Staff Spotlight: Empowering Survivors and Making a Positive Impact

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.