OHIO survivor advocate offered virtual training for Korean sexual assault crisis center

Published: February 5, 2022 Author: Isabella Pennese

Yejin Sohn, MSW, LSW, a survivor advocate and case manager for Ohio University’s Survivor Advocacy Program (SAP), recently used her experiences at OHIO to help international survivors get support while navigating the challenges of social distancing protocols. 

Through OHIO’s SAP, Sohn provides trauma-informed care and empowerment in her advocacy work with students who have experienced sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, and relationship violence.

Sohn is originally from Seoul, South Korea, and has been interested in working with survivors of interpersonal violence since high school, where she started managing a student group for preventing sexual violence and helping survivors.

After completing her first master’s degree in social work, Sohn moved to the United States in 2018 to pursue her second master’s degree from Washington University. Since her first master’s degree was research-based, she decided to come to the States to focus on clinical skills in her work supporting survivors.

Even after moving to another country, Sohn stayed in touch with her former supervisor Myungshin Jung. Together Sohn and Jung worked for a program called the Sunflower Center, which is a sexual assault crisis center run by the Korean government with many locations throughout the country.

The Sunflower Center is a comprehensive service for victims, providing everything from evidence collection in the first 72 hours to investigative work and long-term counseling. This model of service is unique compared to similar facilities in the United States.

“The Sunflower Center is the only place where integrated support is possible in Korea. Each expert cooperates to support victims; counseling team (social worker), investigation team (police officer), medical team (nurse), psychology team (clinical psychologist),” said Kim Jungsook, a counseling team leader at the Sunflower Center.

Sohn began volunteering at the Sunflower Center in her first year of college. Her volunteer work eventually landed her a role as a full-time counselor, where she worked up until she moved to the States.

“The Sunflower Center helped me to specify my dream as a clinician among many ways to work for survivors,” Sohn said.

Recently, Jung reached out to Sohn asking her to do a training for them and their counselors to discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on survivors and how OHIO’s SAP has adjusted its model to serve survivors in the virtual environment during the pandemic.

OHIO’s SAP had adjusted its survivor-centered approach to the virtual environment as well as the in-person services due to COVID-19. All advocates keep their environment secure and private as much as possible so students can feel comfortable and safe in an advocate’s office. Students are allowed to decide which method — virtual or in-person — would be suitable for them. 

Since Korea has also been experiencing a lot of discomforts due to COVID-19, the Sunflower Center has been examining the pros and cons of using online services in their modules. Due to the strengthening of the Korean governments' social distancing guidelines, many institutions have suspended face-to-face services for a certain period and operated them virtually. However, the Sunflower Center continues to conduct its services in the same way as before. The main reason it chose to do this is because many of its services are time-sensitive, such as evidence collection.

Sohn was able to share her own experiences and observations of how clinicians can use online services wisely for their clients in a way that benefits survivors.

Not only do virtual services protect the physical health of both parties, but they also provide more accessibility to survivors who are located outside the area.

“Sometimes, survivors experience severe depression and find it difficult to get out of bed,” Sohn said. Because of this, virtual services “will provide advantages, even when OHIO’s SAP begins in-person services again.”

Sohn expressed her admiration towards Jung for always respecting her as an independent clinician, “even though they met when [Sohn] barely knew anything about the practice.”

“[Jung] was the one who inspired me to do the work I am doing now. It is a great joy for me that I could help her and the center even though I am away from them,” Sohn said.  

At OHIO, Sohn continues to promote resources to students who have experienced sexual and interpersonal violence and adds unique expertise in working with international survivors.

Sohn’s background working with diverse populations of survivors has helped her understanding of how to counsel diverse cultures and their intersectionality on campus.

A survivor may feel like they are the only one who has a certain problem after the assault, and it makes them feel negatively about themselves. In that case, Sohn helps them to normalize their experiences and difficulties.

The Survivor Advocacy Program provides confidential services to all student survivors and co-survivors at Ohio University, regardless of nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation or when/where victimization occurred. To meet with an advocate, you can call their 24-hour hotline at 740.597.7233 or email survivor.advocacy@ohio.edu.