My Summer at Safe Alliance - Niyathi Sulkunte '22

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Over the summer, I interned with Safe Alliance. I would describe the experience as a classic Levine experience. The “classic” Levine experience is one that allows me to help people while also creating new opportunities for myself. I feel that Levine has really allowed me to take chances on opportunities that I would not normally even consider. That ability for constant exploration has helped me to discover a new path for myself that combines many things that I enjoy doing. 

I looked into Safe Alliance and was interested in their counseling program for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. I was interested in this branch of their organization because it is related to my psychology major. I really wanted to use this summer internship to determine if I was interested in clinical psychology work. I also wanted to see if I could handle the emotional distress that accompanies this work, because I know that I am a very empathetic person. 

After my interview with Safe Alliance, I learned that I would only be allowed to work in their court advocacy program since I did not have the training to work with the counselors. I was a bit nervous because I was not really interested in legal work nor did I have any experience in court. In hindsight, I could not have asked for a better experience because working with the organization led me to add the criminal justice major. 

The very first day on the job, I made sure to walk in with a completely open mind. My goal was to learn as much as possible. With a good attitude, patience, and flexibility, I was able to truly assist Safe Alliance with its mission of helping the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. I attended court all day so that the advocates at the office could focus on their paperwork or taking in new clients. 

Domestic violence can happen to absolutely anyone. It does not matter your gender, socioeconomic status, race, age, or ethnicity. The emotional side of this was the hardest part of the internship. It was difficult reading the terrible things that our clients had gone through. Even the size of the case files was difficult. Large case files showed how many times people had been in court without getting any closer to justice. 

As hard as it was to see cases like this, I realized that I was capable of handling it. I learned how to turn that pain and empathy into something constructive. I realized that crying would not solve anything but being there for people in court, and trying to get them to the resources they needed, was something that I could actually do to help. Along with learning about myself, I also learned a lot about the community I was serving. 

Even though I saw a lot of the bad parts of humanity during my six weeks working at Safe Alliance, I also saw a lot of good. I saw how many challenges people could overcome. I saw strength and resilience in the face of adversity. I saw a client who was going through a very complicated and emotionally difficult case of her own attend a friend’s court case to provide support. I saw a victim who was homeless and representing herself win her case against a defense lawyer in court. I saw people take back their power.