Alumna Aids Domestic Violence Survivors

Moriah Cummings, Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy | June 22, 2015
Alumna Aids Domestic Violence Survivors

In order to prevent sexual violence and shift societal norms, we have to start younger.

A 2014 graduate of the Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy graduate program, Krystal Rohloff is now working in Attorney General Maura Healey’s office addressing the financial costs of domestic violence crime.

Q: You were recently promoted; can you tell us about your new job and what you do?

A: I am now an Investigator/Advocate for the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.  I look into the expenses that victims of violent crime incur and make recommendations for financial compensation. Some of the expenses we can cover are crime-related medical, dental, mental health, funeral/burial, and lost wages. We also serve as a connector to outside resources if they are having problems we cannot fully service.

Q: What inspired you to do this kind of work?

A: I am a survivor of sexual violence, I was assaulted while in college. Shortly after, I began volunteering at the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, as a hotline counselor. While there I found that I had a true passion for this type of work and wanted to dedicate my life to addressing this issue. At the time I became aware of the Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy graduate program, my focus was on sexual violence on college campuses and its prevention. The GLPP program allowed me to research this issue and run with it.

Q: Does your work ever get overwhelming?

A: (laughs) Yes, most definitely. It’s just an occupational hazard. Due to my personal experiences, I do sometimes get triggered by some of the experiences that my claimants share with me. This can be emotionally exhausting work. Some people who come through our program are angry--and it’s understandable as they have just undergone an incredibly difficult and life-changing experience--but sometimes that anger is directed at us because our program is limited. The reports we read daily are very heavy. In order to deal with both of these things, one has to be extremely diligent about self-care. I’m also incredibly lucky that my coworkers are an awesome support network and a great resource.

Q: One of our graduate program’s components is the placement of all students in an internship that reflects their career interests. Where did you intern?

A: I interned at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health: Sexual Assault Prevention and Survivor Services and also at the Institute of New England Native American Studies where we attempted to obtain funding for a culturally specific sexual violence prevention program. So these were the perfect placements for my interests.

Q: The program has helped launch the careers of nearly 750 distinguished alumni.  Many, including yourself, are now working in government. Why do you think this is so important?

A: I think women bring a specific viewpoint that needs to be recognized and heard in government. The way government operates now, there is an obvious lack of diversity and that is negatively affecting the change we need to see. We need women sitting in these decision-making positions now more than ever.

Q: Sexual violence continues to be a pervasive issue in Massachusetts; is it getting better or worse? And what can other sectors do to help?

A: Massachusetts administers between 1100-1300 rape kits a year and we at Victim Compensation only receive a portion of those cases, roughly around 20%. Although our application is in each of these kits, the survivors themselves have to mail us a completed application which is a huge barrier because--let’s be honest--this is probably one of the last things on their minds after such a traumatic event. With such a low percentage coming into our program, this could mean there is a large population of victims survivors that are not having their financial needs met. Legally, they are not supposed to get billed for these rape kits. Currently, we are working on a direct billing system with the hospitals so these survivors never have to see these bills and so that these expenses are being paid.

Q: What do you hope happens next? Where do we go from here?

A: In order to prevent sexual violence and shift societal norms, we have to start younger. Kids are forming their ideas of sexuality and relationships at a young age--generally around middle school age. Once you reach college, it is harder to educate people who already have their opinions formed, some of which can be very distorted. I would advocate for the sexual education programs in Massachusetts to be updated and to include an evidence-based sexual violence prevention component.

Q: Any words of wisdom to future students in the program?

A: Do the most amount of work you can while you’re here. Take advantage of all opportunities that are presented to you. Go big or go home, I guess. That is how I live my life these days. And always do something you’re passionate about. Because what is the point if you are not?

Tags: alumni , domestic violence , domestic violence survivors , gender, leadership, and public policy program , mccormack graduate school

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