Every Wednesday The CSPH highlights a Sexuality Professional you should keep your eye on. Their backgrounds are very diverse in order to bring attention to the wide variety of amazing people working in the field. This week we bring you Alison Bellavance!
1. What do you do in the field of sexuality?
I am the Director of Education for Planned Parenthood of Northeast, Mid-Penn and Bucks County (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/northeast-pennsylvania/). I am also an adjunct instructor at Widener University in the Center for Human Sexuality Studies.
2. Where are you based out of?
I am based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
3. What is your focus? What do you do?
In my role at Planned Parenthood, I oversee all education programs and initiatives for our affiliate. Our team of educators provides comprehensive sexuality education in a variety of settings, runs two LGBTQA youth program, an after-school program for young women of color and provides professional trainings on sexuality topics.
I have a particular interest in the intersection between healthy sexuality and sexual violence prevention. This was a focus of much of my graduate work and I have worked as a consultant for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center on their 2012 and 2013 Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaigns, with both focusing on healthy sexuality. I continue to work with state and local sexual violence organizations providing training and support around incorporating healthy sexuality into their work.
4. What are your particular goals and passions in the field?
This is always so hard to narrow down because I am passionate about so many things in this field. Sexuality education can help better lives in so many ways whether it’s improving relationships, building self-esteem, affirming identity and experiences- the list goes on. I’d say over the last few years I have been the most passionate about bridging healthy sexuality and sexual violence prevention. I feel such strong ties to both fields and being able to bring them together is so exciting and energizing to me. I also believe it is a way we can truly help to address the harmful norms and attitudes that allow sexual violence to continue.
5. Why did you choose to work in this field?
I like to think this field chose me. I have identified as a feminist for as long as I can remember and went to college with the intent of finding a way to help improve the lives of women and girls. As an undergraduate I interned for a domestic violence agency and went on to work as a counselor/educator. I loved the work but wanted to find a way to address a broader range of content and it led me to sexuality education. As soon as I landed my first job as a Planned Parenthood educator, I knew I had found the work I wanted to do. After that it was a no-brainer that I pursue my graduate degree in human sexuality. I feel so thankful that I have the opportunity to meet so many amazing people through my work and, hopefully, impact their lives in some small way.
6. Where did you go for school/training?
I earned my B.A. in Women’s Studies from Temple University and my M.Ed. in Human Sexuality from Widener University. I am also an AASECT certified sexuality educator.
7. Do you have any literature out (websites, articles)?
My consulting work for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center involved writing resource materials on healthy sexuality. The resources from the 2012 campaign are free and available on their Sexual Assault Awareness Month page (http://www.nsvrc.org/saam/current-campaign). You can also follow me on twitter: www.twitter.com/AliBellavance
8. What would you recommend to future professionals attempting to get into the field?
Find what you are passionate about. I sometimes feel so overwhelmed with all the work that there is to be done, but what keeps me going is that I truly love what I do. I feel so lucky to have a career doing something that fulfills me and makes me happy. There are so many opportunities and niches in sexuality education, find yours and I believe work and opportunities will find you.
9. What is the most challenging aspect for you working in this career?
What I find most challenging about my work is dealing with the misconceptions that people may have about sexuality education or the reasons people become sexuality educators. It can be frustrating when our work is misunderstood or devalued. It can also be exhausting to constantly explain and defend the work you do.
10. One must read-what would you recommend? Why?
Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines is a fabulous resource for survivors and advocates alike. I also pretty much love everything that Jessica Valenti has ever written.