&Me: Spotlighting Jessica Davidson
October 23, 2017
Inspired by our “Feminists&Me” tee, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) continues its “Spotlight on Feminists” series by highlighting and honoring individuals who work to make a difference every day. NNEDV previously honored the women featured in this design: Sojourner Truth & Susan B. Anthony & bell hooks & Gloria Steinem & Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Read the rest of our &Me series here.
NNEDV: First, tell us about yourself – who are you and what do you do?
Jessica Davidson: I’m a Colorado girl, and got my start in gender-based violence prevention work when I was Student Body Vice President at the University of Denver in Denver, CO. As Student Body Vice President, I worked on policy reform and instituted many new programs, and came forward with my story as a survivor in an op-ed on the front page of the Huffington Post. Through the work that ensued, over the last year I was named a White House It’s On Us Champion of Change by the Obama Administration, have served as an advisor to students on the It’s On Us campaign, interned in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement, and connected with amazing groups like NNEDV! Now, I’m the new Managing Director of End Rape On Campus (EROC). Outside of this work, I love to travel, go to museums, run, hike, and ski (though hiking and skiing is harder to come by in DC than CO).
NNEDV: What are you currently working on related to nonviolence and/or gender equality?
JD: Well, I recently started as the Managing Director at EROC, so as of late, gender equality and eradicating gender violence is my full time job — and I feel so lucky to be able to say that! I also have two ongoing related side causes that I’ve been working on over the past few months: 1. Exploring how technology tools can prevent survivors from harmful and triggering online harassment — Google’s Conversation AI is an amazing model and I’ve been learning a lot from their team about the possibilities of this work, and; 2. Looking at the impacts of sexism in the classroom in Masters of Public Policy programs across the country. So many women MPPs from programs across the country have had harrowing, shockingly similar experiences with this. Not only does such sexism harm student outcomes, but I believe it’s dangerous for this sexism to exist in the very classrooms that are shaping future policy minds, and I’m curious about why this is happening in so many graduate schools.
NNEDV: What inspired you to do this work? What inspires you to continue it?
JD: I first became inspired to do this work when I was a survivor at the same time that I was a student leader. I realized how many students on campus were going through the same devastation I was feeling, and that many of them had less support than I did — I felt a responsibility to use my position to create change within the institution. When I started the work, I knew my own experience, but many of those survivors I wanted to fight for were unknown to me. Since then, I have met thousands of survivors, and their stories and strength are what inspire me to continue it. Many of them I think of every single day.
NNEDV: Let’s say you woke up this morning and gender-based violence had been completely eradicated. What are you going to do now?
JD: Oh man — first, I would celebrate, probably with a nice vacation! Then, I would get back to work. Even if we can eradicate gender-based violence, there are so many aspects of gender equality that we have a long ways to go on, and I imagine I’ll stay involved in the gender equality field until or unless we’ve eradicated all the barriers that prevent women, girls, non-binary, trans, and LGBTQ folks from living full and equal lives simply because of their gender and/or sexual orientation.
NNEDV: If you could sit down over your beverage of choice with any person – living or dead – who would it be and why?
JD: Abraham Lincoln. As a political science major in college, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ever-widening gap between ideologies in the United States, and how that impacts our society. I believe that his insights from guiding our country through the Civil War and the events that transpired during his Presidency would shed light on what average citizens can do to guide us through present political tumult.