Prior to July 6th, 2017, Drusilla Cowan and Asehli Howe, the founders of Survivor Alliance, were two women living separate, yet strangely similar lives. Dru came from Louisiana, and Asehli from Southern California, but both felt that healing from their own experiences of rape began when they moved to the Bay Area. Wanting to turn their negative experiences into positive ones, their paths intersected at a volunteer training with San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) to become crisis counselors*. Through an intense 40-hour training, the duo (along with 15 other women) learned the skills necessary to support those who experience sexual violence with a survivor-centered approach.
Before meeting, Dru had already conceptualized and begun work on Survivor Alliance. The idea came to her after the 2016 election cycle and realizing (through making her survivor story public) that there’s a huge disconnect between those who experience sexual assault. Her vision was to bring survivors together in a new way, utilizing technology to make healing easier. Only 5 months after that vision came to her, Dru left her research job in biotech to make it a reality. Already building a network of healers and fellow survivors and laying the groundwork for the coming business, Dru entered the SFWAR volunteer training knowing that she wanted and needed a co-founder, but not really knowing where to find one.
During that time, Asehli had been working odd jobs, trying to find work that called to her. She eventually realized that her passion was to work with women who had experienced sexual violence. But with her background in Spanish and International Relations, she was torn between working abroad and staying in the Bay. After meeting representatives from SFWAR at a concert highlighting femme/non-binary artists, her mind was made up and she joined the training. Through the first day’s introductions, Asehli learned about Survivor Alliance and asked Dru how she could help the mission of providing long-term support to survivors. A few brainstorming sessions later, it was official; the two agreed to partner up and co-found Survivor Alliance.
Because much of the basic business and website infrastructure had been established, together, Dru and Asehli hit the ground running. They found ways to divide up the overwhelming workload in ways that highlight each of their strengths and passions. Dru, with her more technical background in biotech and interest in healthcare, handles more of the website development and health partnerships. Asehli, with her more artistic and activist interests, focusses more on writing, outreach, and partnerships with creatives. Without previous entrepreneurial experience, both founders have had to trust their instincts as survivors and learn much of what it means to run a business on their own (but with the support of the many resources in the Bay Area for startup founders).
After months of planning, Survivor Alliance is now crowdfunding to raise awareness about their efforts and to get their self-care kits and resource network up and running as quickly as possible. For both founders, the goal is to build a sustainable and authentic community that survivors, like themselves, could heal and grow from, while providing allies with resources to support survivors in their lives. By selling their products (like the self-care kit) at the cost set in the campaign, they hope to subsidize costs and bring these resources to those who might not be able to afford them. Plus, they hope to grow their team to make marketing, product development, and creating content for the site less overwhelming.
Regardless of the campaign’s success, they plan to adapt and evolve until the best strategy for supporting survivors is found. There is no end in sight for the Survivor Alliance team. The need is too great to give up.
If you have skills that you would like to volunteer to help us out, we would greatly appreciate it. For questions, comments, or ways to get involved, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*By law, we are unable to provide rape crisis services outside of our duties with SFWAR. Please do not come to either of us for counseling or crisis support, as we would be unable to protect your confidentiality and could get our organization into trouble. For more information or if you’re looking to get involved, check out SFWAR’s website here.