Kelly Peugh who obtained her masters in Forensic Psychology in May of 2014 was interviewed by Mary Pat Withem!

Mary Pat: Hello Kelly! I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me. I wanted to reach out to some people from HEARD to discuss their role in the organization, what kind of impact they’ve seen the organization make and so forth but first I’d like to ask you, how did you find out about HEARD?

Kelly: Well I sort of got lucky. My degree requires an internship and I was really trying to secure one, but I’d had no luck. So I was really paying close attention to these emails from my University (Marymount University) as they sometimes had a few leads. Just before Christmas I got an email telling all the students about an internship possibility with HEARD. I Google’d them, looked at the website, and immediately emailed Talila Lewis (TL) with my resume.

Mary Pat: So as far as I understand, you are getting a masters in Forensic Psychology, what does that mean and how did your internship serve the requirements your school had set forth?

Kelly: My university requires all students in my Program to have some sort of internship, and it can be pretty much anything that is tangentially related to Forensic Psychology. With HEARD, I was able to make the connection between the typical group focused on my my field (prisoners, or anyone within the legal/CJ system) and the groups HEARD focuses on helping. Basically they want us to have some sort of experience beyond the classroom. Lots of people go with the FBI or a police force, but I was actually really pleased to be with an advocacy group. After all, there are two sides to every story, and I’m getting to hear the less often talked about side.

Mary Pat: So, when you walked into HEARD during your first day, was that the first time you had met a Deaf person or have you had interactions with them before?

Kelly: I thought it was, but you asking me the question made me remember. I’ve had one other experience previous to HEARD. I was trying to get out of my lease and a lovely deaf girl called via an interpreter and asked when she could come see the apartment. My roommate met her and showed her the place, not me. But my former Roommate liked her so much they became roommates. But yes, other than the one, very brief experience, that was my first time. And it was a real eye opener! Even the two Hearing girls – TL and another intern – know ASL. Since my ASL was limited to finger spelling I felt very much like an outsider. It was a unique experience.

Mary Pat: I’m curious, what is the most surprising thing you’ve learned during this internship with HEARD?

Kelly: It’s sad to say, but the most surprising thing I’ve learned is how broken our system really is. Looking at it from the side of the Law (as we in my field typically do since we do profiling or police psychology or perform other functions typically for the Police of the Courts) you don’t really see how corrupt and dark it can be. It was a real shock to get a letter from a prisoner in Florida, to listen to how badly he was being treated. He’s the same age as my Grandfather would have been, if he were still living, and the horrific things he has gone through made me cry. I couldn’t believe the system can’t help him.

Mary Pat: That is a very difficult thing to learn, especially when you believe things to be one way and then it turns out to be something completely different. Not to say you were naive but to say you were led to believe something else. Do you feel like you’re going to walk away with a new perspective on how to deal with things as a Forensic Psychologist?

Kelly: Most definitely. I’m actually not going to be a “Forensic Psychologist” because I want to stay broad and do Clinical Psychology, but yes, it has totally changed my perspective as a future clinician. I wanted to do research on and develop treatment programs for Sex Offenders for the sake of protecting the public. Now I’m focusing on the prisoners, and the term “offender” bothers me now. It’s something TL asked me to change, I always used those terms, “Offender” “convict”, etc. When I removed those terms from my vocabulary it really started to change how I thought about those individuals. I don’t want to go back to how I was, I think being more understanding will help me as a clinician.

Mary Pat: That’s definitely a good lesson to learn, what do you think HEARD needs most from the community at this point in time?

Kelly: Support. We always need support. And not just from the Deaf Community. We get so much support from them – as you know. What we need the most if for the Hearing Community to become more aware, not just of HEARD but of Deal Culture in general. I’m guilty of ignorance myself, and I’m learning as much as I can. We just need the support of a group that is typically seen as more “privileged”.

Mary Pat: What is something you think people need to know about HEARD?

Kelly: That’s hard. When I think about the public in general, I think it’s important to share how much we have accomplished with the limited support and resources we have had in our first three years. But when it comes to those in the Criminal Justice or Legal profession, I think they should all realize we are JUST advocates. I have been shocked to discover so many people seem to think we provide services that THEY should be providing (like interpreters). We exist to remind them that they need to make those services available, not to do it for them. -_-

Mary Pat: Definitely something that the community needs to hear. Often there are programs and/or organizations that overlap and when you emphasize that HEARD focuses on Advocacy and support in the system for Prisoners, doesn’t seem to be something that can go wrong.

Lets wrap this up and end with a happy note, how can our readers and the community support and contribute to HEARD? Do you have any current fundraisers or ways for people to support the work of HEARD?

Kelly: There are a bunch of ways to support HEARD. Community members can donate funds, if they can. They can donate stamps and envelopes and other basic office supplies (which are a large part of what our shoestring budget goes toward). Or if money is tight they can like us on Facebook and write letters to their state legislature calling for change. One more person in the community just spreading HEARD’s message is a huge step forward.

Mary Pat: It was a huge pleasure to meet you! I hope that this post will help spread the word and share HEARD’s message across the country. We are doing a prison segment which is what led us to HEARD because we want people to understand that just because there are bad things happening in prison, there are people out there trying to help them and we just need to step up and support those organizations! Thank you again so much for meeting with me.

Kelly: Thank you for having me and giving me the chance to share with you. It was great to see that we’re getting more community support, we appreciate everything you do for us by helping us reach your readers.