Written By Ken Fowler, former CCASA intern
I started to work in this field two years ago when I showed up to this office asking for someone whose name I thought was “Raina”. I was optimistic, naive and I believed that the world would help to right the wrongs that I had experienced in my life.
Reflecting back it is easy for me to point out how many times that I have been shown how wrong those initial beliefs are. The world will not give you anything. You have to work for the justice that you deserve.
When I first came to CCASA with the drive and passion to create a bill regarding transcript notations for universities in the state of Colorado I was told that I should reach out to senators and representatives in the state to find a bill sponsor for my idea. So the day after I met with someone who I had now learned was name Raana, not Raina, I emailed every state representative and senator asking for them to fix a problem that was all too evident to me. The systematic problem of letting those found guilty of rape on college campuses transfer to other schools without the black mark of “expelled for sexual misconduct” on their transcripts. I thought that a problem like this one was one that was merely being overlooked. Of course everyone would want safer college campuses in the state, right?
Apparently, emailing hundreds of politicians your survivor story and pointing out a flaw that I posed to them was their responsibility as policy makers to fix, got the attention of the people here at CCASA.
Thank god it did because I had just entered myself into the game of politics, one I had no idea how to play. Months after sending out that fateful email and after running a failed Survivors Bill of Rights with Senator Rhonda Fields, I was offered an internship coordinating Denim Day for CCASA. I had little to no experience with fundraising, attaining sponsors or running an event at the Capitol. Looking back now, the only thing that really qualified me for that position was the passion I held to try and make what happened to me, not happen to anyone else.
The next year I was honored when Raana asked me to be her personal intern and assist in running the Campus Sexual Misconduct Bill.
I have never learned so much as I did in the months leading up to the final vote on that bill. Stakeholder meetings, late night brainstorming sessions, hundreds of emails and phone calls and in person meetings and coordinating. All of which culminated in the death of the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee in April. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t feel like a little piece of me didn’t die with the final vote on that bill. I made sure to make up for all and more it by stress eating a sheet cake afterwards, but again, my hopes had soared at the thought of making college campuses the safe places that they deserve to be for all students.
In October, due to my contacts through CCASA, I was given the opportunity to fly to Washington D.C. for the Brett Kavanaugh protests. We scheduled meetings with Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, none of which he had the decency to show up for. I was able to stand on the steps of the Supreme Court and mourn the choice that the senate made for America as the vote on Kavanaugh’s confirmation came in.
In my time at CCASA, I have witnessed the death of two bills that I worked intimately on, that I believe would have improved the lives of campus sexual assault survivors and possibly have even prevented some assaults from happening in the future. In the past two years, I have watched and listened to amazing women in the Colorado Capitol like Senator Faith Winter, come forward and bare their wounds to make a case against sexual predators that the state had chosen to protect. In the past two years, I have cried watching the votes come in from the senate that killed the Campus Survivor Bill of Rights, the Campus Sexual Misconduct Bill and the votes that allowed Senator Randy Baumgardner to stay in office after credible findings of sexual assault came out against him.
The heartbreaks, the rage and the tears that have been shed in the past two years are real. They hurt and they are honest. But these losses that I have witnessed are nothing in comparison to the wins. In the past two years since I first walked into this office I have met the strongest and most resilient women I have ever had the honor of interacting with. Not only this but I have been able to work side by side with them. In the past two years I have witnessed the strength of millions of women worldwide who have had the bravery and courage to come forward and say me too. It happened to me too. In the past two years I have connected with survivors from all walks of life and seen their willingness to not back down just because the world had wronged them, but stand up and change society so the ills that have been felt, will someday not be. In the past two years I have been honored as the youngest recipient of the Colorado Coalitions Against Sexual Assaults Survivor Activist of the Year Award, I have been invited to be a keynote speaker at a conference in Aspen, I have spoken at a rally in Washington D.C. and I most importantly I have turned my hurt into strength.
I walked into this office two years ago a broken woman. I was lost. I had been silenced. I was told that my assault must have been my fault. I was told that I should not be upset when my school let my rapist finish all of his classes and finals before having to leave the school. I was told that I was overreacting.
Coming into the CCASA office was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. My rage, hurt and sadness has found a voice, a purpose and a path here. Not only this but I have found a family of people who get it. I have found a family of people who realize how messed up the world is right now and how we need to fix it, even if it is by lifting up survivors one voice at a time.
I want to thank Raana Simmons, policy director at CCASA for being my idol, my role model and a beloved friend. I want to thank Brie for giving me that interning position two years ago that truly changed my life. I want to thank Agueda and Jolene and Kathy for their smiles and hugs and tireless work. I want to thank Nissa Baker who is a member of the policy committee who was my campus advocate and without whom I would not be here today. And thank you all for supporting this organization. Because without this organization I, and hundreds of other Colorado survivors, would not be the people that we are today.
Looking back over the past two years a lot of things jump out to me. Some of them are losses, but most of them are wins. Keep supporting CCASA, keep supporting survivors and let’s keep these wins coming because they are nothing less then what we deserve.