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FIU student dedicates life to support sexual abuse survivors
Photo courtesy of Listen Courageously/ Orkidea Films

FIU student dedicates life to support sexual abuse survivors

Soon-to-be a double alumna, a master’s of social work student has channeled her own pain into activism and advocacy with the goal of easing others’ suffering

July 19, 2021 at 2:00pm

Venezuelan native Linda Guillotti has dedicated her college career to advocating for human and reproductive rights. Guillotti draws from her personal experience of sexual abuse and recovery to support other survivors who are struggling and feeling alone. 

Already holding a bachelor's degree from FIU, she will be honored next month for her perseverance, academic excellence and personal strength when she attends FIU commencement upon completing a master's in social work. 

As an undergraduate at FIU, Guillotti double majored in women and gender studies and psychology and was motivated through her own experiences to pursue a life of advocacy.

“A lot of experiences in my life as a child and as an adult, particularly with sexual violence, made me who I am today,” Guillotti said. “After a long journey of seeking community support and therapeutic intervention, I was finally able to deal with my traumatic issues,” she said. “This led me to become an advocate for women’s rights.”

Becoming an advocate for women

Guillotti joined the National Organization for Women (NOW) at FIU and served as its president from 2017-2019. She later became president of the Student Alliance Fighting Exploitation (SAFE), where she helped raise awareness about human trafficking. Guillotti continued to share her story while holding these roles to help eliminate victim-blaming and the stigma often attached to those on the receiving end of violence. She took on these topics as the opening speaker for 2019’s Women’s March in Fort Myers.

Determined to deepen her skills in support of sexual abuse survivors, Guillotti enrolled in the School of Social Work at the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work.

“I’ve got this thing to want to help survivors overcome their trauma and their symptoms of PTSD,” she said. “Getting my master’s degree is just an extension of my life’s purpose—helping survivors of sexual violence.”

Guillotti credits her professors for supporting her during her studies.

“What stands out to me about Linda is that she’s an inspiration,” said Victoria Gray, a clinical assistant professor who served as a mentor to Guillotti. “She’s turned her own adversity into an opportunity to advocate for others and to give a voice to individuals who feel disempowered or unheard. She’s not just a champion for women’s rights, but a champion for human rights.”

Making an impact

In her time at FIU, Guillotti reached thousands of people with her message of recovery and transformation. As a student, she produced educational forums to raise awareness about sexual assault and prevention. She also participated in the award-winning film titled List(e)n, where she shared her personal story with national and international audiences. In addition, Guillotti joined the Listen Courageously movement and participated in workshops to continue to share her experience with sexual abuse and inspire others to engage in positive dialogue across differences.

Her hard work has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award and the 2020 Exemplary Service Award, both from the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. She was also a 2021 recipient of FIU’s Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Grant.

She has big dreams for the future and see’s getting her master’s as the next step in her journey of advocacy and empowerment.

“I see myself continuing to touch the lives of people who had to deal with sexual violence,” she said. “As we know, it can be a lifelong journey of recovery, particularly when there’s complex PTSD involved.”

Today, Guillotti works as a case manager at Survivor’s Pathway, supporting survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking, and multiple types of victimization. She also provides pro-bono therapy sessions to help survivors of violent assaults.

“At this point, I’m ahead of my game,” she said. “I found a job that is exactly what I wanted to do before even graduating.”