Lindsey Silverberg, an Advocate for Victims

Read about Lindsey Silverberg, a case manager for the Network for Victim Recovery of DC..  She is an advocate for victims of sexual assault and dedicates her time to supporting and assisting victims of these heinous crimes. Below is the full profile written for my feature writing journalism class. There is also a link to the abridged version, which has been published on The Odyssey Online.

 

Ever since Lindsey Silverberg had an “ah-ha” moment in her victimology class at the University of Maryland, she knew she wanted to help victims of sexual assault and gender-based crime.

“I can remember sitting in class and being really fascinated with the intersectionality of crime and victimization and reasons for that and I was just like ‘this is what I want to do’ it just kind of clicked,” Silverberg said.

For much of her post-graduate life, Silverberg, 28, has been involved in the research of and has worked with victims of gender-based crime and sexual assault. Now, she works as an advocacy and outreach supervisor for the Network for Victim Recovery of DC (NVRDC).

She often is on-call and responds to late-night and early-morning phone calls from the hospital when victims come in. Silverberg is there for them from the moment they walk in to future court dates and safety planning. She becomes their advocate and provides them with a network of support.

Silverberg was a criminology and criminal justice major and women’s studies minor and had taken and been a teaching assistant for several gender studies and victimology classes. During her senior year her interest grew and she began working for Campus Advocates Respond and Educate (CARE) to Stop Violence, an on-campus organization. There she responded to victims of abuse, assault and stalking.

While working, her personal life began spilling over to her work life. Along with dealing with victims in an official capacity, Silverberg said her friends unofficially would disclose incidents of their sexual assaults; she found these reports especially hard because she knew the victim and many times, the offender as well.

“There were a couple of offenders that I was pretty close to before I found out that they were raping people,” Silverberg said. “That’s why I think for a lot of people it [reporting sexual assault] is so scary because [people are] like ‘I don’t believe you because he seems like such a good guy, or he’s super popular or he’s in this fraternity, why or how would he ever do that?’”

Silverberg said that it was because of this that she felt the need to take some time off from direct victim services.

“It was really apparent to me that I needed to take a break, at least from direct services. Given how small the [University of] Maryland community is, I knew a lot of both the survivors on campus and the offenders and that was really challenging to navigate while being a student,” Silverberg said.

Silverberg graduated from the university in 2007 and attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she studied criminology and public health and graduated with her master’s degree in 2010.

While at UNC Wilmington, Silverberg conducted much of her research on sexual assault in the military, a topic she thought was particularly interesting and one with very little published research. She recognizes that men also are victims of sexual assault in the military, but finds it more horrifying for women, since they have joined a male-dominated organization, are risking their lives to defend their country and are being sexually assaulted.

Almost all of her papers were about sexual assault and sexual assault in the military. For her thesis she looked at attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that would make someone more likely to perpetrate sexual assault specific to the military population. She surveyed students that were veterans or on active duty. Unfortunately, Silverberg said that because of the small sample size she was unable to find anything significant.

She did however, gain the military’s attention, and it wasn’t favorable. Officials reported her to the Institutional Review Board, the organization that approves research studies, and accused of calling military people rapists and unpatriotic. Fortunately, nothing came of the allegations.

“It was an interesting experience to have happen given the fact that it was such a volatile environment surrounding the fact that I was looking at what would make somebody more likely to perpetrate sexual assault,” Silverberg said.

After graduating, Silverberg worked in the public health sector for two years, at Danya International Inc., a for-profit organization that helps people live healthier lives, in Silver Spring, Md.. She managed small business innovative research grants for children with autism and life-threatening illnesses.

Silverberg enjoyed her time working with the children and families she met through Danya International, but she explained, “It wasn’t what fueled me,” so she applied to work with NVRDC, where she officially began two years ago.

She started as a case manager and worked her way to outreach services. Her job varies depending if she is in the office or on-call. As part of her job, Silverberg needs to be on call several times a month for 24 hours in case a victim comes into the hospital in need of her services. She meets with the victim and stays with her through a medical forensic exam and provides support. If necessary, she offers emergency housing, safety planning and any additional resources the victim needs.

When she isn’t on call, Silverberg attends court cases with victims, following up with clients and detectives or working on the Poly-Victimization grant, an NRVDC research project exploring why victims who suffer an attack are at greater risk for experiencing another one.

Silverberg acknowledges the mental, physical and emotional toll this job takes on her.

“Not every day is a great day in this work,” Silverberg said.

During a particularly hard day, Silverberg remembers the good things that happen as part of her job. She gets to see how resilient people are in the aftermath of something terrible, and how empowered they become to move on. She speaks of one survivor she helped, with whom she stays in touch. She was the second victim she helped.

“It’s amazing to see how far she’s come since [the attack] happened. She’s such an inspiration,” Silverberg said. “It’s cool to see when someone takes a life event that’s been so terrible and figures out a way to make something positive out of it.”

Her family is very supportive, , especially her husband Ryan. They met when both worked in a local bar near the University of Maryland’s campus. She didn’t like him at first, but went out with him anyway and changed her mind. They got engaged in 2009 and married twice – once before Ryan deployed to Afghanistan and after he got back and she finished grad school The second wedding was a lot bigger and fancier than their original courthouse nuptials.

Silverberg wasn’t always very open about what she did. In the beginning, fearing peoples’ reactions, she avoided discussing her work. Instead, she made things up- telling people she was a storm chaser and worked for “National Geographic.” Later, however, she willingly talked about her experiences.

Now, “I’m proud of what I do,” Silverberg said.

The Network for Victim Recovery of D.C.

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