A day in the life of a PARC Peer Advocate

January 31, 2020

When Kharmalina Tong ’20 enters the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center (PARC) office, the first thing she does is log in to the chat service present on the PARC website. She aids others in the office and also works on future steps for projects or events that she is involved in. Tong is the Community Engagement Coordinator, and, therefore, she spends most of her time planning how to create and manage events that are related to PARC. These events could include collaborations with Brandeis clubs or services. 

During her shifts, she may also have visitors who come to the office and request a Peer Advocate. Tong explained in an email interview to The Brandeis Hoot that “Peer Advocates provide a safe space where those who come to our office can share whatever they feel is comfortable for them. By guiding the conversation and letting them have autonomy of their own decisions, Peer Advocates empower and inform them of on and off-campus resources.”

Rather than giving advice or providing an opinion on matters, Peer Advocates listen to individuals through various mediums, such as in-person, on the phone or through the PARC’s chatting service. Tong describes how “giving advice means we are telling them what we think they should do. At PARC, we value providing power and control back to those who have experienced any form of violence.” Tong said Peer Advocates aim to be active listeners who are non-judgmental and can empathize with and care about their visitors. “I can support and empower them through their autonomy of decision-making and validating their emotions.”

When Tong first became part of PARC, it was called the Rape Crisis Center (RCC). She illustrates that she initially was not completely familiar with the responsibilities of a Peer Advocate; however, once she researched more about the service and understood that Peer Advocates work toward aiding individuals in their mental health, she realized that this was the perfect job for her. After serving as a Peer Advocate for three semesters, she applied to become a Community Engagement Coordinator, which allowed her to build relationships with other clubs and organizations at Brandeis. 

Tong highlights that her most memorable experiences with PARC are during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October and Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. During these times, PARC engages most with the Brandeis community. Her favorite events include the Ice Cream Consent Party, in which individuals ask for consent on which toppings they want on their ice cream, and the PARC Playground, in which individuals make friendship bracelets and play with a rainbow parachute. Tong lastly describes one of the momentous memories she has related to PARC, in which PARC was invited to the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) Champions for Change Gala. Her favorite memory from this event was when Sohaila Abdulali, a Brandeis alumna, author and former coordinator of BARCC, shared her sexual assault story which was extremely moving, according to Tong. 

PARC has many events planned for the future. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, there will be many events such as Take Back the Night and Denim Day. In addition, events such as Returning to Sexual Intima-Tea, Wellness Wednesdays, Palentine’s Day and Mindfulness through Movement and Dance will also be happening in the future. 

Tong lastly explains, “as the Community Engagement Coordinator, I encourage you to contact PARC if your community, club, organization or department has an interest in PARC collaborating or facilitating your events,” offering examples such as tabling or Bystander Trainings. If students have any other questions regarding PARC, they can reach out to Tong directly at kharmalinat7@brandeis.edu.

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