Hola! My name is Amanda Paulino. I was born and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but I recently moved to DC after graduating from college! This May, I got my Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.
Coming from the Dominican Republic, I was raised in a society heavily marked by machismo, in which men felt like they could do whatever they pleased with their spouses because they felt entitled to them. Women dying at the hands of their significant others, unfortunately, is a common occurrence. I have always wanted to make a positive change in others’ lives: When I was eight, I told my third-grade class I wanted to be a women’s rights activist when I grew up. My interest in working with survivors of intimate partner abuse stems from my belief that each and every survivor has the capacity to break the cycle and transform their lives. I am here because I want to make a difference: I want to educate others and change the way they think, and I want to change lives for the better.
I hope that this internship gives me the knowledge and insight required to work at a similar program back home. While I can recall various programs in the past that sought to bring awareness to domestic violence, none of them have been particularly successful. Once I gain the experience required, I hope to change the dialogue in Santo Domingo.
My name is Riya Thekdi, I am currently a graduate student at GW studying forensic science. I love to explore new places, and look forward to getting to know DC.
Becky’s Fund actively works to advocate, gain awareness, and educate victims and prior abusers. By the organization’s acknowledgment of the nuances and cultural influences involved with crime, better solutions are implemented. This insightful way of approaching solutions is why I am interested in working with this organization.
In the future, I hope I will be able to build a career with my forensic science degree. The knowledge I gain from this internship, such as current issues and legal issues, will teach me to react better as a professional.
My time at Becky’s Fund has given me invaluable skills and experiences that I will be able to take with me as I progress into my professional career. Perhaps my favorite experience from my internship was leading the Becoming Your Own Heroine workshop. When I was a young girl, I had no one to talk to about the questions I had in regards to sex, consent, dating, and sexual assault. Lack of education led to a lot of misinformation and feelings of shame on my part, which shaped my adolescent years. Being able to create open, candid dialogues with these girls meant a lot to me. As I lead the workshop, I saw my younger self in each and everyone of the girls. I am a firm believer that one of the best ways to change our cultural attitudes is through education and outreach. I’m proud to say that I was able to make a difference.
In addition, I also worked on the Take a Stand, Make a Splash swimsuit fashion show fundraiser event. During the summer, I reached out to Lisa Opie of Vizcaya Swimwear, a fellow VCU alum, who agreed to donate her swimwear line to our event. Lisa’s interests intersected with our mission at Becky’s Fund. As a bullying victim, she rose above the negativity and eventually started a women’s empowerment blog. After contacting her, she even decided to feature Becky Lee on her blog. It was truly an honor putting together this event. Unlike other fashion shows, that only show off a certain body type that is often unattainable, this fashion show highlights the strength and diversity of the female body.
I also conducted research about domestic violence. As the daughter of two marines, I grew up in the military brat lifestyle. However, I was unaware of the rampant sexual assault problems and the barriers survivors face. Unlike civilian judicial systems, discretion is given mainly to the commanding officer, who often times are close to the perpetrator. Because of this most cases are not even investigated, and often times the survivor will be charged with misconduct, underage drinking, or even be discharged from the military all together. Survivors in the military seem to be one of the most ignored groups and it’s inspired me to look into becoming a victim support advocate.
All in all my time at Becky’s Fund was amazing. This internship solidified my decision to work in the nonprofit world for the rest of my career. I also felt very blessed to be a part of an awesome group of summer interns. This summer I took a few days off to deal with a personal matter and when I came back I saw two cards on my desk: a birthday card and a “thinking of you” card, signed by all the interns. Thanks to Maya, Emily, Meghana, and Andy for making this summer awesome and thank you to Becky for the amazing opportunity.
The work I have done this summer has been unlike any I’ve done in the past. I’ve been frustrated, sad, and discouraged. But I’ve also been uplifted, happy and hopeful. I am very thankful for my time here and the ways it has strengthened me.
I realized that sexual education is absolutely my passion and that I want to continue with it whether through advocacy or teaching. Working with the football team every week through Men of Code opened my eyes to the lack of knowledge students have about consent and healthy relationships. Though the things they would sometimes say upset me, I was determined to change their minds. Through the surveys we gave during each lesson, I was humbled to see their attitudes shift on these topics. In addition, I rewrote the curriculum for Men of Code to be comprehensive for anyone, regardless of their teaching experience or knowledge of the topic. I am really proud of this project, as it took me the entire summer to complete, and I believe it will really help the program facilitators in the future.
As for the research I conducted through my university, I have learned a lot about the impacts of rape culture on college campuses and the ways it silences victims of dating violence. If our society continues to place blame on survivors and those trapped in cycles of abuse, our ability to help them through the experience and recovery is limited. In particular, the lack of education about consent, relationships, and bystander intervention continue to perpetuate negative attitudes and violence. When I return to campus, I am determined to continue looking at these obstacles in prevention and response as well as work with my university and community to better respond to these situations.
In my time at Becky’s Fund, I have grown as a friend, a mentor and an advocate. I’ve learned I am more than any violence I once faced and I am better than the societal expectations that attempt to silence me and others. I’ve worked with and learned from an incredible team of individuals, all very different from one another, who came together for a greater purpose- to end domestic violence. This team has shown me more encouragement, support and love than I ever expected and it makes me sad that I won’t see them all everyday. Yet they have inspired me to change the world, and I’m forever grateful for that.
My time at Becky’s Fund has been a truly eye-opening and exceptional experience. I remember waking up in June on my first day of work, having no idea what to expect and as nervous as I have been for anything in my life. However, all of my concerns quickly vanished upon my arrival to the office as I was welcomed with open arms by Becky and the other interns. I knew early on that this summer would be unlike anything I have experienced in the past.
I came into the internship knowing that I would be helping to facilitate the Men of Code program, but that was about it. Having minimal experience working with issues surrounding IPV, my initial tasks revolved around researching, studying, and getting acclimated within the field. More specifically, I began by researching collegiate and professional athletes that have perpetrated domestic or sexual violence, and how these cases were handled. Before this, I knew that in some instances, these crimes were swept under the rug by institutions in order to protect the athlete, but I had no idea of the frequency that this occurred. I quickly became aware of many studies and statistics regarding athletes and IPV, and I have been able to bring this new found knowledge to the students in the Men of Code program.
Once the last week of June came, the majority of my time with Becky’s Fund was spent at Friendship Collegiate Academy teaching the Men of Code program. Other than obvious difficulties with attendance due to summer vacation, the program proved to be a transformable experience for not only the boys, but also for my co-facilitator, Malik, and myself. I plan on taking everything that I have learned through my experience with Becky’s Fund and Men of Code back to Dickinson College and my lacrosse team. As men, and leaders on our campus, we have a responsibility to help influence change.
All in all, my time at Becky’s Fund has been very positive. I am extremely grateful for having been given the opportunity to come work at this great organization, and for the amazing people I have had the chance to work alongside with during the summer. I have learned so much during this experience, and I will take everything with me as I continue to navigate through life. I cannot thank Becky enough for this opportunity, and I wish her, and her organization, the best of luck as they continue to make strides in IPV prevention and support.
This summer at Becky’s Fund has been unlike any summer I’ve had before and, I suspect, unlike any summer I will have again. I learned firsthand how exciting, unpredictable and consuming life at a small nonprofit organization can be.
When I was younger, I assumed that there would be a stark divide between my life and my work. At Becky’s Fund, I learned that this line blurs when you truly care about what you do. Although I was already passionate about women’s issues when I arrived, I quickly set to work educating myself about domestic violence (IPV). My work with the women, survivors and students at Becky’s Fund provided me with a crash-course in IPV: what it looks like, why it occurs and how we can prevent it. I can confidently say that this education has changed my life because I am now a dedicated and determined advocate for all survivors of IPV.
At Becky’s Fund, I did research on gun violence, IPV within the LGBTQ+ population, domestic abuse law, teen dating violence, women’s empowerment and more. I reworked the curriculum for the girl’s workshop Becoming Your Own Heroine with all the new information I was learning. I directed, produced and edited videos about these issues in an effort to raise awareness. I edited and wrote grants. I edited the Becky’s Fund website pages with updated statistics and resources. I updated the social media accounts. I took photos at Men of Code and other events. I even did statistics based on the data from Men of Code and Becoming Your Own Heroine. Most importantly, I did all of this with the intensity and zeal of a young woman who really cared about her job’s cause.
My favorite experience at Becky’s Fund was teaching the Becoming Your Own Heroine workshop. Clarissa, my co-teacher, and I stood in front of a room of 14–16 year old girls and taught them about women’s empowerment. We explored topics such as dating violence, consent, sexual assault, gender norms and digital abuse — all while laughing, sharing personal stories and bonding. It was gratifying to watch the curriculum, which Clarissa and I had spent weeks working on, come to life. I hope that the next time one of those girls confronts an abusive situation, or even just a piece of media that depicts women poorly, they think of what Clarissa and I taught them.
I am grateful to the women (and man — thanks, Andy) that I worked with this summer at Becky’s Fund. Becky and her phenomenal team have inspired me to be a better version of myself.
During my time at Becky’s Fund, I developed a variety of helpful skills that I believe will benefit me in my future career. Through my research, I expanded my previous knowledge about the gender asymmetry of domestic violence. I also came to a much more in depth understanding of the intersection between race, professional athletics, and violence, when I explored the media’s portrayal of professional athletes who have committed violent acts. In addition, I developed deeper knowledge of the risk factors for domestic violence perpetration and explored various theoretical models that attempt to explain the root causes of violence. This research enabled me to strengthen my comprehension of what topics prevention education programs need to directly address if they would like to adequately prevent violence.
In addition, when I worked on the issues of coerced debt, financial abuse, and joint bank accounts in violent relationships, I was able to improve my teamwork skills as I worked collaboratively with an expert in finance.
My research and evaluation of the Men of Code program has helped me to utilize my quantitative research skills in a real-life setting. Being able to witness the actual prevention education program also helps me to connect what I have read in the literature and what trends I see in the data with actual people. Finally, working directly in workshops with young girls and also with college students as a facilitator has improved my knowledge of the gaps that exist in our culture as far as understanding healthy relationships, conflict resolution, and the dynamics of abuse.
In general, I feel that I have made significant connections between the various theoretical explanations for violence and the actual prevention work that is necessary to end it and I hope to apply this connections in my future work.