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HSD Employee Spotlight—Alison Forsyth

Smiling, close up photo of Alison

What is your role at Seattle Human Services?

I currently work as a Sexual Assault Victim Advocate for the City of Seattle, with a focus on underserved populations, specifically cold case sexual assaults, immigrants, and unhoused survivors of sexual violence. I provide advocacy and resources to victims of felony sexual assault and child abuse cases that are under investigation by the Seattle Police Department’s Special Assault Unit, and support survivors as they navigate the criminal justice system throughout the duration of their case.

What made you want to work in human services?

As a survivor of sexual violence myself, I believe that my lived experiences animate my passion for this work and uniquely position me to support survivors in an empathetic, trauma-informed way. This perspective has fueled my commitment to this career, as I have spent the last decade working with survivors of gender-based violence in various capacities, from research and policy development to direct services and non-profit program management. Prior to my role here at HSD, I worked as a CSEC Behavioral Health Specialist at a local non-profit organization where I provided outreach and advocacy services to commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) and young adults.

How has your job changed in recent years?

Full length photo of a young woman posing and smiling at the camera with a blurred out background of a fairgrounds with food booths and amusement rides.

Despite the incredible wave of support and awareness that the #MeToo movement has generated, sexual violence continues to be a pervasive issue in today’s society and the demand for our crime victim advocate services remains high. However, our team’s capacity has nearly doubled in staffing over the past several years and continues to grow and expand. This is encouraging to us advocates because we can meet more victim’s needs and provide greater support to historically underserved populations. It is exciting and I hope it continues.

What do you love about your job?

Despite how difficult the subject matter can be at times, I am incredibly honored to serve as a Crime Victim Advocate. I am so grateful for the opportunity to walk side by side with survivors and bear witness to their incredible tales of bravery, resilience, and strength despite enduring horrific violence. One of my favorite parts about the job is simply getting to know the individuals I work with and providing meaningful support and crucial information to victims as they navigate the criminal justice system.

How do you contribute to HSD’s overarching goals related to racial equity?

My role is to advocate for the rights of crime victims, including and especially those who have traditionally been marginalized or directly harmed as a result of the criminal justice system. Part of our job as victim advocates is to identify and navigate gaps in services for survivors of violence as they engage with the system and to brainstorm creative solutions to these challenges. For many survivors within BIPOC communities, those gaps in support and barriers to justice have historically been insurmountable.

For example, one of the greatest barriers to sexual assault victims seeking justice has been reporting the incident to law enforcement. Many victims experience shame or anxiety when speaking about such a difficult topic in front of law enforcement; and for many people of color their anxieties are multiplied. I am excited to share that HSD’s Crime Survivor Services unit is collaborating with Seattle Police and community partners to roll out an exciting new resource called Seek then Speak for victims of sexual assault to be able to complete a report online. This resource can be incredibly useful for survivors who are hesitant about calling 911 or speaking to police officers but want to report a sexual assault. My hope is that as a result of this tool more survivors are empowered to seek justice and receive support.

What motivates you or keeps you going?

A smiling young woman struggling to hold a grinning large, white, fluffy dog
My white fur ball’s name is Mochi, and I’m more of his emotional support human than the other way around.

I am inspired by those I work with, my fellow advocates and Crime Survivor Services leadership who continually advocate for those we serve, and the partners we interact with who work tirelessly to hold those who do harm to others accountable. I am continually in awe of the professionals I work with daily who are able to hold space for survivors to share their stories, hear horrific accounts of violence and abuse day in and day out, and continue to treat those around them with care and consideration.

Most importantly, I am inspired by the stories of the survivors I meet every day. The most emotional moments for me in this job are witnessing firsthand survivors’ bravery in coming forward and recounting their assault to law enforcement despite fears of retaliation, their courage as they speak out against their abuser while sharing the same courtroom during trial, and the enduring resilience these survivors demonstrate as they navigate life, pursue their own happiness, and seek healing following such a traumatic event.

What’s one piece of advice for HSD newcomers or recent graduates in your field?

Take care of yourself inside and outside of work, remember: You are a human being, not a human doing.