Culture Shock My Bag

An Advocate’s Bag | Kim Towler

NAME: Joanna Flanagan

AGE: 25

Occupation: Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention Specialist, Central Connecticut State University Office of Victim Advocacy

Location: New Britain, Connecticut

I started my career when I was still in college at the University of Hartford while working at the local YWCA Sexual Assault Crisis Service. I began at CCSU in November 2018, and my bag and I moved into the new building at Central in the beginning of January.

I am a Sexual Assault Crisis Counselor/Advocate and a sexual assault and violence prevention specialist. Half of my job is doing prevention education programs. I do the Title IX training for faculty and staff, then training for students, which could be bystander training for clubs or classroom presentations.

Photo Credit: Kim Towler for Blue Muse Magazine

Training Bag | I always think of myself as an advocate whether or not I have the certification, so my bag has advocacy resource materials. I try to speak out for things I believe in and support people who need it, regardless of what they’re going through. I’m the go-to person on campus for people who have experienced interpersonal violence, so I know that it’s not always easy to talk to someone you haven’t met. But I want people to feel comfortable when they come in here. When I meet with someone, I don’t go in with any sort of agenda. My goal is to figure out how that person is doing and how I can support them.

There are two sides to my job, so my bag is really three or four bags. My bag has what I need to keep me organized and also the materials for our prevention education program. I carry around pens and paper so I can take notes, though I also carry different emergency supplies: safety pins, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, and toothpaste.

Photo Credit: Kim Towler for Blue Muse Magazine

Favorite Things | I always have information about the office. If I need to do a presentation I’ll have a bunch of folders that include brochures, PowerPoint slides, resources, and plenty of candy. Those are helpful when giving a presentation. It’s nice to have something to snack on, something sweet, especially since we’re talking about things that are not always sweet and happy. So I try to counteract it with chocolate. I do love my Reese’s Cups.

I have my presentation counters and the clicker. It connects to all the slides, which I find very helpful. I tend to move around while I talk. This way I can be more interactive with my audience. I don’t have to stand behind the computer and hit a button. Plus, the clicker has a laser pointer, which is just fun.

I also use the tea video which we show during orientation and Title IX training. It puts consent in a different perspective by using the metaphor that you wouldn’t force someone to drink tea when they don’t want to. It’s looking at all those situations where consent isn’t something that is implied. You still have to ask regardless of past experiences; you can’t make assumptions. You always have to ask to get a yes. I’ve seen this video so many times that I have it memorized.

Photo Credit: Kim Towler for Blue Muse Magazine

Education Lit | We have our student-driven Stand Up CCSU campaign coming up this April. It’s an ongoing campaign that the school has done for a few years. I’ve attended some of the talks of guest speakers that Stand Up has brought. The community organizing experience is something I really love about doing prevention work. People in that community coming up with ideas to make their own community better is really powerful for prevention.

I’m here to help with whatever students need help with: accommodations for academic support, connections with mental health resources, or if they just need someone to listen. I feel really proud of the work that this office does. It’s important that we have a space like this and I feel hopeful that people find it helpful and that those who need support know that they can come here. I definitely feel proud of that.


Kim Towler is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine. 

Blue Muse Magazine is a general interest literary magazine published by the students of the English Department at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut. We publish poetry, fiction, and a gamut of creative nonfiction on anything and everything the blue muse inspires us to write.

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