Victim Assistance Coordinator Interview: Laura Gottsponer, Little Rock
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Have you always been Catholic? Do you have a family? Where did you go to school?
I live in Morrilton, Arkansas, but was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I attended a Catholic School for a few years in elementary school before moving to Arkansas. I always found it interesting learning about Catholicism and felt at home in the Catholic Church. Catholicism would be re-introduced to me when I met my now husband while in college. I felt fulfilled when I joined the Sacred Heart Parish after marrying, and furthering my growth in the Catholic faith.
My husband, Kevin and I have two teenagers who attend Sacred Heart Catholic School in Morrilton. It means so much to us to have our children be able to grow daily in their faith walk around teachers and friends who are supportive of them doing so.
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Arkansas. I received my undergraduate degree in Rehabilitation Science with a Primary in Child Welfare and Secondary in Social Services from Arkansas Tech University and my Masters in Social Work from University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The past 20 years I have had a few different roles while working with the Division of Children and Family Services and then within Community Mental Health and Therapeutic Foster Care. I currently work full-time as Director of Branch Operations within Therapeutic Communities for a non-profit agency.
How long have you been a VAC? What drew you to this work?
I have been the Diocese of Little Rock Victim Assistance Coordinator for the last two years. Through my professional career I have worked with a number of adults and children who have experienced trauma. I want to assure anyone who has been abused know they have a voice and are able to work towards healing. I was honored to be offered the position of VAC and continue to be passionate about helping others.
Have you seen any changes of attitudes in the Church towards abuse survivors during your time working as a VAC?
I would definitely say the attitudes of the Church have changed for the better towards abuse survivors. With recent formation of the Maria Goretti Network for abuse survivors and the focus shifting on overall support of survivors these steps will only continue to encourage survivors to come forward and know the Church is here to provide the continued support they need and deserve.
What personal quality do you think is indispensable for a VAC?
I would say TRUST is a personal quality indispensable for a VAC. It’s important you be able to communicate trust to those who are reaching out to you. So many times our first contact is through a phone call or e-mail. It has taken a lot of courage for survivors to come forward and it is essential a VAC be able to show them they are trustworthy.
How do you take care of your own faith and mental health while doing this work?
I can’t say it is easy to focus on self in doing this work. I do think it is important to spend time in prayer and attend Mass. I love watching my children on whatever field, court or stage they might be on. We spend a lot of time outdoors camping or being on the lake.
What would you want people to understand about your role?
The VAC a lot of times is a victim’s first contact in sharing their story. I am a licensed mental health professional, but my role as VAC is first to listen, let victims know there is help and then to link them to a professional who will be able to work with them in a one on one setting providing the counseling they would need to work towards their own healing. I am always here to provide support.
Do you ever work with other VACs around the country?
I have worked with a number of other VACs in linking victims originating from their diocese to counseling services in Arkansas. We are always available to assist one another and I am grateful to have a network of VACs who have one common goal of supporting victims of abuse.