Q&A with NRCDV’s Joe Ostrander: Call for Stories for Why I Became an Advocate
Thursday, August 17th, 2017
Each year, in preparation for Domestic Violence Awareness Month(DVAM), national DV organizations gather as part of the Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP) advisory board to discuss and plan ways to support advocacy networks throughout the country in their ongoing public education efforts through public awareness, strategies, materials, resources, capacity-building, and technical assistance.
This year, the advisory board chose to focus DVAM messaging around: Why I’m an Advocate/Why I Became an Advocate. To support this messaging, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence is soliciting people’s personal stories about why they consider themselves advocates; chosen stories will be recorded and cast on its podcast channel, NRCDV Radio. We talked with Joe Ostrander, NRCDV communications manager, about the campaign this year and the call for stories.
Q: What was the inspiration for the Call for Stories for Why I’m an Advocate/Why I Became an Advocate?
A: The inspiration for this completely came out of the DVAP meeting. It was born out of the conversations we had around who the audience was, what an advocate is, and what it means to be an advocate. We wanted to make sure that we honor the “traditional” advocate — the highly trained, experienced advocate — while also reaching out and expanding our audience to people who are doing advocacy work and perhaps don’t even realize they’re doing it. When we brought those ideas back from the DVAP meeting, the brainstorming then centered around asking why people are advocates, what does it mean to be an advocate, and why people first decide to do advocacy work. We thought it would be great to hear not only hear stories from the traditional aspect of advocacy, but we’re also hoping we can hear from people who never considered themselves advocates before, but are realizing that aspect of their work. That way, we can help expand partnerships among advocates.
It also builds on last year’s successful #WhyICare campaign. Last year we asked, “Why do you care?” and this year, we’re asking, “Why do you do this work?” The #WhyICare campaign was very successful last year; we received a lot of submissions from people who were advocates and from people who were survivors, as well.
Q: Why does the campaign focus on advocates?
Our primary audience with this campaign is advocates. Although the materials, resources, and information we develop can be useful for survivors, allies, and partners, as well, they are primarily meant for advocates. But we thought we’d build on that, as well, because although the Why I Care campaign was also geared toward advocates, we received a lot of submissions from people who were survivors, too. Advocates can be survivors and survivors can be advocates.
Q: What would you say to people who don’t consider themselves advocates?
A: I think people will surprise themselves when they think about the type of work they do or the interactions they have in their personal lives. If you care about standing up against injustices — particularly against marginalized communities and people of color — if you care about gender equality, children having a safe place to grow up, people having enough food to eat, safe and affordable housing, education and our environment, you are an advocate. You don’t have to hold a sign and march down the street to be an advocate. You don’t have to write long op-ed pieces for the newspaper. You don’t have to march into your senator’s office and speak eloquently about a piece of legislation. Advocates are people who speak up against things that are being done wrong to other people. For example, when my daughter speaks up at her school against a bully, she’s being an advocate for other kids who are being picked on. I’m proud of her for that, but I also try to reinforce that not only did she do something great for the school, but she did something great for our community by saying that’s not alright and we don’t treat people that way.
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish by telling advocates’ stories during Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
A: Our main goal is to shine a light on what an advocate is, how advocacy can be different and unique depending on each person and situation, and what it means to be an advocate. We also aim to expand the number of partnerships we develop with non-traditional groups and organizations. When we can get together and think of ourselves as working as a collective group, even though we have our own niche subject matter that we work on, we realize we’re all advocating for the greater cause, which is a better community to live in.
Q: Do you have any additional resources or assistance for people who don’t want to write their story, or who don’t consider themselves good writers?
A: We understand that just because someone has Some might think their story is not eloquent enough, but we want to try to take away that barrier for people. The technical assistance we offer is two-fold: 1) Our From the Front of the Room series offers two separate publications, one for advocates and one specifically designed for survivors. Both resources help people find their voice and provide tangible tips in crafting a story. We also understand that sometimes people prefer direct assistance, so we also provide 2) live assistance where people can call us, tell their story, and we can help them craft it in a way that will be more impactful. We’re not asking people to be great writers — we’re asking them to tell their stories.
To submit your story of why you’re an advocate, please email your story to nrcdvTA@nrcdv.org by August 21. Storytellers will be notified by Friday, Sept. 1.
If you would like technical assistance to support your storytelling, you may email nrcdvTA@nrcdv.org or call 1-800-537-2238 ext 103.
Click here for more information on the Call for Stories.