Guest Editorial from Former SPAN Antiviolence Peer Educator

Colorado State Representative Jonathan Singer

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A constituent tenuously enters the office of a newly appointed freshman Colorado State Representative to discuss an upcoming bill.  The name etched on the frosted glass door had not yet even been changed to match the legislator seated at the uncomfortably large desk.  Surrounded by law books and mounds of languishing paperwork, the legislator excitedly greets his first citizen-lobbyist.

“Tell me what brings you here today?” I excitedly ask.

My constituent “Sarah” (pseudonym) says “I’d like to talk to you about a Human Trafficking bill.  I think it unfairly victimizes the people the bill claims to protect.”

Welcome to my first truly long day at the Colorado State Capitol. 

I got my start about sixteen years earlier at Fairview High School as an Interpersonal Non-violence Peer Educator with the Boulder County Safehouse.

Now known as Peers Building Justice, my work with students to help stop dating violence inspired me to pursue an education and career in Social Work.  After years of working on behalf of elders, children, and struggling families, I decided to bring my front-line experience to a new peer group at the State Capitol in 2012.

Back in my office, Sarah and I deliberated the protections the bill put in place for victims of Human Trafficking. I pointed out this included individuals “coerced by another person.”  The mood in the room quickly shifted.

Sarah asked “is it coercion if someone …”

She went on to graphically describe how she was beaten and then forced to perform sexual acts for money.

I started to righteously state we needed to call the police. Sarah shook her head explaining she had tried that before and she was afraid she would be arrested for prostitution.

Falling back on my training that started sixteen years earlier, I asked if it would be OK to  call a legal advocate together.  The advocate promised to counsel Sarah and help her file a police report if she wanted.

I ran into Sarah several weeks after we passed the bill (with the victim protections in place).  She profusely thanked me and informed me that the police were now looking for her attacker.

Simply passing a law did not bring Sarah’s attacker off the streets. But a dedicated community of individuals standing ready helped Sarah when she needed it.  We need groups like SPAN, and they need new volunteers standing ready to educate, counsel, and contribute.

Representative Jonathan Singer has served House District 11 since January, 2012 when he was chosen to fill a vacancy in the Colorado House of Representatives.  He currently serves as Vice-Chair of the House Local Government Committee, as well as sitting on the Appropriations and the Public Health Care and Human Services Committees.  Prior to his service in the Colorado House, Rep. Singer worked in Child and Adult Protection in Boulder County as well as with the Denver Office of Economic Development.  Rep. Singer received his Master’s in Social Work and BS in Psychology and Social Work from Colorado State University. He has volunteered on behalf of at risk families most of his life and he is married to Allison Barrett whom he met when they were both high school volunteers at the Boulder Public Library.