Non-Profit Expert and Civic Leader on Hope and Self-love

Sophia Shaw is co-founder and managing partner of Acorn Advisors LLC and leads the firm's work with nonprofit clients. Acorn Advisors LLC applies the practical lessons learned from decades of professional and board experiences to help people who lead and support nonprofit and commercial organizations maximize their impact. 

Sophia is a member of RAINN’s National Leadership Council, a group of dedicated individuals who have shown their commitment to RAINN’s mission of supporting survivors and ending sexual assault.


Why are you passionate about ending sexual violence?


It is completely unacceptable to touch or talk to another person in any way that scares or hurts them physically or emotionally. A person has no right to harm, harass, or intimidate another person no matter what the circumstances are. It’s as simple as that. 


When a person is touched without their consent, or even with their consent in the context of a relationship with a distinct power imbalance, it leaves a lifelong scar. There is hope: the pain will subside, or even disappear, but the scar, whether visible or invisible, will unfortunately remain. 


I want to bring awareness of the topic of sexual assault and provide comfort, love, help, and acceptance to people who have experienced violence of any kind. 


How can we all be better supporters and advocates for survivors in our lives?


We can say to survivors: “I believe you. What happened is not your fault.” This is especially true for people who feel they are responsible for what happened.


Not only can we tell other people we believe them, and they are not to blame, but those of us who are survivors also must repeat a mantra of self-love and acceptance to ourselves. “Even though I may not remember exactly what happened to me, I know it was wrong. What happened to me was not my fault. Now, I am safe. I am worthy of kindness and love. I am healing and the pain will subside.”


What is your message to survivors?


You have been through a lot. Be gentle and patient with yourself. Be sensitive to the sounds, smells, situations, and other triggers that might bring about a traumatic reaction. Remember that those reactions can come at unexpected times. 


Surprisingly, my strongest triggers occur when I am in the presence of very safe people who are expressing unselfish care for me: so, the opposite of what I experienced when certain men made me feel unsafe. When people express this kind of care, tears involuntarily come and my body tenses, and then relaxes. What starts as a surprise and a strike of sadness resolves itself into relief and healing.


Even after all these years, I guess I’m still surprised that I’m worthy of unconditional love—love that is not at risk of turning dark, sad, confusing, and disheartening. 


So, in short, my message to survivors is to treat yourself now as you would treat a baby version of yourself: with tender care, deep love, endless patience, and bountiful hope for the future.


Why did you want to be a part of RAINN's National Leadership Council?


I want to help bring attention to the important advocacy work that RAINN is doing to change laws and depictions of sexual assault in movies, books, television, and other media. I want to work with RAINN to eliminate sexual assault and harassment in all aspects of our communities and provide support to survivors.


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