Skip to main content

Pediatric Community Advocacy Rotation-A Walk in Their Shoes

Through the Community Pediatrics rotation, I have gotten to explore and participate in many different organizations throughout the month. I have spent a large portion of my time at the Julian Center, a center for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. We (other residents and I) got to spend some time going through an activity called, “A Walk in Their Shoes,” which I found to be very impactful.

We were each given a card with a paragraph of information on the back-story of a survivor, who we would assume their identity for this exercise. I was an accountant in her early 30’s who was married and had one daughter. Throughout the activity, we carried around a garbage bag full of clothes that symbolized our belongings, and I also picked up a doll that symbolized my child. At the end of the card I was told to go to the abuse table. I picked up the next card and my story started. I was working long hours and came home to a crying child that had been locked in her room because her dad didn’t want to deal with her. We got into a fight about that and he slapped me across the face.   I placed a band-aide on my hand to symbolize the abuse I had suffered.

I continued on with the experience and went from table to table to pick up the next card. My story was even more complicated by going back to my abuser, him sexually abusing my daughter, me getting arrested for allegedly kidnapping my child, and trying to figure out how to get full custody and a divorce. The story ended on a happy note as she decided to become a lawyer to help others in her situation. However, the damage had been done with her own personal abuse and her daughter’s sexual abuse.

I went through 2 more scenarios similar to the first. There are multiple tables that you went to during this exercise including family, clergy, court, support group, abuse, return home, and funeral home. By the time I was done with the 3 scenarios, I had 7 band-aides on my hands, which symbolized abuse the survivors had gone through.

I thought this was a very powerful activity and was glad we got to participate in it. It is great to learn about domestic violence, but it is also an even more real reality when you have to take on the identity of a survivor. It took you through the struggles of getting out of the relationship, deciding what steps to do next, navigating the legal system and also having to protect your children. These women go through so much and some individuals lose their lives to domestic violence. The Julian Center is a vital part of the Indianapolis community to provide a safe refuge for these people who are afraid for their lives and also provides resources and help to those that need it. I am thankful for this experience and that I got to spend so much time learning what the Julian Center does to help survivors of domestic and sexual abuse this month.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Helen Pruitt

I am a 4th Year Med-Peds Resident at Indiana University.