Like a lot of college students, Ali Safran loves binging on episodes of House of Cards, indulging her photography habit, and hanging out with friends. She also shares a more sobering commonality with many of her peers: surviving sexual assault. Ali is the brave creator behind Surviving In Numbers, an organization and mobile educational project that empowers survivors to give a powerful voice to their experiences, to raise awareness about sexual violence on campuses, and to collectively heal by being “stronger in numbers.” With the emotionally intense and generally rigorous business of helming Surviving in Numbers—expanding its curriculum, growing its message, partnering with other national campaigns such as NO MORE—Ali recognizes the importance of taking time for herself and learning how to relax, especially, she admits “about the things I can’t control.”
Photo courtesy Olivia Papp
If you could describe yourself in one hashtag, what would it be?
I am #nevergiveup. I think that's been true not just in running Surviving in Numbers, but throughout my life. I've often joked this year that I used to think I was really patient, but it turns out, I'm just very persistent.
Tell us about a girl in your life who rocks.
My younger sister rocks. She's a high school freshman, and is more self-assured than I ever was at that age. She's always quick to speak her mind.
What are your dreams/goals/ambitions?
I want to keep running Surviving in Numbers and, ultimately, it would be great to end sexual violence completely! That won't happen thanks to me alone, so I also want to eventually become a lawyer who either directly advocates for survivors of violence or does more policy-level work that gets at the root of violence and stops it that way.
What are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of how honest I am with people. It can be hard, and often makes me vulnerable, but it also means I'm always advocating for myself and upfront about how I feel. Nobody would ever have to guess how I feel about something, because I'd just say it. In terms of my work, I'm most proud of how many survivors I've given a voice to (over 415 this past year).
What piece of advice changed your life?
I'm not sure any one piece of advice changed my life; I can't even really think of a piece of advice I've valued! I do know that the guidance my lawyers (not the District Attorneys, but the ones I had from an outside firm during the legal process after my assault) provided me changed my life and made me want to advocate for other survivors down the line.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I hope to be done with law school and doing policy work.
What is the number one item on your bucket list?
Right now, it's to graduate from college! I get to check that off next month.
Who has been the biggest female influence in your life and why?
The biggest female influence in my life has changed over time. Again, I think my lawyers were really influential to me -- they do advocacy work that must be incredibly draining, but they're able to maintain their empathy and are able to give their clients hope in the face of a dismal legal system. That was helpful to me as a client and has influenced the direction I want to go in life. My cousin Debbie has also been really influential throughout my whole life; she has always been a really strong, outspoken female figure, and I've always admired her.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken and what did you learn from it?
Honestly, applying to transfer colleges was a huge risk for many reasons. I was going through the legal process at that time, so I was extremely worn down, but I knew I was miserable at my first school. It was a huge step to recognize I might be happier elsewhere, and a huge risk to have to imagine that place and try to get there. I'm really happy I ended up at Mount Holyoke,
Why are you THAT GIRL?
I am THAT GIRL because I empower other girls and women, as well as myself, to speak out when it's hard and others might tell you to stay quiet. Whether that's about sexual violence or a daily struggle, I'm always the one who tells someone not to be ashamed of how they feel.
*Interview conducted and compiled by Sheila Moeschen, IATG Senior Editor
Photo courtesy Ali Safran