An Interview with Maya Siegel
A passionate young woman with a relentless work ethic, Maya Siegel is an advocate from Colorado and the Founder of Space To Speak: an organization dedicated to giving youth a leading voice in the sexual violence prevention movement, while also working to reduce sexual violence through education, service, and advocacy. She is also on the leadership teams of GenZ Girl Gang and ThinkOcean, while working as the Executive Assistant to Nadya Okamoto and the Website Designer at JUV Consulting. Maya finds power in doing work that she loves, building community, and providing for herself. Her work has been recognized in the Washington Post, MTV, Teen Vogue, and the NYT Upfront. Maya has very kindly taken the time to speak to us about her work at Space to Speak, discussing the support she has received from those around her, and her plans for the future.
Interview conducted by Elizabeth Bratton.
When did you become in advocacy for victims of sexual assault?
I became involved with advocacy for survivors of sexual violence in my freshman year of high school.
What prompted you to create the website ‘Space to Speak?’, and what does it mean to you?
I co-founded Space to Speak in 2019, because I wanted to build a community dedicated to giving youth a leading voice in the sexual violence preventation movement while also working to further the national conversation on consent. I’m a survivor of sexual violence, so being able to build the community I needed to heal means a lot to me. I have gained a community of survivors to heal and grow with, and transformed from a shy girl to the leader of an organization that gives youth a leading voice in the sexual violence prevention movement.
Did you find others were encouraging of your movement? I pitched the idea to my new college friends and my bestfriends from high school. I definitely felt supported when I pitched the idea of Space to Speak; I was supported by everyone I talked to, from college professors, to friends and my Instagram community, and now we’re a community of over 1800 members strong.
What do you hope people take away from Space to Speak? I hope survivors find an inclusive community to heal and grow together and that allies realize how much work needs to be done to reduce sexual violence.
What are your personal experiences with Sex Ed in the education system? Was it sufficient? My sex education was one short unit in middle school with boys on one side of the room and girls on the other. It wasn’t comprehensive and didn’t mention consent or healthy relationships.
Have you encountered any challenges as an activist?
I think a wonderful and surprising challenge is managing an international team and finding ways to incorporate community members that are interested in joining the team, even when our leadership team is full. Today, Space to Speak has an international youth leadership team 13 strong.
Regarding the name of your website, do you think people today are more willing to speak about their experiences? Space to Speak’s goal isn’t to pressure or even encourage survivors to speak up about their experiences; it’s about giving them a safe supportive space to share if they want to.
What are your future plans for Space to Speak?
Space to Speak’s long-term goal is to implement consent curriculum into primary, secondary, and tertiary education to reduce sexual violence.
Could you tell us a bit more about how people can reach out to you, and other services if they are in difficulty?
Whether you are a survivor or ally, there’s always room in our community so please reach out through Instagram (@spacetospeakorg) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) anytime! If you’re a survivor struggling during COVID-19, we can help you financially at FreeFrom.org. Our current initiative in partnership with FreeFrom has raised over $101,000 in the past month!
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