A career cannot simply be a daily chore for Megan Carvajal.
“I really value people who can go to work and just do a job and go home,” Carvajal said. “But, for me, I live my work.”
This sentiment is not the norm for the average working adult, but organizations like The Blue Bench rely on employees with this type of dedication to carry out its ever-important mission.
The Blue Bench is Metro Denver’s only comprehensive sexual-assault prevention and survivor support center. The nonprofit recently named Carvajal as its new Executive Director.
And this will not be Carvajal’s first position within sexual assault and domestic violence organizations. In fact, both she and her wife have been working within these fields for most of their careers.
“The Blue Bench is working towards ending sexual violence, and that resonates with me on so many levels,” Carvajal said. “It was just a good fit that I couldn’t pass up… I really felt called to say yes.”
The nonprofit works to end sexual violence through a wide variety of services including prevention programming, advocacy, and low or no-cost therapy services.
The Blue Bench also offers case-management services to help survivors deal with the aftermath of an assault. If a survivor misses work while dealing with the trauma of an assault, for example, the nonprofit will help them get rental assistance if needed. These services also include post-conviction victim advocacy which gives a voice to survivors whose perpetrators are on probation. In these cases, The Blue Bench will serve as a liaison between law enforcement and the survivor, ensure the perpetrator is following the required course of action and report back to the survivor regarding progress being made throughout probation.
In response to the pandemic, The Blue Bench has had to limit its prevention offerings, but the high school program, Uniting in Action: Creating a Culture to Prevent Sexual Violence, has continued virtually.
It also normally offers a Safe Bars program. This program trains staff of alcohol-serving establishments on how to be active bystanders and step in when they notice a risky situation. Sloan’s Lake Tap & Burger was among the local restaurants to go through training before the pandemic.
Carvajal is hopeful that once Denver begins to open up again, she can lead the nonprofit in an innovative direction regarding the delivery of its services.
“We have an opportunity to think about if we should be doing things the same way we’ve always done them,” Carvajal said. “Are we truly an all in-person organization, and does that limit us in how we can really serve the community?”
On top of exploring the possibilities of expanded access, Carvajal also hopes to actively pursue anti-racism and anti-oppressive practices. Director of Communications David Proper said Carvajal would help them reach traditionally underserved members of the community.
“Megan really brings a diversity, equity and inclusion lens to The Blue Bench,” Proper said. “So we can sort of double down on that commitment of serving all communities within Metro Denver, including those who may not have known of us or had access to us in the past.”
Carvajal has recruited a local consulting firm to help accomplish these goals. She hopes bringing in outside experts will first help with internal change, so then the nonprofit can understand how to layer that work onto external practices.
“We’re being really bold in our communications, and I’m super excited about that,” Carvajal said. “But there’s still a lot to be done with how we do our programming, how we deliver services, and anyone who’s been through this work will tell you creating an organization rooted in equity takes a really long time.”
Although Carvajal does not yet know Denver well, she is confident in the work that can be done with the help of the community.
“I believe in humankind, and I believe in the power of us doing work together,” Carvajal said. “I am here for [the community], and I need them to be here for us… My goal is to build upon the commitment we already have to the community and engage even more community members from our neighborhoods.”