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Comfort in Crisis

Audrey Baumgartner
July 23, 2018

Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Political Science major Audrey Baumgartner is a crisis volunteer at PAVSA.

Audrey Baumgartner sits on her bed with her computer on her lap. While she is typing a paragraph, her phone rings. All thoughts of a good night's sleep leave her head. The call means an all-night visit to the emergency room. As she drives down the hill, she knows what she could encounter: a terrified woman, bruised and beaten. There'll be police and doctors, and Audrey will be there, to hold hands, to comfort, and to reassure.

Audrey, a UMD Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Political Science major, is more than a student. She is a crisis volunteer for the Program for Aid to Sexual Assault (PAVSA). "Volunteering to work with people who have been sexually assaulted is very rewarding," she says. "You've potentially changed someone's life in just a couple of hours."

How the situation is handled makes a big difference. "It's important that you give that power back to the clients," she says. "You let them make all the calls. If they want me to leave, I leave. It's really about making them comfortable in such a terrible situation."

Audrey says she originally took a course in the Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies program on the recommendation of her sister. It was a good fit. "I loved it so much I switched my major. I learn a lot about our society and culture. Everyone should be a Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies major."

Audrey will put the lessons learned from working at PAVSA to good use in her future career. She wants to go to law school and become a lawyer. Audrey is graduating in the spring of 2019 and is applying to several law schools. She is currently studying for the LSAT.

Audrey has committed herself to being a part of Mock Trial Club since her freshman year. In the club students participate in rehearsed trials to learn about the legal system while competing against other schools. Audrey has jumped into a leadership position by taking on the role of president last year and continuing with it in the year ahead.

Audrey had help along the way. She received an Alta Marie Oben Scholarship, the Tobin Peace and Non-Violence Scholarship, and the Women's Studies Legacy Award. "UMD was meant to happen for me. It was the best decision of my life."