“My passion to help survivors comes from being an honest witness to myself as a survivor, and accepting the power of my own voice instead of fearing it.”
2019 Woman of Faith weaves a healing network to empower survivors of sexual trauma
“There is no question that Rachel Monaco-Wilcox is driven with the spirit and passion to help survivors of domestic violence, rape and trafficking.”
Those powerful words open Ann Angel’s nomination of Rachel for our 2019 Woman of Faith Award. Ann is an English professor at Milwaukee’s Mount Mary University who collaborated with Rachel to launch the Untold Stories Program in 2014. The two-day writing workshop helps survivors find strength and healing through personal testimony. It has also helped change cultural attitudes and strengthen laws to protect — rather than punish — survivors. But Ann says Rachel believed she could still do more.
Rachel’s “more” was founding LOTUS Legal Clinic, where she serves as chief executive officer, and law profession colleagues provide trauma-informed legal services to victims of human trafficking and gender-based violence. Austin Reece joined the LOTUS staff in 2018 and now directs Untold Stories. Together, he and Rachel have facilitated writing workshops, organized art shows and poetry readings, edited Untold Stories Magazine, and accompanied survivors to the National Crime Victim’s Rights Ceremony at the state capitol in Madison, Wis. “Her work is a calling,” Austin says, “and the daily substance of her work is embodied in empathy and a genuine human connection with the vulnerable and disenfranchised. Her work informs her character and her character colors every aspect of her work.”
Rachel opens every meeting at LOTUS with a prayer or spiritual poem. Austin says, “It centers and grounds our difficult, yet important work that demands nothing less than passion — because they’re worth it and because the Christian faith commands and inspires it.”
Rachel taught Dr. Emily Nolan when she was earning her doctorate in art therapy at Mount Mary. Emily says, “I was impressed with the way Rachel interacted with students, teaching conflict management from a very compassionate heart and making lasting connections with her students.” For Emily, that lasting connection is now the art therapy component to Untold Stories. “Art therapy helps to further witness survivors’ stories and build empathy,” says Emily, now an assistant professor at Mount Mary. She says Rachel’s mission is growing with plans to offer Untold Stories workshops nationally in the coming year.
“Rachel and I have a collaborative working relationship that supports Untold Stories, Mount Mary’s graduate art therapy program, and survivors of sex trafficking and sexual abuse.” Rachel has even helped advocate for state licensure of art therapists to qualify for insurance reimbursement.
Dr. Carrie King, chair of Mount Mary’s Counseling Department, also works with Rachel on projects related to healing trauma. She says Rachel’s personal experiences and faith inspire her to serve the most vulnerable in our society. Carrie says, “Rachel possesses high-level awareness of the support survivors need,” and shares her acuity with mental health providers and legal advocates to help them apply research-based principles of trauma informed care to their work. She also encourages collaboration among legal and counseling professionals to improve client outcomes.
Carrie’s letter of support for Rachel’s nomination closes with this tribute: These snapshots of what Rachel has done and what is in her heart have inspired me to give more of myself to the greater good. She has opened my eyes to new ways to care for those who experience shame, fear and insecurity. If ever there was a Woman of Faith whom I can identify with and look up to, it is Rachel.
Learn more at lotuslegal.org
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