Walk the Talk

by Annette Saenz, Community Education Senior Training Specialist 

Usually when I leave work, I try to make a conscious decision to “unplug” from my work duties. However, when doing work like this it’s not always possible. Unfortunately, domestic and sexual violence surrounds us everywhere. If anybody asks me that typical question, “So what do you do?” I tend to talk for hours about the topic. I actually love that about my job since I love to educate.

Anyways one day after work I had the TV on in the background, playing solitaire and incessantly monitoring Facebook. YEAH! Someone just updated their status! I think to myself, “Oh look it’s a new update from an old friend from high school,” and “Oooh she has a review of the new movie Black Swan.” Apparently she thought it was really good. So like a good Facebook addict I comment on her status update. Something to the tune of “thanks for the review, now I know I want to go see it.” I return to my other addiction, solitaire, not thinking anything more about the status update until… she replies to my comment.

I usually love when I say something so profound that someone actually wants to address me. However this time was quite different. She said, “Annette, the movie was awesome. It was a total brain rape.” I reread the comment over and over again while simultaneously picking up my jaw, and then I just sat there staring. Now I know this woman. She is college educated with a heart of gold and still her comment stared me down like it just punched me, spit in my face and then eyed me up and down.

At times like this, the voices start in my head. Luckily it was the voice of Karen Wilson. I heard Karen particularly loud saying, “WALK THE TALK! If not now, WHEN?” Crap!?! Now what do I do? One of my (s)heros is yelling in my head, but my father’s voice is also in there saying, “Don’t ruffle feathers, sometimes it’s better to shut up in order to keep the peace.” Well you know what Dad? I’m smart! I can walk the talk without ruffling feathers harshly.

My response to her was something like, “I really appreciate your review of the movie, but as an advocate and rape survivor I think it might not be the best way to describe a movie. I know you and know you did not mean to offend.” A few minutes later I refreshed the page so I could no longer see the update and comments. As I’m thinking I may have completely messed up a teachable moment, I see I have a new private message from her. She begins by apologizing profusely for her obviously inept comment. She also let me know that she did, in fact, delete the whole thing since she was so embarrassed. I wrote her letting her know that it was ok to make mistakes – learning from them is what’s important. She agreed. I also let her know she could, instead of continuing to apologize to me, pass the word along that sometimes the words you do or don’t use can affect others. The sweet woman thanked me and said she would absolutely pass the lesson along.

Yeah! Success! I really do feel this impacted her greatly. I also do think she passed the lesson along, but this is not always the case.

Walking the talk may be a life changing experience for someone or it may simply be a seed you plant in their mind, but one thing is for sure – it makes you proud of yourself regardless of the outcome.

Annette Saenz is a Senior Training Specialist in SafePlace’s Community Education Department. Annette provides education to the Austin community about how to recognize, report, respond to and prevent sexual and domestic violence. She specializes in training with health care professionals, in workplaces, colleges, child care centers and the  LGBTQ communities.

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