Founder of non-profit discusses recovery from sexual assault
By Matt Hose
Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love on her Arms, a non-profit organization based out of Florida that raises awareness about people struggling with issues including depression, addiction and self-injury. In an interview with The Vista, he discussed how to recover from the harm that can come out of sexual violence.
The Vista: Your company focuses on several issues that college students may face. With last week being sexual assault awareness week at USD, what are some of the ways that you could give hope to people who are victims of sexual violence in particular?
Jamie Tworkowski: It’s really cool that you guys are doing that and talking about it. I think first off it’s important to know that they’re not alone. Shame has a way of telling you that you’re the only one who’s been there, you’re the only one who feels this way, you can’t talk about it, no one can know about it. We’ve come to believe that a lot of that is false.
TV: What sorts of resources do students in college have that make it different from people in other situations?
JT: One of the best things about college is that at almost every campus we visit, there’s a counseling center, there’s counselors available that’s usually free, and if it’s not free then it’s very affordable.
Those are some of the hurdles that folks outside of college face. We hear from a lot of people [for] whom finances are often one of the biggest excuses.
Usually at the college level that doesn’t have to be an excuse, because it’s included in the tuition. I don’t know the situation at [USD] but to me that’s really encouraging news.
TV: It may be difficult for some sexual abuse victims to admit to anyone, let alone a counselor, that they have been sexually abused. How would you get over that hurdle?
JT: There’s really not a way around just beginning to be honest. We would hope that they have a relationship or a couple of friends that they could be honest with.
Obviously we think counseling is a great first step, and counseling is really the best-case scenario in terms of being private and confidential and with someone who is qualified and has a unique perspective to hear those things and speak about those things. I think the hardest part is just breaking the ice, is just making that appointment or just saying it for the first time.
But I think we’ve seen great results and heard great stories when people begin to do that. My first advice would be, whether starting with a friend or stepping into counseling, just to begin to be honest and not to be alone in that broken place in that part of their story.
TV: How important is friendship for someone who has experienced sexual violence?
JT: One of the things that we talk about a ton is community and the idea that everybody deserves a support system, and everybody deserves people they can be honest with and where they don’t have to fake it, where they can instead be real. Folks who know their questions and their struggles.
TV: Is there anything you would like to add to that?
JT: We just find that a lot of people feel alone, and we’ve seen such amazing things happen when people begin to realize that it’s okay to talk about whatever they’re going through.