The Maneater

One in 30,000: The woman who listens to the toughest stories for a living

RSVP Center Advocacy Coordinator Taylor Yeagle: “We should be able to walk throughout our lives without fear of violence just by virtue of existing. So it’s hard hearing these stories of other humans who’ve experienced the worst aspects of humanity.”

Some days were better than others. Some days she would come home from work unfazed by her clients’ most harrowing stories of abuse and violence. Other days, she couldn’t help but periodically go to the break room at her part-time job at Old Navy and just cry.

As she gained more experience in the world of social work, Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center Advocacy Coordinator Taylor Yeagle learned to develop a self-care system involving therapy, friends, family and things that make her happy.

As advocacy coordinator, Yeagle meets with clients, listens to their stories and determines what specific resources they could benefit from.

For those weeks where her clients’ stories would cut her to the core, Yeagle would try to invest herself in the stories within the novels she’d read. It made her difficult job a bit easier.

But she didn’t choose this job because it was easy. She didn’t become drawn to the idea of empowering victims of violence because it was a mundane task she’d carry out at a 9-to-5 office shift.

During her undergraduate years at MU, Yeagle studied social work and worked as an intern at True North of Columbia, a shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence. There, Yeagle worked as an advocate intern for the Domestic Violence Enforcement Unit from August to December 2014.

Then, during her last semester as an MU graduate student, Yeagle applied for the sexual violence victim advocate position at True North, where she worked until August 2015. Once September of that year rolled around, Yeagle came to MU to work at the RSVP Center.

Yeagle sits in the center’s Advocacy Coordinator Office, which she’s decorated with dimly lit lamps, flowers, fresh plants and personal photos. She has opted for a softer, pastel color scheme for her furniture over the neutral greys found in a typical office.

“I purposely try to cultivate a space that feels calm and safe,” Yeagle said. “This space is really important for having a conversation with people about their needs and how we can help meet those needs.”

As an advocacy coordinator, Yeagle operates on a person-centered model. Rather than subjecting each client to a predetermined checklist, Yeagle tries to figure out the context of their situations to determine what resources they need.

Whether that be giving the breakdown of the Title IX office’s process, handing out resource referrals or performing crisis interventions, Yeagle’s work stays behind her closed office door. She believes that the confidential nature of her service is part of the reason why her colleague at the LGBTQ Resource Center Sean Olmstead nominated her for the January Service Champion Award.

“I was incredibly taken aback and humbled by his gesture,” Yeagle said. “A lot of the work I do isn’t something that is broadcast widely … I don’t do this job to receive thanks or to get awards.”

She didn’t choose this job because it was easy or to receive accolades or public appraisal. She was drawn to the idea of empowering violence survivors for the stories.

But not the stories that would force her to retreat to the Old Navy break room. The ones that chronicle a person’s journey from victim to survivor.

“I count myself as incredibly lucky to be a part of those stories,” Yeagle said. “It’s a beautiful thing to stand back and watch them go through this really difficult journey and have the privilege to help them reflect.”

Yeagle often reassures clients who question how far they've really come in their journey of self-healing.

“No, when we first met two years ago you were here and now you’re here,” she said, demonstrating how she interacts with clients. “I know it feels like today you’re not very far and today doesn't feel like a good today, but if you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, look how much you’ve accomplished despite what you thought you’d be able to do.”

Sitting across from someone and being trusted to hear a scary, personal story is special to Yeagle, but also something she feels she should never have to experience in the first place.

“We should be able to walk throughout our lives without fear of violence just by virtue of existing,” Yeagle said. “So it’s hard hearing these stories of other humans who’ve experienced the worst aspects of humanity.”

It’s hard, but it was through this job that Yeagle learned the value of listening to these stories.

“It affirms that person’s inherent value and humanity,” Yeagle said. “A lot of time people feel like their job is to be a fact-finder or an investigator, but that’s not our job. Our job is to listen to the person who’s choosing to come to you.”

Edited by Skyler Rossi | srossi@themaneater.com

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