'I feel that I can really offer that empathy'

How Victimology Studies helped a Kent State senior translate classroom learning into supporting survivors of trauma and promoting activism in her hometown

In the spring, Delia Brennan, a Kent State University senior on-track to graduate in December, completed an internship at Hope & Healing Survivor Resource Center, a rape crisis center and battered women's shelter in Akron, serving Summit and Medina Counties. She provided emotional support through answering calls on their hotline and going on in-person calls in hospitals. She said the people she talked with were typically survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

"Being that person who can support someone on their worst day in a traumatizing situation, where the other people in the room may not be as well-versed on their trauma and what they need in that moment – it's so important, I think, for them to have someone there. Because I have been on calls where someone's mom or partner has come with them, but a lot of times people just come by themselves, and I can't imagine being alone in that experience." 

Senior, Class of 2023, Delia Brennan

"It feels so important to be there with that survivor. I especially see that as a need and something that I feel I can really offer that empathy and what they need in that moment," Brennan said.

Brennan is majoring in criminology with concentrations in victimology and a minor in society, health and medicine, in Kent State's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). She feels that her coursework in her chosen concentration in victimology helped prepare for her internship, while working with people at the center. Some of her classroom studies focused on behaviors or other factors that may predispose people to becoming victims of certain crimes. In her internship, Brennan dealt with some of the myths about being a victim.

“You know, myths like ‘people were assaulted because they were drunk,’ ‘because of what they were wearing,’” she said. “Survivors have this guilt, because a lot of times they’re blaming themselves or thinking that it’s something they did that provoked this.”

“So, as much [as] the victimology course definitely helped prepare me, the internship was a kind of peeling back to get to the more emotional side, rather than just the textbook study of it,” Brennan said.  

Brecksville-Broadview Heights Pride yard sign

Brecksville-Broadview Heights Pride

Brennan’s family recently moved from her hometown in Brecksville, Ohio, but while she lived there, she worked with her mother at Brecksville-Broadview Heights (BBH) Pride – a new organization dedicated to making local communities more LGBTQ-friendly. Her mother works on public relations for the group, and she works on social media communications.

Brennan said, “It’s basically a visibility and advocacy group in our small town, which is very conservative and typically not the most friendly for LGBTQ people.” 

She feels that it is particularly important to advocate for younger people, who see that very few LGBTQ adults live in these communities. So, when they go away for college, they may not come back to live in their hometown after they graduate.

Jennifer Speer, co-founder of Brecksville-Broadview Heights Pride said, “Delia was an integral part of our team at BBH Pride. “Her creativity and initiative are so important to our mission of nurturing an understanding and inclusive environment in Broadview Heights and Brecksville – her hometown.”

Brennan found that Instagram was the best way to reach students in middle school and high school. Her goal was to get students to interact and talk with each other more.

“We definitely want to, for some visibility, but also [to] provide resources for people in the community,” she said. “And [to] get them to voice how they’re feeling with the different things that are going on in the community. When school started again, for example, we posted a question box to ask how people were feeling after winter break.”

“It's a group that shows people they matter because of their identity and not in spite of their identity,” said Brennan.

A Busy Final Semester

Over the summer, Brennan said she has started performing music again and “gotten involved with a lot of queer spaces here in Kent.” Every other Thursday, she performs at the singer-songwriter night at The Outpost. 

“It’s great to share the space with such an encouraging group of creatives,” she said.

She has performed on the Kent Campus and is looking to branch out to other venues in Akron and Kent. One of her first will be on Sept. 16 at the Rialto Theater in Akron. Brennan also will be performing and selling some of the visual art created with her fiancé in Acorn Alley during Kent’s Rainbow Weekend on Oct. 13-14.

Delia Brennan performing at The Outpost

Brennan’s music is available to stream on Instagram @del.i.a.

Looking to the Future

After graduation, Brennan sees herself continuing to help people after trauma. “I think it’s too early to tell,” she said. “But I would love to work as a crisis advocate past graduation. It’s such important work, I don’t see myself moving away from it.”

POSTED: Friday, September 1, 2023 12:59 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 5, 2023 11:26 AM
Phil B. Soencksen