Content Warning: Mention of Sexual Violence
Charm Little-Ray has served as Associate Director of Survivor Support Services at Haven, Colgate’s center for sexual violence survivors, since August 2021. Her extensive background in clinical contexts and her innate desire to help others in times of need prove crucial to Haven’s operations.
Little-Ray, a graduate of Brooklyn College, received her master’s degree in psychological counseling. She continued her work in New York City in social service. In the early experiences of her career, Little-Ray volunteered as a rape crisis counselor at Bellevue Hospital, where she was first introduced to the field. She then spent nearly 10 years with Brooklyn Community Services providing support to families who have been victims of child, domestic and sexual abuse and providing mental health services. These services included case management, professional skills development and therapy.
“In Brooklyn, I worked with adults who had mental health issues and learning disabilities,” Little-Ray said. “I helped them prepare for jobs and their lives after.”
Combined with her rich experience working with students, adults and people with learning disabilities, Little-Ray is a licensed mental health clinician. Little-Ray’s colleague Dawn LaFrance, associate vice president of counseling and mental health services at Haven, is also a board-certified mental health clinician. Certification of Haven leaders to provide student counseling services is an essential element of their work. Little-Ray emphasizes her personal interest in these tasks.
“I like to say I’m more focused on the clinical aspects of my career – which encompasses a wide range of experiences,” said Little-Ray. “Although we [Haven] Considered primarily as services for survivors of sexual violence, I would like to emphasize that our services are intended for those affected by various forms of trauma – such as sexual molestation, childhood trauma, stalking and those who have been subjected to abuse – and for those who want to learn more about sexual violence and prevention.”
As part of Little-Ray’s day-to-day work, planning programs like the Yes Means Yes initiative are one of several influential projects that run through the calendar year. Founded in 2009 by a Colgate student, the Yes Means Yes program consists of six-week discussions on topics such as consent and positive sexuality. The discussions aim to uncover the stigma surrounding sex and combat sexual violence. The course will be led by Haven Associate Director Michele Passonno and will be conducted by trained Yes Means Yes facilitators. Little-Ray explains that these meetings offer a new kind of education to many students unfamiliar with such subjects discussed.
“Students open up space for other students to learn more about positive consent and sexuality that they may not have experienced in high school,” Little-Ray said. “They learn to express their desires and longings in intimate situations.”
Haven’s connections with on-campus and off-campus partners allow the company to communicate its services to those seeking confidentiality and build a stronger, intersectional program. Little-Ray greatly appreciates Haven’s collaboration with Julianne Thomas off campus at Help Restore Hope, a domestic violence treatment center in Oneida, NY per her request. In terms of partners on campus, Little-Ray enjoys working with Lyosha Gorshkov from the Office of LGBTQ+ Initiatives as she consistently preaches ideals of equality for this community.
“We’ve done a few different programs with Lyosha and the Center for LGBTQIA+ Initiatives,” Little-Ray said. “It’s important to draw attention to the lived experiences of the LGBTQ+ community and how we can support them as a community.”
As much as Little-Ray fights for the vibrancy and zeal of her collaborative peers, her own perspective on the well-being of the students she oversees is revealed. When she first applied to work at Haven, she was struck by the name: she understood that “Haven” would mean a place where students could safely congregate. For survivors of sexual violence, creating a safe space is crucial.
“The name ‘Haven’ means so much to me,” said Little-Ray. “I think everyone needs a refuge. Being able to have a safe, quiet place to talk to is critical to student well-being.”
Little-Ray provides Haven with everything it values: safety, collaboration, sensitivity, and zeal. She has been a healer since her early career and will continue to provide holistic health services at Haven’s practices for years to come.