Emily LeBlanc: Providing advocacy and support for survivors
Emily LeBlanc is a member of the Survivors Advisor Board under the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. She has been counselling survivors for 21 years and works tirelessly as a member of her community to advance policy that will protect women and create resources in the areas they are most needed.
Growing up in Garland, Emily was surrounded by strong familial role models from a very young age. The women in her family taught her to be persistent in her beliefs, and this is a principle she has exemplified throughout her life and career. Her introduction to politics began when she took an Introduction to Women’s Studies class while attending the University of Southern California. While in college, she was starkly aware of the rampant misogyny and sexism she experienced on campus. However, within the women’s studies class, she was placed into a consciousness group that helped her gain insight into the lives and experiences of other women. Her professor was highly influential in facilitating these groups and creating connections between their students within and beyond the classroom. From there, Emily went on to join multiple political organizations on campus and pursue a career in working to prevent sexual assault and protecting the rights & lives of women.
Emily is a community activist who has dedicated her career to working with and advocating for survivors. Though an expert in the field, Emily is also a survivor. The Survivors’ Advisor Board under TAASA has been advocating for statewide policy change since its formation in August 2020. Their goal is to elevate survivor voices in leading systemic change throughout Texas in all spaces where policies are made and services are provided, from community to legislation, in pursuit of a society where survivors heal and thrive. Aside from this, she has been involved in numerous other organizations with similar goals. However, Emily considers her greatest achievement to be starting Eloise House in Austin, Texas. Eloise House is a forensic clinic located at the rape crisis center that provides free forensic exams and medical aid to survivors. Since its opening, the number of survivors in Austin getting exams, accessing legal services, and receiving counseling has increased, and Eloise house has been replicated in at least two other communities in Texas.
When asked about the greatest barrier she has faced in her career, Emily provided a very insightful answer. When she began her career of advocacy, she believed that if people understood the experiences of victims, they would realize the truth about sexual assault and do better for victims. However, throughout her career, she has learned that many people unfortunately do not care or refuse to allow themselves to be educated. She has heard people in power say that the problem is women who are “too emotional,” even going as far as to say Emily herself had “a poisonous pen.” Despite this, she recalls a piece of wisdom bestowed upon her by her grandmother: “If they’re talking about you, at least they’re giving someone else a break.” Emily firmly states that encountering these barriers is a sign that she’s gaining power, not losing it.
Furthermore, Emily has a great deal of advice for women and femmes who want to pursue a career in politics. She advises that women should not talk themselves out of things before they try them, because ultimately, the worst they can say is “no.” Another thing she emphasized is the importance of surrounding oneself with a community of advocates with similar goals. Throughout her life and career, Emily has been able to learn, grow, and make connections with other survivors and advocates in her field, and she cites this as a crucial part of her success.