Happy SAAM all! I’m Liz Zadnik and I am proud to be a part of NJCASA as the Statewide Capacity Manager. My work here is a wonderful combination of social change, systems advocacy, and allied professional education. I have the opportunity to work with preventionists at local Sexual Violence Programs; representatives from colleges and universities who participate as members of our statewide College Consortium; and dedicated, passionate professionals committed to ending violence and addressing trauma who are members of the Prevention and Public Education Committee of the Governor’s Advisory Council Against Sexual Violence. Having the chance to learn from, support, and provide resources to these individuals is something that brings hope, creativity, and innovation to my job every day.
I found my way into the anti-sexual violence movement by way of reproductive and sexual health. I was in policy advocacy and community organizing and discovered the intersections of sexuality, trauma, and the possibilities for community change. I have worked at the coalition or state-level for a little over six years now and still pull from my experiences working with youth, community partners, and legislators as I attempt to create change here in New Jersey.
Prevention is my passion, so this year’s SAAM theme is close to my heart. I believe that, although hatred and oppression have infiltrated our institutions and communities, we as individuals and collective groups can push back on these forces. I am inspired daily by the work of local sexual violence preventionists, anti-racism activists, and advocates for equality. Incremental as it may be, change is possible and we are creating safer spaces for all. Social change movements forge new opportunities and realities for survivors—ones that are filled with support and people who believe in them and affirm their right to justice, however it may look.
I am particularly proud of the work I have been able to share in around critical media literacy. When working with communities in Pennsylvania, I facilitated a self-esteem workshop series with young women where we deconstructed and reconstructed media. It was a transformative experience for all of us! While here in New Jersey, I have felt honored to work with local sexual violence preventionists in developing our sexual violence prevention strategy, Gender & Violence: How Media Shape Our Culture, an innovative and social justice-minded approach to sexual violence prevention. The strategy pulls from public health practice and anti-oppression work to interrupt harmful norms and messages.
SAAM is my favorite time of year – it’s filled with hope, potential, and recognition for the survivors, activists, and change-makers that have come before us. I hope you’ll join me and the team here at NJCASA in spreading the message that Prevention IS Possible.