Three Questions is a new Next Stage series. Over the coming months, we will feature social good leaders from across the region who are partnering in new and innovative ways to create big community change.

Crystal Emerick Brave Step Founder

Crystal Emerick is the Founder and Executive Director of Brave Step, a nonprofit that empowers individuals who have been impacted by sexual violence. As a survivor of sexual abuse and assault, she found healing in her own experience with therapy. Crystal launched Brave Step in 2014 to ensure that other adults could find healing in their own journey. Brave Step is part of Next Stage’s Nonprofit Partnership Platform, a turnkey solution that makes partnering with high-quality, innovative nonprofits easy for private sector companies.

Crystal recently shared her thoughts on Brave Step’s accomplishments throughout a challenging pandemic year and why she believes that her organization’s mission is absolutely critical for companies. Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Crystal, tell us about Brave Step’s proudest accomplishment last year. 

This is a tough one as there are several. If I had to pick just one, it would be the launch of the Changemaker program, a program idea that was conceptualized during our time in CULTIVATE. Changemaker is our rally call and coming together to harness the courage of survivors, loved ones and the entire community to transform individuals into powerful changemakers, strengthening communities from the inside out. To help foster change and action, Changemakers can access carefully-vetted and trusted resources, receive goal setting support, participate in training sessions, and gain the education they need to take steps toward action. Our goal was to reach 250 Changemakers by the end of this year, and we had 200+ within three months of launch.

Brave Step is a nonprofit, but it’s mission is also highly applicable to the private sector. Why should companies care about your mission? 

The importance of mental health has become more prevalent and understood, both personally and professionally. In terms of sexual violence, evidence shows the deep and life-altering impact it has on an individual and those surrounding the individual which includes coworkers and colleagues. Missing work, challenges and/or poor job performance, and loss of experienced employees are just a few of the workplace consequences of sexual violence.

One study noted that “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is likely in 50% to 95% of rape cases (Heise, Ellsberg, & Gottemoeller 1999). In another study, 50% of rape victims lost or were forced to quit their jobs in the year following their rapes because of the severity of their reactions (Ellis, Atkeson, & Calhoun, 1981).”

Brave Step is poised to support not only the survivor in his/her healing journey, but also to provide education and support for coworkers as well as training and knowledge through the Changemaker program. We are an ally for private companies who care about the wellbeing of their employees and want to help them thrive.

How can Brave Step actively support the wellbeing of employees? 

Reported statistics show that 25% of women and 16% of men are survivors of sexual violence, though the actual numbers are much higher. 100% of their loved ones are impacted as well.

Based on these numbers, we know that sexual violence disrupts the workplace in startling and often overlooked ways. Brave Step can bring both light and humanity to that conversation. We are able to  humanize this issue in a way that people can’t turn away while helping educate, create empathy, and take action. All of our programs, including adult survivor care, Loved Ones, community education, and Changemaker intersect to support the various audiences in unique and custom ways.