Effect change: Student advocate Taylor Parker on Title IX

Taylor Parker.

Second-year law student Taylor Parker.

Second-year Stetson University College of Law student Taylor S. Parker wants her fellow students to know that they can effect change.

“With the small campus, I have found a tight-knit community where I can effectively generate professional contacts, as well as a close relationship with faculty and staff which has allowed me to work with Stetson to make change on this campus,” said Parker, who explained that Stetson’s Social Justice Advocacy Concentration program inspired her to come to law school at Stetson.

Barely an adult at the age of 18, Parker became an advocate. When Parker’s college friend experienced the challenges of filing a Title IX complaint, she wanted to help.

As an undergraduate developmental psychology and gender studies major at New College of Florida, Parker worked on an independent study project to help the college update its Title IX policy.

She wrote the college’s Title IX retaliation clause, and helped to develop a “curtain option” to safeguard accusers from intimidation and create a safe place for accusers to seek justice.

It was at New College that Parker became passionate about effecting policy change. She said that she learned that she needed to decide between a career in law or in counseling.

The Rape Crisis Center presented at the Gulfport campus on Feb. 2.

The Rape Crisis Center presented at the Gulfport campus on Feb. 2. Photo by Marissa Marchena.

“I had to decide between doing cleanup or preventive work,” Parker explained.

Counselors often work to triage the damage left behind when people are victimized. In law and policy, Parker said that she sees the possibility of creating change to help her fellow students before they are victimized.

As a 19-year-old college student in Sarasota, Parker became a Florida-trained Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocate. During all four years of college, she worked at a shelter for the victims of domestic violence, the Sarasota Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center. At SPARCC, Parker worked with children and teenagers on the Window Between Worlds project, she covered the hotline at the shelter, worked as a courtroom advocate for adults, and gathered resources to help victims of abuse receive compensation, substance abuse treatment safety planning and suicide prevention. She collected law enforcement statistics on mortality risks among victims.

Through her work as a researcher, Parker helped identify patterns and trends to help create better policies. She said that her experience working with children in the foster system at the shelter opened her eyes to the related issues of violence against women and domestic violence.

“Violence against women impacts everyone,” said Parker. “Harmful gender roles contribute to self-sustaining silence.”

Taylor is a Guardian Ad Litem, working with children in the dependency system as a voice and an advocate for their best interests in court. She is a research assistant in Stetson University’s Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy collecting research on Title IX. After law school, Taylor said she is inspired to work as a Title IX coordinator in higher education.

“Title IX allows students to have their voices heard and enact change,” said Parker.

After her first year of law school, Parker helped start a committee of student, faculty and staff members that acts as an arm of Student Life to create a Title IX policy tailored to the needs of the Stetson community. The unique needs of law students can include often misguided concerns over reporting abuse that might impact a bar application, Taylor explained.

Last semester, Taylor launched the Law Students for Reproductive Justice with a presentation on Reproductive Justice 101.

This spring, Taylor is orchestrating a large-scale training session for Stetson students on the law school campus to become certified in order to volunteer with a local domestic violence center in St. Petersburg. She has been working with a local Rape Crisis Center to organize a consent workshop on campus.

Taylor is also planning a presentation on the mistreatment of HIV positive people.

She is working with the Office of Student Life to develop a Sexual Health and Resource Center on Stetson’s Gulfport campus to provide individualized outreach to students in need. She compiled resources for students available through Student Life at the College of Law and helped co-sponsor a Rape Crisis Center presentation to the Gulfport campus on Feb. 2.

“It’s about fighting fear with outreach and education,” Taylor said.