To tell my story as a date rape survivor and communicate my message in a way that can help the most people.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

NOVA Conference Workshop

A few months ago after submitting for the 2nd year in a row I was chosen to conduct a workshop at the annual (National Organization for Victim Assistance) NOVA Conference. I was excited, honored, nervous among many other adjectives since this was going to be my first workshop. It's content would be me sharing my story of date rape, the legal process, counseling and life following from a victim's point of view to an audience of professionals mostly made up of victim's advocates.

The 41st NOVA Conference was held in Dallas this year and it would be a whirlwind 2 days for me flying in on Tuesday afternoon to check in, get acquainted, on Wednesday attend other workshop/events, then it would be my turn to speak. We were set up at the beautiful Intercontinental Hotel with the entire Ballroom floor and I was surrounded by other attendees wherever I went feeling right at home with all these compassionate people who understand me and what I've been through. 

Wednesday morning was a Victim's Tribute with speakers who had impressive resume's and numerous awards. There was song and dance presented by two very talented women and a father from MADD who lost his precious son to a drunk driver and shared his story and memories. I had a chance to briefly speak with him after as his son & have the same birthday which immediately made me feel connected to him. The event ended with a beautiful candlelight ceremony that represented all categories of victim's and their survivors.

Then I went back to my room to mentally prepare for my speech which was scheduled from 1:00-2:30 pm. The previous day I scouted out my room/venue to become familiar with the layout so I knew what I would be walking into that afternoon. This workshop would be the longest time frame to fill since I began speaking over 6 years ago but although anxious it would allow me to share many details I sometimes can't due to time constraints. As the 1:00 hour approached I gathered up the few materials I had along with myself and made my way down to The Spectrum room.

Before entering my room I was greeted by my assigned volunteer, a lovely woman, who was going to take care of distributing my presentation handouts to the room full of participants prior to my speech and as they departed handing out the Workshop sticker for the conference booklet so the attendees could document each one completed. The room was nearly full and as I set myself up it approached capacity just before I began speaking with a few joining in the minutes after I started. The room was perfect for the type of workshop I was running which was me telling my story and no use of the AV or Flip chart provided. It was intimate and filled with an estimated 75 NOVA members. 

After introducing myself and laying out what my objectives were for the workshop I began telling my story and filled it with as many specifics as possible hoping there was something in it to benefit each and every participant somehow. During particular high and low points of the details I shared the group would react which I found very comforting. They were in this with me from start to finish and I liked that very much. I remember looking down at my watch to get a sense of where I was in time and an hour had passed by seemingly effortlessly. At this point I could reassess how to bring it all together leaving 15 minutes for Q & A. These were much different questions than posed to me by college students welcoming the challenge to answer them efficiently. 

Relieved and satisfied when it was over I was greeted by many thanking me for telling my story and others sharing stories of their own or asking additional questions. They were an amazing group of women and men making me feel as if I contributed positively to the subject which was my only goal. I took a moment to accept my success for having done something new and different that I ultimately enjoyed. 

Before leaving the conference there was a closing ceremony I wanted to attend since I was only there for a day and a half it was important that I experience everything I could in that short period of time. Even more people approached me in the lobby area and inside the ballroom saying that had attended my workshop offering kind words. 

What I got out of this was knowing I can expand my speaking horizons and that it's something I would like to do again. I left the conference and Dallas very happy!

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