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2020 Inspiring Women | Martina Shabram

Posted by on Jul 27, 2020 | Comments Off on 2020 Inspiring Women | Martina Shabram

Martina Shabram works at SASS to support survivors of sexual assault. She is a member of the 4J School District Board, and has had experience in both nonprofit and education fields. She was interviewed by Hiya Patel, a member of WACY – the Women’s Advisory Council for Youth – as a part of the 2020 Inspiring Women Project.

Q: Hi Martina! What work do you do? What does a day in your life look like?
My day job is at Sexual Assault Support Services, where I run our education and outreach programming and also provide direct services to survivors of sexual violence. SASS advocates support survivors through our 24/7 crisis line, 24/7 crisis medical advocacy in hospitals, legal advocacy, and more, so half my time is dedicated to that work. The rest of it is running my education and outreach programs. As an educator, I train professionals to improve the ways they support survivors. I also teach students from high school through college about sexual violence prevention and consent. And I work on sharing information in a lot of other ways, like videos and tutorial materials.

Outside of my professional role, I am an elected member of the Eugene 4J School Board, which is a volunteer position. A day in my life is really varied! Today, I led a three-hour training for youth-serving professionals, co-facilitated an online support group, spent some time working on the SASS social media (we have Facebook, Instagram, and now YouTube), and then participated in a meeting of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Lane County, where I represent SASS. Tomorrow, I’ll have a shift on the crisis line, so I’ll spend my day talking to people who need support and are reaching out anonymously to SASS. Somewhere in the midst of it all, I’ll drink too much coffee, walk my dog, and chat with my 5 best girlfriends from college in our group whatsapp, where today we shared anti-oppression tools and talked about how to advocate for anti-racist policies in our workplaces. You know, just girl stuff. 

Q: What do you love about what you do?
I love teaching people to care about things I care passionately about and helping them feel more confident to be agents of positive change in their communities. I truly and unironically believe that education is the best tool for changing the world, so it gives me incredible joy to be part of educational spaces where people are able to think deeply about really challenging, important stuff. 

Q: How have you been dealing with COVID-19 and life in quarantine?Honestly, my day to day life has been pretty okay. I am so incredibly privileged to have the stability I have; my husband and I are both employed, we make more than enough money to be comfortable, we own a home that we love, and we spend our weekends growing vegetables in our backyard and hanging out with our dog and enjoying each other’s company. That’s pretty lush! But the comfort and privilege I experience is in such contrast to the inequity, oppression, and violence happening around our country that it often feels surreal. How can I have all of this when there are people in the Navajo Nation who are dying of COVID without access to running water, when doctors on the front lines going to work every day without safety equipment, when black folks are in the streets asking for basic human rights and are being met by militarized police violence? I’ve always been an activist, but the contrast between my comfortable life and all of the injustice I’m seeing in our country has made me more committed than ever to doing the work. It’s a strange time to be alive and trapped at home, so I’m incredibly glad that I can donate to important causes, use my (modest) political platform to advocate for justice, and keep learning and pushing for change.

Q: Who inspires you?
Straight up: y’all inspire me. This generation of young people is the most engaged, righteous, compassionate group of folks I’ve ever known. Y’all are doing the work every day to make yourselves a world better than the one we’re handing you. You’re are out here doing the most in the fights for climate justice, an end to gun violence, racial liberation, and political change – and you can’t even vote yet! I couldn’t be more proud to see the young folks in our community leading the way.

Q: What advice do you give to a young girl?
First, most people are too busy feeling worried that everyone is judging them for how they look, act, etc., to even begin judging others. We are so often our own worst critics and it is a bananas waste of time. If we could take back all the hours in a day that young girls spend beating themselves up, I bet those same girls would use that time to utterly change the world. And it’s not your fault for feeling that way – our culture has been designed to keep you in your place by making you feel that you are too much. You are not. The day you stop being made to feel unworthy and guilty about taking up space will be one of the most powerful days of your life. Be loud, take up all the space you can, raise your voice and continue to speak when folks interrupt you, and never forget that you are the expert in your own experience.

But second, I would just say that there’s no one out here who has it all figured out. No matter how smart someone sounds, or how perfect their life looks online, or how effortless they appear, or how together they seem, they are still just a messy, confused person hoping no one notices how messy and confused they are. This goes for kids and adults. We’re all just doing our best, every day, and whatever “perfect” person you’re comparing yourself to has probably also farted in public or something. No one is perfect and the people who spend all their lives trying to be perfect are honestly hella boring. Messy is much more fun.

Q: What is a challenge you have faced and how have you overcome it?I’d say that the biggest challenge I’ve overcome recently is the series of challenges that come with running for office, especially as a young, progressive, Jewish woman who works in the field of reproductive justice. During my campaign, I had a lot of people tell me that I’d never win, that I wasn’t the kind of person who should win, that people like me can’t be leaders, and that if I wanted to be involved in school district politics I should just volunteer with a PTO (that last one particularly stung because… I’m not a parent, so I’m not sure what role there is for me in a Parent-Teacher Organization). These were all just ways of saying: your voice doesn’t matter to us. And if it hadn’t been for the unbelievable young people who ran my campaign (my campaign manager and all but one of my other campaign staffers were in high school), I probably wouldn’t have made it through. But working with those young folks made me feel like I could do anything. Being part of their lives made me want so badly to be able to be a voice for them on the school board that I was willing to put up with all the sexist, anti-Semitic, ageist things that people said to me (and don’t get it twisted: anonymous online trolls will say some scary things to you if you’re a woman in the public eye). So I kept at it! And when we won, I really felt like it wasn’t me that won: it was my campaign staff and volunteers who made it happen. It’s the privilege and honor of my life to serve you all and I am always here to be a resource for young folks who want to connect.

Q: And lastly, what is your favorite baked good? 
I am on a serious rhubarb pie kick right now, but I don’t even want to hear about putting ice cream on top. It ruins the pie! I’m taking a bold stance, I know, but I stand by it.

Thanks Martina.