UVU student, sexual assault survivor encourages reaching out for help

By the time she graduates from Utah Valley University, it will be 10 years since Amanda Rawlings first enrolled. Give her a lot of points for tenacity.

“I had to take a couple years off here and there for my own mental health,” she said. That’s pretty understandable when you realize she was a victim of sexual assault when she was in high school.

“Being a survivor of that has completely changed my life,” she said. It didn’t happen immediately. “I refer to that year of my life as ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’,” she said. After high school, she attended the College of Eastern Utah where she struggled, then transferred to UVU in 2010.

“Coming to UVU was a turn-around point,” she said.

She turned her life around emotionally, but brought a couple of things with her. One was her husband, Tyrell, who she met at CEU and later married. The other was a love for emergency services.

“There was a first aid course in my high school,” she said. “I absolutely loved it. I was a drama kid in high school, into gory makeup they used for mock disasters. I loved being on both sides.

She not only applied the makeup to simulate injuries, but she also worked to simulate treatment for those injuries as well.

She credits Tyrell with bringing her out of her other life. When things got hard one time, they sat down together and found a therapist who connected her with nonprofit organizations. Seeking help is the advice she would offer to anyone who is struggling.

“Reach out, even though that can be the hardest step,” she said. “It could be any trauma-informed provider, like a rape crisis center such as Women and Children in Crisis or UCASA, the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

“It is a daily reaching out that you have to do. I feel that is why I have succeeded. I have that support system. It makes things easier because now I have that network. It is the hardest thing I have ever done but it is worth it.

Getting the help she needed allowed her to get back in school and pursue her goals.

“I love it,” she said about her education. “Emergency services is a passion of mine. All of my professors are actual emergency services specialists. They have worked in the field. They have so much experience and so many cool stories. I absolutely love it.”

Rawlings hopes to go into emergency medical services administration, which she defined as coordination of those services. She would like to work with a nonprofit.

“I want to do that because they have made such a huge impact on my life,” she said. “I want to be a part of that for somebody else. I want to actually be working for a nonprofit, not just volunteering.”

Part of her current volunteer experience is working with the rape crisis team for the Center for Women and Children in Crisis.

“Our team is on call to respond in the case of sexual assault,” she said. “We have a team including forensic nurses and victim advocates. I have been involved with them almost a year.”

She has had an internship with the Utah Pride Center, doing emergency protocols for the group’s festival.

“It is like merging my two passions together,” she said. “I absolutely love it.”

She has worked with the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault, in particular with its LGBTQ Council, to help ensure that the programs are inclusive. Another program she has assisted is the Encircle House, which helps provide resources for LGBT youth and families.

In addition to those pursuits, she works part time as a dispatcher for UVU Campus Police and full time for Northeastern Services, which provides group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities.

It’s not surprising that school has taken a bit more than the traditional four-year plan.

“I have been in and out of school, sometimes full time and sometimes part time,” she said. “It has kind of depended on where I was.”

She didn’t even know that the Women’s Success Center existed until about a year and a half ago, but now she has received a scholarship from the center. She said she was grateful for it and wouldn’t have been able to take her last two semesters without that financial aid.

Although her scholastic journey has been a long one, she is happy she has stayed with it, and even hopes to get a master’s degree in public administration in the future.

Women like Rawlings are encouraged to take advantage of the Women’s Success Center. The center offers women the support and resources they need to complete their degree and gain the confidence, opportunity and knowledge that come with a diploma. UVU is dedicated to providing higher education opportunities to all who seek them, especially to women. Those who wish information may visit uvu.edu/wsc.v

This piece first appeared in the Daily Herald. Click here to read the original article.