013, I also completed a development and events internship with NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia and worked for a start-up called Relay Foods. Also, I’m just about to start up as an online hotline volunteer with RAINN. ”

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

“Working at SAFE impacted my life in that I don’t think I would have ever encountered so many talented, smart, and passionate women all in one place! Compared to my current work environment, I feel really glad that one of my first experiences in a professional setting was with SAFE; in that it was supportive, collaborative, but also incredibly focused and driven. Also, it just generally opened my eyes to a very real and serious issue that impacts so many members of the Washington, DC community that needs attention. I grew up in Arlington, Virginia but my family has long been in the Washington, DC area and I don’t know if I would have worked with the advocates and survivors that I did had I not interned with SAFE.”

What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?

“I would tell prospective interns and volunteers that it truly is an amazing organization. As I’ve been writing out these responses, I’m remembering the people I got to work with and I’m just incredibly glad I got to do so the summer I interned. That said, I would also say to them, do more! Volunteer for more ride-alongs or anything else you can.”


 

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Audra Passinault was a Court Advocacy Program intern during the Summer of 2013.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“I was originally interested in interning with DC SAFE to gain an inside perspective on the challenges domestic violence survivors face when navigating the legal system.  As a law student, I wanted to understand the interactions survivors had with police, with the legal system and how I could become a meaningful advocate.”

What are you doing now?

Now I am finishing my last year at Notre Dame Law School.  This fall, I will begin my job with the Legal Aid Foundation in Chicago, working with immigrant populations, domestic violence victims and victims of human trafficking.”

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

“Not only did I gain knowledge of the realities of domestic violence and the challenges our society has with meeting the needs of survivors, but I also came to truly appreciate the strength of the clients I served. I left DC SAFE inspired to continue my work as an advocate and armed with the experience necessary to combat the obstacles of domestic violence.  Also, learning from individuals who have dedicated their careers to service was encouraging and my mentor relationship with Erin Hill provided a great deal of validation and support.”

What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?

“Being an advocate with DC SAFE was not always the easiest or most comfortable job, but I learned more about the legal system and social realities in this position than I had in any other job.  The staff is very supportive and takes a great deal of time helping you learn how to be an effective advocate and ensuring you are receiving invaluable hands-on experience. You will learn about the DC community, domestic violence trends nationwide, be on the forefront of domestic violence policy.”


 

elizabeth jahr

Elizabeth Jahr was a dual intern, working both on the Response Line and in our Court Advocacy Program, during the Spring of 2012.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“I was initially interested about working at DC SAFE because I wanted to pursue a career in law and thought an internship that related to the legal system would help me get some perspective. I had known a few people on my college campus that had been involved in dating violence, so I thought this would be a good way to give back to the community and start getting involved in legal work.”

What are you doing now?

“Now I work at Community Connections in Washington, D.C., which helps people (many of which are also very economically and socially marginalized) recover from mental health conditions. I am a community support specialist and provide services to consumers with a history of trauma.”
 

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

“Once I started working at SAFE though I realized right off the bat that I didn’t want to pursue a career in law because what I liked most was working one-on-one with the survivors and empowering them to move forward. So interning at DC SAFE impacted my life a lot: it sent me on a completely different career path! It opened my eyes to so many of the overlapping challenges our economically disadvantaged clients faced and it made me want to build better communities.”
 

What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?

“My advice to prospective interns and volunteers is to really listen to every survivor. I feel like working with them taught me so much and many of their stories still stick with me today. Interning at DC SAFE has a lot to offer and you will learn so much while you are there! I highly recommend it to anyone.”

 

Headshot Ellen HutchinsonEllen Hutchinson was the Lethality Assessment Project Intern during the Spring of 2013.

What interested you about interning with DC SAFE?

“I was a Political Science and Women’s Studies major. I really wanted to get my feet wet and have some real-world experience, and I felt the SAFE internship was a good way to combine my two majors. I also wanted an internship that would make a real impact, while giving me substantive experience.”

What are you doing now?

“I graduated from George Washington University in May 2014 and am now in my first year of law school at George Mason University.”
 

How did your work at DC SAFE impact your life?

 “I learned so much in my time at SAFE. I learned not only about procedural things–court proceedings, social services, MPD, etc.–but also about bigger and systemic issues surrounding domestic violence–socioeconomics, sex and gender, trauma informed care, safety and more. It also gave me a much greater appreciation for non-profits and the people who work for them. I met so many passionate people who cared so much about what they did and worked so hard to help their clients; it continues to inspire me.”
 

What would you tell prospective interns and volunteers?

“Every time I tell someone where I interned, they always say ‘Wow, that must have been tough.’ And the truth is that it was tough. But it was an incredible experience, and I learned so much. So I would tell prospective interns and volunteers not to be intimidated by the subject matter. We all felt nervous when we first started, but that goes away. And always keep in mind how important what you’re doing is.”
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