My name is Samantha (Sam) Olarsch, and I am a rising senior (class of 2019). I am currently a Sociology major and Education Studies minor, with hopes to pursue my Masters in Social Work upon graduation. For the past six weeks, I have had the great privilege of interning with New Horizons Domestic Violence Services, a non-profit in Middletown, Connecticut that is one of the programs run by the Community Health Center here in Middletown and one of eighteen agencies within the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Before I was able to begin working in shelter, I went through a comprehensive 25-hour training that certified me as a DV Counselor. This interactive training taught me the basics of case management, crisis intervention, trauma-informed care, dynamics of power and control, types of abuse, what healthy v.s. unhealthy v.s abusive relationships look like, the difference between protective and restraining orders and the Lethality Assessment Program (which is specific to Connecticut!)
Because our team is small, consisting of eight incredibly dedicated and passionate women, every day looks a little bit different and depends on the needs of the advocates, so this work certainly requires an open mind and a willingness to be flexible. Sometimes, I find myself playing hide and go seek or taking outings to the park, but this play-based therapy establishes a sense of normalcy and stability for kids who have been traumatized by familial violence and are uprooted from their homes. I am qualified to conduct initial trauma screenings and then work to build trust with each individual child, and ease the transition for them as they enter our 60 day shelter. Other times, I shadow hotline calls and shelter intakes (sometimes I even get to answer) for victims and survivors fleeing domestic violence, and work hands-on with clients to help them access social services including healthcare, educational opportunities, day care and diaper banks if needed, transportation, housing, legal representation, citizenship services, and prospective employment. Our client base is incredibly diverse with women from all walks of life and those coping with multiple vulnerabilities, specifically mental health issues, traumatic brain injuries and substance abuse and addiction, therefore we practice trauma-informed care in every interaction. Throughout the work day, I gather research on reproductive coercion, the intersections of sexual assault and domestic violence, implications for restorative practices in domestic violence settings, the evolving meaning of domestic violence in the digital age, and intimate partner violence within the LGBTQIA+ community. I also oversee our social media platforms including Twitter (@NewHorizonsDV) Pinterest and Facebook, where I work to build our social media presence and engage with the community as well as update the website with intersectional content and current news and events and write articles and self-care tips for our quarterly newsletter(https://www.newhorizonsdv.com/sites/default/files/CHC_NHNewsSummer2018_NonMail8P_F062118web.pdf)
As my internship comes to a close in the upcoming weeks, I want to begin by thanking the Parent’s Council for their support and generosity in making this dream of mine possible. Being apart of the New Horizons team has been a great gift that I will carry with me forever. I was welcomed in to this space by my co-workers, valued as a team member and individual, inspired to work where my passions lie, encouraged to bring questions and insight to the table, and practice radical self-care due to the emotionally triggering work we do here. This experience has only solidified my future career aspirations to lift up women, children and families who have experienced sexual and/or domestic violence, help them heal from their trauma and build resilience.