This week is the 30th story of Women & the Ways We Work. I decided to reach out to some people I didn’t really know, but found interesting. One of those people was Sarah Beaulieu. I realized she was posting some interesting things on Twitter and found myself watching her TED Talk: An Uncomfortable Conversation Worth Having on TEDxBeaconStreet. It was captivating. She and her narrative were captivating and I wanted to know more of her story. In her talk she explores, “What if, instead of avoiding uncomfortable conversations about sexual violence, we could just get better at having them? In her talk, Sarah Beaulieu, a survivor, writer and advocate, unpacks the five key lessons she’s learned about the mindset necessary to transform stigmatized and judgmental conversations about sexual violence to conversations that promote healing and change.”
Sarah Beaulieu is a Boston-based writer, speaker and advocate who has spent the last several years interviewing men and women about sexual violence. I’ve never been to Boston and we’ve never met, but I hope we do meet in person one day. Sarah’s mission is to spark 100,000 conversations about sexual violence with men. You can join the conversation and follow her work online. But for now, I give you her story.
- Hi Sarah, could you please tell me what you do in your “day job” and why you have chosen that?
In my day job, I’m senior advisor to the GreenLight Fund, a national venture philanthropy organization that matches the nation’s best social entrepreneurs with the communities that need them the most. I love how this organization balances the best of the entrepreneurship and venture world with the lessons of effective and impactful nonprofits, and attracts smart, engaging and whole people to support its operation and growth. My colleagues at the GreenLight Fund are such amazing champions of my non-GreenLight Fund work, which I so appreciate!
In the other half of my time, I am a social entrepreneur, launching a new project, The Uncomfortable Conversation. This means I’m part video producer, part super-connector, and part marketing machine. It’s been really exciting to be able to make this project come together in the last six months.
2. That’s some incredibly meaningful work. How did you get into what you do now?
There are two ways to answer that. With the GreenLight Fund, I met Margaret Hall, the National Executive Director, in 2008 when I was looking for a job. We kept in touch over the years, just having coffee a couple times a year. In 2015, when I was ready to step back from my full-time gig to pursue more intentional work around sexual violence prevention and response, we reconnected. As it turned out, she needed someone with my skill set and it turned out to be a match.
In terms of the video project, I let the work lead me to it. After leaving a full-time job to pursue the issue of sexual violence more deeply, I initially thought I’d write a book. I worked on building my platform, landed a bunch of op-eds and blog posts, and even a literary agent. But the book didn’t sell. At the same time, I was invited to give a talk at TEDxBeaconStreet which was an amazing opportunity to workshop this issue with my target audience. Through that experience, I learned how hungry men were for practical information about this topic. But it wasn’t until my best friend, Russ, was visiting for the holidays that we started messing around with video. After our silly pilot series, I realized we were onto something, and it quickly came together into a bigger project we’re launching now.
3. Wow. That is a great demonstration of the power of networking and your interests aligning just right! What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love that I’m doing something meaningful with some of my best friends in the world. I have an incredible group of board members and partners who have shown up for me and for this issue in inspiring ways. I feel lucky to have found a way to connect my passion for supporting survivors of sexual violence with the people in the world who have supported me, as a survivor, the most. Plus, making videos is a wonderful creative outlet in a time when the world — and my day-to-day life — can feel very overwhelming!
4. It sounds like you surround yourself with some wise supporters. What are your best sources for learning?
I learn by talking to people who are smarter than me. Whether it’s talking to a college student about how they use Snapchat or spending time with nonprofit leaders obsessed with a particular social challenge, I find that asking questions and listening deeply are the best tools for learning.
5. What is your passion and why is it important to you?
I’m passionate about normalizing conversations about sexual violence, particularly for young men. We teach men how not to rape. We teach men how to stop their friends from raping. But the truth is that most men aren’t rapists, and are seeking for ways to support the survivors in their lives and become more active as advocates. As a mother to a young son, it’s so important that we raise the next generation of humans with the practical skills required to navigate tough conversations and issues.
6. I could not agree more. What do you devote your time to outside of “work?”
Currently, I’m launching The Uncomfortable Conversation, Inc. and a video campaign that illustrates the many ways young men can navigate sexual violence prevention and response. We assembled a group of amazing volunteer actors, videographers and partners to produce 50+ videos and will be releasing them over the course of the fall.
7. What is something interesting about you?
When my daughter was 9 weeks old, I took her to SXSW and started a blog about all the places I pumped breast milk for her. I do actually do things outside of work that are not work too though. I like to workout, hang out with my husband and two kids, and binge-watch crime shows on Netflix.
8. That’s so cool and definitely very interesting! Best and worst advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I received when I was pregnant with my first child was this: If you love the newborn phase, enjoy it because it doesn’t last long. And if you don’t love the newborn phase, don’t worry, it doesn’t last long.
9. What big change can you identify that you are glad that happened and how did it transform you and your life?
Meeting my husband really helped me articulate and work towards balance in my life in a new way. My husband is really, really good at relaxing and chilling out. I am not. He’s taught me to slow down, pace myself and enjoy the journey.
10. What fuels your direction?
I’m driven by a sense of happy obligation. As someone who was both sexually abused as a child and date raped as a teen, I should not be okay. But thanks to grace, privilege and hard work, I was able to access the healing resources I needed to become whole again. Now I work to pay it forward to others who may not yet know there is another side to their pain.
Want to talk to Sarah too? Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter. And don’t forget to like The Uncomfortable Conversation on Facebook and follow The Uncomfortable Conversation on Instagram.
Thanks for reading Sarah’s story. Share in the comments how it impacted you or share it on social media. Check out next week’s weekly post on Women & the Ways We Work. Missed the others? Take a look at my blog to read them. Know someone you think should be featured or would you like to be featured? Can I help you or your organization with a storytelling project? Contact me and let’s chat.