Nearby teen regarded with governor’s Pathfinder award for sex abuse activism


A Lebanon County teen is continuing the work she commenced previous yr, when she led an hard work to give new voice to survivors of sexual assault.

Amaya Rodriguez, who is now just a number of months shy of 19, was 1 of 6 recipients in November 2022 of a Governor’s Sufferer Company Pathfinder Award, the most prestigious award that Pennsylvania presents to a victim services specialist or method.

For Rodriguez, it started off as a venture with good friends to arrange a sexual assault protest in the group. Her fledgling initiatives led her to the Sexual Assault Source & Counseling Heart, a Lebanon County sexual assault program, and her diligence and devotion to her induce encouraged SARCC president and CEO Ali Perrotto to nominate Rodriguez for the award.

“It can take good braveness to talk out,” Perrotto stated in a press release. “Sexual violence is a popular and popular challenge in our community and in the point out of Pennsylvania. Younger folks are the age group at finest chance for violence and victimization. Still, it is very hard for a younger human being to disclose activities of abuse and sexual assault, to be thought, connected with sources, and to locate assistance. Amaya labored hard to attract on her personal ordeals and all those of her friends to make clear the worries confronted by teenager survivors.”

Perrotto recollects her to start with encounters with Rodriguez, when she was preparing her initially protest.

“She found and attained out to SARCC,” Perrotto advised LebTown. “She was wanting for means for survivors of sexual assault. She needed to know what sources ended up readily available.”

The firm has labored in collaboration with Lebanon Valley College or university on former situations, she claimed, but these kinds of initiative from a higher faculty student is uncommon.

“She’s a extremely intelligent, nicely-spoken younger female,” Perrotto included. “She cares a ton about this problem. … Getting active and advocating for some others is something that motivates her. Which is something that has ongoing to glow as a result of as I’ve gotten to know her greater.”

Starting to be an activist

Her journey began in January 2022, when Rodriguez took her initial methods towards getting to be an activist. The plan had been percolating for a couple months, she explained.

“I desired to discuss up on circumstances that no one desired to speak about in Lebanon. Sensitive matters,” she described. “Just due to the fact I’m a sufferer myself and I have not experienced a ton of luck when it will come to social justice.”

Her possess encounters manufactured her sense helpless, and she did not want that emotion to keep on, she claimed.

“I did not want to experience alone,” Rodriguez stated. “All the comments I bought, no matter if it was household or police, made me sense like my case was not heading anyplace. I needed to choose issues into my individual hands and spread some awareness.”

And, although she feels like she never received the justice she sought in a lawful feeling, Rodriguez however feels the electricity of her accomplishments simply by “seeing myself surrounded by individuals who feel me and guidance me 100%.”

Speaking up and turning into an activist took her “out of my consolation zone,” she reported. “Some men and women imagined I was bluffing, or I was just wanting for interest. … But I trapped with it.”

The notion guiding her first designs for a protest, she said, was the idea of bringing people today with each other to share their tales.

The event that grew from her took area on April 8 on the 8th and Lehman street side of Monument Park. Though she described the turnout as “a handful,” Rodriguez explained there “were a lot of individuals I didn’t be expecting coming. I obtained a whole lot of recognition on social media.”

“I believe it went pretty effectively,” she additional. “A lot of folks had been participating in conversations. A ton of folks spoke out on their stories. It was motivating. It produced all of us slide linked. … It was a single of the purist times of my lifetime.”

She spoke out because she “needed to,” she mentioned. She never envisioned to be recognized for her endeavours or acquire an award for it.

The award, she mentioned, “definitely showed that some folks noticed possible in me.”

‘A survivor turned thriver’

The Pennsylvania Commission on Criminal offense and Delinquency presented the Pathfinder Award to Rodriguez all through a digital award ceremony in November. Rodriguez exclusively was recognized as an Excellent Pupil Activist for 2022.

According to a press release, nominees for the Superb Scholar Activist Award have to be full- or portion-time learners or, if they graduated within the previous 12 months, their accomplishments have to have happened whilst they ended up nonetheless in college. Activism cited in the nomination does not have to be conducted at school, even so.

The nominator need to detail for the committee techniques in which the nominee made a noticeable contribution and effects on the sufferer products and services motion in Pennsylvania, how the nominee’s spirit of empowerment has been reflected in their activism initiatives, and ways in which the nominee has engaged others to become associated in their activism attempts to support victims of crime.

According to the release, Rodriguez’s original approach for a protest evolved about time into the general public College student Converse Out event at Monument Park. She also fulfilled with college administrators and the Title IX coordinator, county officers, and nearby law enforcement to share her experiences, the targets of the function, and the desires of teen survivors.

In partnership with her school principal, Rodriguez developed a community company online video to educate students on the basic principles of sexual assault, choices for reporting and lodging by Title IX, and approaches that students can request for support working with the statewide Secure2Say plan. Title IX governs issues of discrimination, sexual harassment and other sorts of misconduct.

Amaya Rodriguez poses with the 2022 Governor’s Sufferer Company Pathfinder Award.

In her nomination, Perrotto mentioned Rodriguez “is an superb youthful lady, a survivor turned thriver, and a voice for good social alter for young survivors of sexual assault in our area school district and the community. She warrants recognition her for initiatives as a student activist each in her university district, and in the group at big.”

“It took numerous several hours of study, preparing, and brave and client discussions with reps of school administration, regulation enforcement, and regional town and county officers to explain the problems that survivors working experience and the realities and impacts of not becoming thought in the school or group location,” Perrotto wrote in her nomination.

“When individuals get the job done in different systems serving victims of violent criminal offense, it is occasionally complicated to see earlier their quick roles and obligations to the much larger, holistic effect on a survivor. Amaya diligently served a terrific number of adults in her community and the methods she operates in to superior recognize the requires, impacts, and negative consequences that a challenging procedure can have on a survivor of sexual violence.”

‘Meaningful and important’

Perrotto explained to LebTown that Rodriquez seemed at very first blush like anyone who not only talked a excellent activity but would follow by means of with her targets.

“SARCC as an group will work with individuals of all ages. We have a extended background of doing the job even with baby survivors of sexual abuse, and there are usually troubles and obstacles to doing that work,” she reported. “Sometimes we see them a great deal, occasionally we really don’t.”

Rodriguez, she claimed, “seemed honest. She was on the lookout for assist in the group, ways to help other pupils and younger people who have been struggling to locate connections. That demonstrates grit to me. Serious creativeness, finding to the base of what she was seeking for.

“Sometimes we don’t give young people today ample credit. Have confidence in that what they are seeking for is significant and essential.”

Amaya Rodriguez is proven in the course of a digital presentation of the 2022 Governor’s Target Provider Pathfinder Award.

In a culture where by victims of sexual assault typically are not believed or are blamed for their have abuse, “it can take a ton of persistence” to keep performing towards a goal, Perrotto additional. Rodriguez, she said, was surely persistent.

“She correctly prepared a converse-out party. That is a fairly meaningful matter,” she said. “It was attended by younger persons, her friends, and grownup neighborhood users as properly. Any time a survivor communicate out comes about, you can sense the palpable electric power that it usually takes to share your activities. It can take a ton of bravery to say that out loud — that can be a extremely healing knowledge for a group, and for the individual as properly.

“I was definitely amazed the way she worked so tricky to learn and have an understanding of so many distinct devices. Folks she interacted with didn’t know how to get aid. She investigated the scholar handout to understand about reporting possibilities. Those people are major issues.”

The Pathfinder “is regarded as a realty prestigious award in the local community company circle. It’s one thing to be observed and celebrated,” Perrotto extra.

“Sometimes when you are advocating for your legal rights as your target, it can be awkward. It can be awkward for the survivors, it can be unpleasant for the programs they’re functioning in,” she said. Rodriguez, nevertheless, has “stuck close to as a university student intern. It’s been a studying working experience for us, too. We have not experienced large school internships ahead of. But she’s intrigued in continuing to discover additional about the difficulty. She’s intrigued in organizing additional speak-out activities in the foreseeable future.”

‘I truly get pleasure from serving to people’

A previous Lebanon Significant Faculty scholar, Rodriguez is finishing her senior yr by way of cyberschool. Following graduating, she programs to proceed her advocacy get the job done and activism with SARCC though attending school sooner or later, she hopes to go after a career in regulation enforcement or social get the job done.

In the meantime, she’s not performed with the do the job she commenced very last year. Because the celebration in April, Rodriguez has been focusing on faculty in anticipation of graduating this spring. She also grew to become an intern at SARCC to continue on her advocacy perform.

“We are planning to do something in the spring. I simply cannot tell you the specifics still,” she said. “But what I did previous year definitely wasn’t the close.”

She isn’t absolutely sure however what her foreseeable future holds.

“As lifestyle goes by, I might want to do a thing various,” she stated. “But for now, this is surely want to pursue. This would seem to be what I want to do with my daily life.

“I truly love serving to folks. I enjoy serving to people to speak out on their truths. I enjoy the work I’m doing.”

Sexual violence survivors in Lebanon and Schuylkill counties can hook up with no-price tag advocacy, counseling, and treatment solutions by getting in touch with SARCC at 717-272-5308.

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