Ever since Lindsey Silverberg had an “ah-ha!” moment in her victimology class at the University of Maryland, she knew she wanted to help victims of sexual assault and gender-based crime. “I can remember sitting in class and being really fascinated
with the intersectionality of crime and victimization, and reasons for that, and
I was just like, ‘this is what I want to do;’ it just kind of clicked,”
For much of her post-graduate life, Silverberg, 28, has been involved in the research of, and has worked with, victims of gender-based crime and sexual assault. Now, she works as an advocacy and outreach supervisor for the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. (NVRDC).
She often is on-call and responds to late-night and early-morning phone calls from the hospital when victims come in. Silverberg is there for them from the moment they walk in, to future court dates and safety planning. She becomes their advocate and provides them with a network of support.
Silverberg was a criminology and criminal justice major and women’s studies minor, and had been a teaching assistant for several gender studies and victimology classes. During her senior year her interest grew and she began working for Campus Advocates Respond and Educate (CARE) to Stop Violence, an on-campus organization. There, she responded to victims of abuse, assault and stalking. While working, her personal life began spilling over to her work life. Along with dealing with victims in an official capacity, Silverberg said her friends would unofficially disclose incidents of their sexual assaults; she found these reports especially hard because she knew the victim and, many times, the offender.
“There were a couple of offenders that I was pretty close to before I found out that they were raping people,” Silverberg said. “That’s why I think for a lot of people it [reporting sexual assault] is so scary because [people are] like ‘I don’t believe you because he seems like such a good guy, or he’s super popular or he’s in this fraternity; why or how would he ever do that?’”
Silverberg said that it was because of this that she felt the need to take some time off from direct victim services. “It was really apparent to me that I needed to take a break, at least from direct services. Given how small the [University of] Maryland community is, I knew a lot of both the survivors on campus, and the offenders, and that was really challenging to navigate while being a student,” Silverberg said.
Silverberg graduated from the university in 2007 and attended graduate school at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she studied criminology and public health and graduated with her master’s degree in 2010.
After graduating, Silverberg worked in the public health sector for two years, but she explained, “It wasn’t what fueled me,” so she applied to work with NVRDC, where she officially began two years ago. She started as a case manager and worked her way to outreach services. Her job varies, depending if she is in the office or on-call. As part of her job, Silverberg needs to be on call several times a month, for 24 hours, in case a victim comes into the hospital in need of her services. She meets with the victim and stays with her through a medical forensic exam and provides support. If necessary, she offers emergency housing, safety planning and any additional resources the victim needs.
When she isn’t on call, Silverberg attends court cases with victims, follows up with clients and detectives or works on the Poly-Victimization grant, an NRVDC research project exploring why victims who suffer an attack are at greater risk for experiencing another one.
Silverberg acknowledges the mental, physical and emotional toll this job takes on her. “Not every day is a great day in this work,” Silverberg said. During a particularly hard day, Silverberg remembers the good things that happen as part of her job. She gets to see how resilient people are in the aftermath of something terrible, and how empowered they become to move on. She speaks of one survivor she helped, with whom she stays in touch. She was the second victim she helped.
“It’s amazing to see how far she’s come since [the attack]
happened. She’s such an inspiration,” Silverberg said. “It’s cool to see when
someone takes a life event that’s been so terrible and figures out a way to
make something positive out of it.”
Silverberg was not always very open about what she did. In the beginning, fearing peoples’ reactions, she avoided discussing her work. Instead, she made things up -- telling people she was a storm chaser and worked for National Geographic. Later, however, she willingly talked about her experiences. “I’m proud of what I do,” Silverberg said.