What Compassion Accomplishes

13. Fighting for Safety: Taryn's Story

October 05, 2021 WCA_Boise Season 1 Episode 13
What Compassion Accomplishes
13. Fighting for Safety: Taryn's Story
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of What Compassion Accomplishes we meet Taryn Robinson, the WCA's Court Advocate Manager. A firefighter turned social worker, listen to her journey of continuing to fight for safety and female empowerment, just in a different context.

"Sometimes we think we have to be able to solve people's problems when really all they need is for somebody to believe them, for somebody to listen to what they're saying and to provide compassion." - Taryn Robinson

If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic, dating or sexual violence please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or one of the WCA's 24-hour hotlines: Domestic Violence at 208-343-7025 or Sexual Assault at 208-345-7273.


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Visit our website at wcaboise.org for more information and resources or contact us at outreach@wcaboise.org

Intro:

Welcome to What Compassion Accomplishes, a podcast dedicated to sharing information, ideas and resources about domestic abuse and sexual assault. The topics discussed in this podcast, including survivor stories, supportive services, and domestic abuse or sexual violence can be difficult. And we urge you to listen with care. Our hosts are not licensed counselors or mental health professionals. If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic dating, or sexual violence, please call the WCA's 24 hour hotline at 208-343-7025 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233. You can also find more resources in the description of this podcast.

Cory Mikhals:

Welcome to another episode of What Compassion Accomplishes. I'm Cory Mikhals along with Chris Davis. Chris, how are you?

Chris Davis:

I'm doing great. Cory, thank you so much for having us in here again today.

Cory Mikhals:

Oh, always, it's always my honor to be able to be a part of it. And, you know, we've been able to--over the course of all of our podcasts here--we've covered a lot of different areas, a lot of the population in different ways, different things to think about. different people that are impacted by assault in some form. That's one of the things that is so important is that there are so many different forms of abuse, and it affects every section of our society, unfortunately. But, knowledge is power. Absolutely. And knowing that there is hope, knowing that there is another side, there is a way out on the other side of abuse. And so today we have we have another special guest that is with us today. Would you like to introduce her?

Chris Davis:

I do! Today we have a really special guest. I'm excited. Taryn, who has recently joined the staff of the WCA. And she's got some really exciting things to bring to the table, so to speak, your table, wherever you're listening at home, if you're in the car, you have us on your hands free. Or if you're enjoying a cup of coffee, or you're joining this conversation because you know we talk about different things on this podcast. But it's really about what compassion accomplishes, right?

Cory Mikhals:

Yes.

Chris Davis:

About different types of abuse, how we can all be part of that conversation, how we can all contribute to changing our culture, right Cory, changing our communities, things we can do in different ways. So Taryn is our new court advocate manager, and that's a huge, huge job at the WCA because it's our one of our fastest growing programs and has been for years. It's really, really important and involves a lot of things like helping clients in the community, obtain legal referrals, safety planning, and, and obtain Civil Protection orders, which are really important and can sometimes be really scary and intimidating. But I want to introduce Taryn because I think she's got some really neat, neat things--"neat"--I don't know, that's my new favorite word lately. Neat. And I say it like that. It's driving my family crazy, but I think it's neat. I think she's neat. Because she's got some passions that drive her to do this work, but also outside of this work, to help young girls and young women become all they can be. And so I think that is driving her into this work, but also driving her to better her community and change culture. And that also, you know, lends itself to what compassion accomplishes. So I think we're gonna have some really fun conversation today. So if you're just tuning in, or you're just, you know, "is it worth, you know, do I really want a podcast time today," I think you should definitely give us some time to listen. So, Taryn, I'm going to turn it over to you to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what makes you tick, where you come from, and why you're doing what you do.

Taryn Robinson:

Yeah, thank you, Chris, for that neat introduction. I'm very honored. It's very neat. Well,

Chris Davis:

Neat! as Chris said, I am the new core advocate manager at the WCA. nd I'm very honored to be orking with the WCA. My ba kground is a little different. S yeah, it's very neat. It's ver different from the work tha I'm doing now, but there ar parallels and there are many similarities in public service ork in general. And so to dive nto that a little bit: my backg ound is I was a federal wildland firefighter for almost 13 years 13 years, you say, 13 years working for as a firefighter, And I was employed with the Forest Service here locally n the Boise National Forest. nd as you can imagine, that env ronment is predomin ntly males. And so working n that environment for as long s I did, as a female, was ver character building. But it also provided some unique insight into that sort of populat on, that sort of culture And as Chris referred, you kno , the, many different c ltures that we hope to, you kno , inspire and change and make difference in, that's certainly one that could use some of that as the, you know, voice ther 's predominantly ma e. wildland firefighter, right? In that program? Yep, yep, almost 13 years, or 12 and a half, by the time I joined the WCA, and the work was meaningful to me, but I would say, I drew more meaning from my ability to provide mentorship to new girls entering the wildland firefighting realm. Because when I started, I didn't have any female mentors. And it was difficult, it was difficult to come into a culture that I was completely unfamiliar with when joining and to not see yourself represented in any of that space. And not only to not see yourself represented in that space, but to not have a person or place to go to when you had maybe gender specific concerns, or, you know, just somebody to relate to. And I found that there were some discouraging, you know, information regarding women seeking male mentors in that field. And so, you know, for my first couple of seasons, I would say, my first four seasons, I felt very alone in that space. And it might seem like, why would you stay then? Why would you stay in a space that makes you feel alone? And I guess, the best answer to that is that, you know, I felt that it was important for my character to push through that discomfort. But I also had this sort of altruistic idea that maybe I could make this space better for new women coming in, or just for other men to learn to work with females in in that arena. And so, you know, in my first couple of years, I really had to work hard, harder than my male counterparts, for equal respect. And I don't say that to be disparaging towards the agency, or to the work that those men and women are doing out there on the front lines, but I just say that to just sort of bring awareness to the fact that, you know, it is it is dominated primarily by, by white men, and this space isn't, and the culture still isn't inclusive to those who are outside of those social identities. And so, you know, I stayed in initially because I wanted to continue to improve upon myself. But I think I continued to stay because I started to see those small changes that were happening, you know, just just locally on on the forest that I worked on, but also started to see it happening on a national scale, you know, throughout the Forest Service, that there were terms that were being used, and there was more inclusivity that was happening within that organization. And I was proud to be a part of it. I was proud to be part of, you know, one of very few women who were in higher ranking positions within the Forest Service, and to have young women who were just starting the job, you know, come to me for advice and ask me. And I was honored to actually be in a position to be able to help them because I reflected on on my first several years, and I, again, I just I didn't have that. And so I was honored to be able to provide that to other women coming in. And I think the big segue for me, from my forest fire career to now working with the WCA, happened when I started working for the Centennial Job Corps program that used to be in Nampa, Idaho. Centennial Job Corps had a partnership with the Forest Service, and what they were trying to accomplish was they were trying to create a fire discipline, so to speak, at the Centennial Job Corps center, and through that we were able to start what I would refer to as like a militia crew. So these individuals that joined our crew were part of other trades within the Job Corps center. And so they were working on things like plastering and painting and welding and electrical, and in their free time, they wanted some extra money and they wanted to see what you know, forest firefighting was all about. And so we would train them after their trades had ended in the evenings, and then on the weekends. And through that, the Centennial Job Corps program developed an advanced trade, which became the wildland firefighting advanced trade, and I was promoted to a squad boss within that program. And I noticed, you know, almost immediately, just this phrase that we use in social work, which is the person-in-environment perspective, and that perspective became very clear to me in that environment because we were trying to teach these young men and women to be professional firefighters and to work in a in a dangerous and dynamic environment. And what I was seeing was that many of them were struggling with things outside of the classroom, they were struggling to meet, you know, many of their basic needs, they were struggling to comprehend some of the trauma that they experienced in their lives. And I noticed that with those individuals who were really struggling, that they weren't going to be successful in our program, without, you know, some sort of acknowledgment of the other struggles that they were going through. And so it was there that I really knew that my path was social work. And, you know, that had been from my early years of mentorship and leadership in the Forest Service, but it really, it really came together at the Job Corps center where I saw this on a very more severe scale where these individuals needed more help than I could provide them as a squad boss on a fire crew. And so from there, I decided that I was going to go back to school and that I was going to study social work. And I felt immediately that that path, that calling was the right path for me because as soon as I made that decision, it just seemed like everything started working in my favor. And I don't know if anybody else has ever experienced that where you start off on a path and you don't know for sure if it's the path you're supposed to be on but you get all sorts of synchronous signs from the universe will say that, that tell you that it is and I certainly had that you know, pursuing social work in school, and continuing to mentor and be a leader in the fire community. And so here I am at the WCA today, and I think a lot of my passion still derives from some of the experiences that I had while in fire. And many of those experiences were very positive, but there is a side of that experience that was negative and that did contain things that you know, the WCA is trying to educate and and teach people in our communities. And so when I when I initially started at the WCA, I had a conversation with Chris because I felt like it was a community of people, a culture of people, that's very specific and unique and that could really benefit from the education and the language that we use within the WCA just to inform our communities on on what abuses and all the different forms and phases of it. And so you know, I'm really seeing my paths converge now, I'm seeing everything come together and all the work that I did in firefighting, how that is impacting the work that I'm doing now in for the WCA. And now you get to be on a podcast

Taryn Robinson:

And now I'm on a podcast

Chris Davis:

educating, educating and talking about it and many found forms and fashions to help this as one more avenue which it can converge

Cory Mikhals:

Well, and it truly did have to be a calling because going from smoke eater to you know, social justice here that's not what most people would would have thought

Chris Davis:

That's why I I just think it's amazing and compelling. I think you're kind of like a superhero; I think you need a cape or something. No, I think it's a fantastic story and when you light--I'm sitting here watching you as you're talking actually and you could just kind of light up you have this bright light that's coming from you and I think you're calling, I think you have found your calling. And I hope you continue to feel that because it is truly a calling to do this work and to work with people who are experiencing some--hopefully it's the most significant trauma they ever experience--because it is very, very traumatic. And it is very hard to sit beside someone while they're experiencing that, and just be there for them and help them try to understand it and provide resources for them, of course, but you know, knowing they're going through that, but and you know, you can't you can't fix it for them, you know, but you chose to go down a path so that you could do something for folks. I think that's incredible,

Cory Mikhals:

Well, and now, Taryn, when you started with the WCA, what was some of the biggest surprises that that you found? Were there things that when you started and started working with the clients and seeing it on that, that level, that was surprising to you?

Taryn Robinson:

You know, I would say that the biggest surprise to me was how accurate my education in domestic violence had been and how accurate the portrayals of what an abuser looks like were because, you know, there are many tactics in power and control that are predictable. And I think that's why the work that Chris and her team do is so important, because we can honestly give this information to our communities. And we can know about these things, not just within people that work, you know, inside of domestic violence and sexual abuse agencies, but in our neighborhoods, in our schools. In other workplaces where this is occurring, you know, I didn't think that it would look so textbook. And I say that not not saying that all abusers are the same, but that the research they have done on the behavior tendencies of abusers are very textbook and you do see them and it's almost this, like light goes on, and you're like, I just read about this, and I'm seeing it in real time now. And I think it was surprising, and it wasn't.

Chris Davis:

I think that's pretty interesting to hear. You know, I think I needed to hear that as almost as a reminder, because you know, I've been doing this for eight and a half, nine years. And I, I read about it, I talk about it, I even think I dream about it; my husband gets really tired of hearing about it, he's like, "you're not at work anymore, turn it off." And we talk about it, and we talk about it, and we talk about it. And it's been a long time since I've been in a classroom or anything that's not related to, you know, something that's put on by another DV organization or something. So I think that's a good affirmation for us to hear. And a reminder, for anybody listening to this, that there's a power and control wheel, you know, the Duluth model puts out, you can Google it, we share that with anybody, there's a cycle of violence model, that's very simple to explain. And if you're outside looking in, it may not be so easy to understand why someone doesn't leave, or why they choose to stay. But it's very complex at times. And we, we work really hard to try to explain that to people so they can understand, and understand that the myriad of reasons why people, you know, choose to stay in a relationship, why it takes an average of seven times before somebody successfully leaves a relationship, all the different kinds of abuse, beyond physical abuse, that sometimes can have far more long term impacts and scars than just that physical abuse. Those are things we talk about, and we will talk about and we'll continue to talk about because they're happening at your next door neighbors' down the street, to people in your church, to people checking out your groceries, to the person helping you in the library, you know, to the car and the you know, the people in the car, the cars around you, when you're sitting in five o'clock traffic (which we all get to do these days, seemingly), you know, it depends on which statistics you're looking at the one in four women one in 10 men one for one in seven, one and three, according to the World Health Organization. You know somebody, even if they haven't disclosed to you. When we go out tabling and we stand behind that WCA logo, we become safe. We become safe to talk to, and we were out just last week and the team was out. I've got brand new folks on the team. We've got a great outreach team now. And three different people came and disclosed some pretty severe you know, "I was I was a client of the WCA." One woman walked up to me and said "I wish you'd been around when I was six." So these are students at CWI will be at BSU, Boise State next week. Our prevention team did an assembly for all the students. It was the first time they've done something like that at a high school--all the students. The very next day our crisis case manager came to find me, which we don't hear about this very often, so we were at College of Western Idaho while our prevention team did an assembly for all the high school students. We don't know which of us reached a student, but the next day, the mom called and said, "You were at my kids school, my kids staged an intervention, and I called." And so this, this client is now receiving services.

Taryn Robinson:

That's amazing.

Chris Davis:

So, right. We know, we know this is happening all around us. We know it is, so folks...

Cory Mikhals:

Well, you've said it, and we've said it on all of the podcasts, we have to talk about it. Because for the longest time, and until very recently, no one did talk about it, it was that dirty little secret. That's, you know, that's for them to take care of in their own home, and from the police all the way to co workers, to whatever it happened to be, no one wanted to talk about it. And so it just occurred, it just happened. And it continued to happen. And it got worse. And now having these conversations, talking about it, getting out in the community, and taking this subject out of the shadows, and making people aware, it's not okay to be abused. No one, no woman, no child, no man, nobody deserves to be abused. And the more we talk about it, the safer it is for someone to be able to come out and say, "this is happening, and I need help."

Chris Davis:

You know what I hope we can continue to do also Cory, which is great point, bringing it into the shadows, but it's also taking down that curtain of shame.

Cory Mikhals:

Yes.

Chris Davis:

That is the biggest thing. And, I'm a survivor. It's

Taryn Robinson:

Absolutely. been a long time ago. I want to say it's not my husband. But it took me a long time to get over that even being able to say that out loud. Because I used to say over and over, like, "I just hav to forgive myself, I just hav to forgive myself." And I neve , I would say that over and ov r like, and then I after lik , okay, a lot of you know, thera y and a lot of years and hour . And I'm thinking what what do I need to forgive myself for? F r letting it happen? For mak ng those choices? No, and then I had to realize I didn't do anything. But it was many, many, I was very young, I was very young at the time. But I know that I am not the only one aving those self thoughts and aving to try to just let go and orgive myself, right. But also, t's the shame associated with taying for getting myself in hat situation for bringing that n my family from the mbarrassment, and for being uote unquote, stupid enough to et myself in that situation, ight? And the stigma associated ith it. So how do we do that? W talk about it, we just keep alking about it. And we open it up, and that victim blaming-- abuse is never the victims fault.

Cory Mikhals:

No.

Taryn Robinson:

And I think you brought up a super interesting perspective of what those who aren't experiencing abuse what their question primarily is, and you said it, Chris, you said the question is why does she stay? And I think part of this conversation around abuse, you know, from an outside perspective, if you're listening to this, it's not an it should never be Why does Why does she or he stay? It should be? Why does that person abuse them? Why is that person violent? Because, their behaviors are not being highlighted. And what we know is that dominance functions by going unexamined, and if we continue to not examine the reasons why people are violent, and we keep asking the question of "why does she stay" that shame that you were talking about too, you know, full disclosure, I've I've been in abusive relationships as well. And I think I resonate deeply with that shame that Chris was talking about. And I think a lot of us are driven to this work because of our experiences, and because of the things that we've... and that we were able to develop empathy from that. But I would love to be part of the discourse of changing that question to not "Why does she stay", but "Why are they abusive?"

Chris Davis:

"Why does he do that?" "Why does she do that?"

Cory Mikhals:

Well, now, Taryn, why don't we go back to what is it exactly that you do that you're providing, and it's such a vital component for someone because of that shame because of that, those feelings that someone has, and they finally get out of that. And that feeling of being alone. That feeling of no one can possibly understand what I'm going through right now. Then finally contacting the W. Ca, and realizing they're not alone, and then you're a vital part then moving forward in their escape from that cycle.

Taryn Robinson:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, and I think one of the first things that I noticed in interactions with first clients was that I was potentially the first person that ever believed their story. And I think there's power in just that alone, that sometimes we think we have to be able to solve people's problems, when really all they need is for somebody to believe them, for somebody to listen to what they're saying, and to provide compassion. Exactly what we're here to talk about today. And so, you know, Chris touched on that a little bit, but our court advocacy program ranges, we help primarily in the civil legal realm of court proceedings, and, and the bulk of our work is done in helping people file for civil protection orders. That being said, we do also help with other civil legal processes, such as divorce and custody and modifications to current, you know, custody agreements in place. And we connect clients who have complex or serious cases, to free legal services, whether that's through our partnership with Idaho Legal Aid, whether that's through the Idaho Volunteer Lawyers program, whether that's referring a client to the street law clinics that happen twice a month, connecting people to that source is a very powerful mechanism and in somebody getting their control back. Because, that first step of getting that protection order and filing for divorce, or of, you know, requesting custody, if there's shared kiddos, that's a powerful first step in in them getting that power back, and then feeling confident in themselves, in their ability to protect themselves. And I think it's so rewarding, because, you know, we see all sorts of people, our program serves primarily the community, whereas other programs at the WCA serve primarily our residents. And while we do serve the residents as well, we see a large number of just community members, and being the first person to help them restore that confidence? I mean, you can't put a price on that. And that's seeing that healing in real time. And so, you know, some of the other services that we provide, that Chris had mentioned, are our safety planning. This isn't again, asking why they stay in an abusive relationship, this is helping somebody make the best decision for them. And if staying is the safest decision for them, then that's the safest decision. Because what we know through research is that often the most dangerous times for a victim are right when they leave the relationship. And so it's helping people prepare for that. What does that look like? How do you prepare for a violent episode? How can you make yourself the most safe before, during and after? And what did those steps look like? And so helping people find that also helps instill confidence that they have, you know, they have some power in protecting themselves, and they have some power in their choices.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, and I think from each of those steps from believing them, believing in them, giving them that knowledge that they're not alone, to the protection orders, to all the different pieces and parts that come along through this scary and horrific situation, getting them out of it. Each one of those components is what gives them hope. It's what lets them know there is life again.

Chris Davis:

And it's also helping them get their power back. It's giving them their power back and helping empower them to have the tools to make those decisions, I think, so that when they're, well, if they're ready, when they're ready, right? They can, and they also know where to reach out to to get more information. So it's that safety, it's that initial safety, they have to be safe, and they have to know what the information is and how to do certain things, to then know that when they're ready, they can make those next those next decisions, right. And I want to give a shout out to Taryn and the court advocacy team because even in the face of COVID Taryn joined right in the middle of this craziness, but they're doing virtual hearings with the courts. They're doing Zoom and telephone and they're still doing several thousand attending full hearings and ex parte hearings. So, even with COVID, and everything else, they are still helping so many people. And those community members, those community clients, a lot of people don't realize that we here locally help more than just shelter clients. So that's anybody that is any person here in Ada county here locally who needs help, they can walk into the crisis center, they can call and get that help understanding the process for a Civil Protection Order. That's a domestic violence protection or stalking protection order. So that's an incredibly valuable or invaluable service to the community. And they help, and a lot of people don't even realize or recognize that that's available. But, I can tell you, the Ada county courts do and they refer folks directly to them. So it's just it's it's a crucial service for the community.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, Taryn, one more question, when you're doing this, and yes, it's so rewarding, but it's also draining. There's no way that it can't be when you're giving so much of yourself in order to be able to help these clients. What fills your cup?

Taryn Robinson:

That is a great question. You know, I truly believe when I said earlier that that social work is a calling in my life, I meant that in the way that I feel like I'm built to withstand the demands of working in such a draining occupation. And I don't say that to toot my own horn, I think we're all built for different things in life, I think we're all built for things that we know that we are good at, or that we enjoy or find meaning in doing. And you know, it's interesting, because I had a client ask me that the other day, they asked, "how is it that you can do this work day in and day out?" And my answer was similar. I said, "You know, I feel like, I'm built for this." And, you know, whether we are working amongst it or not, it's still occurring. And so for me, I would rather be a part of the healing process than to shut it out and know that it's still occurring and that I'm not doing anything to help. And so that's my, that's my large answer. And I would say, I'm still human, though. And so I enjoy going on walks, listening to music. I'm a firm believer in practice what you preach. And so I go to therapy, I talk to my therapist, and I have a good support system. And honestly, that support system includes the WCA. It's a very welcoming and supportive group of people who work there. And I know that at any given day that I could go to virtually anybody in that building, and say, I had a tough day today, and they would get it.

Cory Mikhals:

Right.

Taryn Robinson:

And so I think finding what it is that helps us in those moments, we all have different things that sort of helped calm us; for me, it's always been writing and music, going for walks. And so finding those things, and knowing when it's time to implement them, I think is the big key. But I also just feel like I'm built for it.

Cory Mikhals:

I would agree. Just in the brief time that we've gotten to know each other I would agree with that statement. Well, Taryn, we appreciate you for everything that you do your passion, your desire to help and to give hope and to renew the power in so many individuals and families. So thank you very much. And thank you for being on with us today.

Taryn Robinson:

Thank you so much for having me. This was an experience for sure.

Chris Davis:

You're really neat.

Taryn Robinson:

I think you guys are really neat. And this

Chris Davis:

Yeah, Cory, you're neat. This podcast is neat. We you know, you always have to end things with a little bit of podcast is neat. light hearted when you when you talk about the heavy stuff. That's the balance of it. Yes, find the the good and the light hearted because there is good in the world. And I think Taryn you're bringing some good into it, into the balance. So appreciate you. I appreciate ou coming on with us today an I appreciate the work you're do ng with the WCA. I think you' e brought some good, some goo , bright light into the world a d I appreciate i

Cory Mikhals:

And as always, all the numbers for you to be able to contact and ways to be able to contact the WCA are all in the description here of the podcast. And we'll be back with our next episode soon. And this is going to be now taking on another piece of you know, as we talk about the different pieces and the different forms and faces of abuse, we're going to be taking it to to our BSU campus.

Chris Davis:

We're going to be talking about some college information and impacts and we have one of our interns coming on as a special guest. So I'm really excited about that.

Cory Mikhals:

All right, so join us for our next edition of What Compassion Accomplishes.

Chris Davis:

Thanks, Cory.

Narrator:

Thank you for listening to this episode of what compassion accomplishes. Again, if you or someone you know has experienced domestic abuse, dating or sexual violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the WCA's 24 hour hotline 208-343-7025.