In this month's staff spotlight, we are delighted to introduce a remarkable member of our team, who has been making an impact through her role as a volunteer crisis advocate: Karen R.

With a compassionate heart, she is dedicated to supporting people in times of need. She embodies the essence of SACASA’s mission to support and uplift our community during vulnerable times.

Karen’s Journey into Crisis Advocacy:
Shortly after completing her master's degree in social work, Karen was driven by a desire to continue making a positive impact beyond her clinical role. She learned of the opportunity to volunteer at SACASA from her colleague, SACASA’s Director Katlyn Monje. Karen was inspired by the possibility of using her counseling skills to support individuals in crisis. She has now been a volunteer crisis advocate for three years.

The Responsibilities of a Crisis Advocate:
As a crisis advocate, Karen has a complex role. She provides support and crisis intervention to anyone who has been sexually assaulted or has been affected by sexual violence. Crisis Advocate volunteers provide crisis intervention, advocacy, information and referrals for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Their support looks different for the individualized needs of the person they are supporting, but can include medical and safety planning, understanding victims’ rights, navigating complex emotions, and finding ways to regain power and control as they move forward with healing.

Challenges and Motivations:
While Karen finds fulfillment in her role, it is not without its challenges. The emotional toll of working with individuals in crisis can be draining. However, she is motivated by the need for crisis advocates and the impact they can make in people's lives.

"I see how important this work is," said Karen.

Monthly advocate meetings provide her with the opportunity to collaborate with fellow advocates, find support, share insights and continually improve her approach.

Advice for Aspiring Crisis Advocates:
For those considering joining the ranks of crisis advocates, Karen offers valuable advice.

“I encourage prospective volunteers to engage with staff, ask questions and attend training sessions,” said Karen.

Aspiring advocates can shadow team members to gain firsthand experience and a better understanding of this unique and important role.

“You will always have support from SACASA’s team and will be made comfortable before you are on your own answering calls.”

Balancing Compassion and Self-Care:
To maintain her emotional health, Karen emphasizes the importance of balance. She finds peace in the outdoors, particularly enjoying activities like kayaking and spending time with her puppy, Ziva. Her involvement in church activities, including singing in the choir, also brings her community and joy.

“I have to remember to take time for play.”

Bridging Bias and Misconceptions:
Since beginning her role at SACASA, Karen has noticed common societal biases towards sexual assault survivors that show up in her own life. Her new knowledge helps her to check her own biases and educate family and friends to reduce the blame and shame placed on survivors.

Another misconception Karen addresses is that survivors must consent to exams based on doctors' orders. She highlights that survivors have the right to make decisions about their own health care. And, she educates hospital staff on the importance of allowing individuals to make choices that best suit their individual needs and comfort level (in non-emergency situations).

A Final Note:
Karen’s dedication and unwavering commitment to supporting those in crisis is truly commendable. Her selflessness and eagerness to assist at any hour demonstrate the essence of the volunteer crisis advocate role. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Karen for her contributions to our community.

“Karen’s compassion and genuine drive to help others is so apparent in the work she does. We are so fortunate to have her contributing her skillset to this team and the SACASA mission," said Katlyn Monje, SACASA's director.

If you are interested in joining our team of dedicated crisis advocates or learning more about the impact they make, feel free to reach out to SACASA at Together, we can continue to create a safer, more supportive community for people impacted by sexual violence.

With nine years of dedication to CODAC, Liliana H. has made significant contributions to the community, especially in supporting survivors of sexual assault.

Liliana's career at CODAC began as a childcare worker at the residential treatment program for women with substance use disorders. As the first employee in the childcare role, she quickly realized her passion for supporting children and women.

Originally from Mexico, Liliana faced the challenge of adapting to a new country without English fluency. Her determination led her to learn the language with the help of the children she cared for, through singing songs and interactive experiences.

Liliana was able to transfer credits from her college in Hermosillo to Grand Canyon University where she pursued studies in social work. Her dedication and educational pursuits resulted in a well-deserved promotion to the role of recovery coach before she transitioned to the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA) as a crisis advocate in 2017.

Liliana, senior crisis advocate at SACASA.

SACASA’s crisis advocates hold unique roles within CODAC. They are trained to provide crisis intervention and support following a sexual assault. Advocates answer crisis calls and respond to the hospital to support people to understand their medical and legal options as well as offer compassionate emotional support. Additionally, they support survivors in navigating interviews with law enforcement and in obtaining compensation for victimization.

Now with a master’s degree in behavioral health, Liliana has been promoted to senior crisis advocate where she also provides supervisory and administrative support. Liliana understands the unpredictable nature of this work and the importance of being ready for any call that comes her way. Regardless of the circumstances, she approaches each situation with patience, empathy and understanding.

“There are times when the person on the other end of the line is angry and yelling. I know that it’s not towards me and that they are dealing with a lot,” she said.

Liliana and the SACASA team work with diverse individuals, including undocumented immigrants, a topic she is passionate about.

She shared a story about a young Guatemalan girl who had been sexually assaulted while in the United States. After reporting the assault, the girl was detained by immigration authorities.   SACASA responded at the hospital to support the victim and through advocacy and collaboration with the Guatemalan consulate, she was able to return to the U.S. to live with her sister.

“We sometimes don’t know what happens to people after we work with them. I felt so relieved knowing she was here,” said Liliana.

This experience highlights the profound impact her work can have on the lives of survivors and emphasizes the extensive collaborative network that SACASA facilitates.

Liliana has played a vital role in bridging language barriers and providing support to the Hispanic community, where sexual violence is a prevalent issue. According to the Office for Victims of Crime, an estimated 10.8 million females of Hispanic origin will experience some form of sexual violence by year 2050.

For five years, she was the only Spanish-speaking advocate at SACASA. Overcoming the language barrier as a non-native English speaker has also been a personal challenge for Liliana. However, she has always felt supported by her coworkers as she continues to learn and improve her language skills.

Addressing misconceptions about sexual assault and its prevalence in the community is another important aspect of Liliana's work.

“So many people don’t think this is a problem. They don't know that sexual assault doesn't discriminate and that it can and does affect many people."

Liliana H.

Liliana urges individuals to be supportive and informed about the available options for survivors, emphasizing that sexual assault is an ongoing issue, occurring approximately every 68 seconds.

For those aspiring to enter this field, Liliana advises cultivating compassion and understanding, recognizing that each survivor's experience is unique. Liliana appreciates the support she receives from CODAC, expressing gratitude for the organization's commitment to her growth and advancement within the organization.

Outside of work, Liliana cherishes time with her family; they are the most important part of her life. She also finds joy in music and comedy, allowing herself moments of laughter and relaxation.


Tucson, AZ – July 5, 2023 – The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA) is pleased to announce a new partnership with Buffalo Exchange, a leading fashion retailer known for its commitment to sustainability and community engagement.

This collaboration aims to provide support and resources to survivors of sexual assault in the Southern Arizona community through the Buffalo Exchange Tokens for Bags® program.

Instead of giving out bags, customers have the opportunity to donate the cost of the bag to SACASA.

The program has generated over $926,000 for thousands of local nonprofit organizations since 1994 and has saved over 18 million plastic bags from the landfill.

“SACASA is so grateful to benefit from the generosity of Buffalo Exchange shoppers,” said SACASA director Katlyn Monje. “We have a lot of work to do, and the donations and awareness this partnership brings will undoubtedly support these important efforts and local survivors of sexual violence,” she added.

The money raised will be utilized to enhance vital services such as advocacy, medical forensic evaluation and recovery services while promoting awareness and prevention of sexual violence. SACASA provides a safe place for survivors to heal.

The work SACASA does is essential to the community,” says Buffalo Exchange Vice President Rebecca Block. “We’re honored to support their mission through our Tokens for Bags program and we look forward to seeing how our contribution can make a difference.”

About Buffalo Exchange
Buffalo Exchange is a family-owned and operated fashion retailer founded in 1974. With locations across the United States, Buffalo Exchange is known for its unique selection of trendy and vintage clothing, as well as its commitment to reducing clothing waste and supporting local communities.

By: Elena Santana, Crisis Advocate

When you picture Pride, you may imagine rainbows, parades, and big smiles. Sometimes, we forget that Pride is more than just a celebration, it is a movement for equity for the LGBTQ+ community. SACASA celebrates and would like to educate on equitable care for survivors of sexual violence.

Sexual assault can impact anyone, regardless of race, creed, gender or sexuality. However, as community providers, it is important to recognize that LGBTQ+ individuals experience sexual violence at similar or higher rates than straight individuals.

Why might this happen?
Rape is about power and control. Due to marginalization, LGBTQ+ individuals can be considered more vulnerable. LGBTQ+ individuals are at higher risk for poverty, physical violence, and mental health disorders. Statistics show that:

  • 44% of lesbians & 61% of bisexual women vs 35% of straight women experience some form of sexual violence.
  • 26% of gay & 37% of bisexual men vs 29% of straight men experience some form of sexual violence.
  • 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.

SACASA strives to provide equitable and inclusive care. We provide individual and group therapy services to anyone that identifies as a survivor or secondary survivor of sexual violence. With that, we practice gender-inclusive language and create safe places for all individuals. We advocate for LGBTQ+ survivors if systems may fall short of supplying support. We empower survivors, and we want them to have pride.

Sexual Assault and the LGBTQ Community - Human Rights Campaign (