Mary

I am a program manager and started at WOMAN, Inc as a volunteer in 2008. I manage our 24 hr support line and children’s groups. Currently, we have about 50 volunteers so that we can make sure the emergency line is covered 24/7. I graduated from SF State in sociology and I wanted to start volunteering to get real-life experience. I chose DV because of growing up and watching my parents fight. I already had experience with the issue and wanted to volunteer for a cause that I knew something about.

Sometimes it’s hard to come to work — it could be an interaction I had the day before or working without vacation and limited resources — you can feel burnt out and just need a break. But what really drives me to continue each day is working with the individuals who come to us for help. It’s easy to get tired and overwhelmed, but it’s more important that we’re there and that the line is there, but it’s a lot of work. Going through the Strong Field Project Leadership Development Program was a period of re-invigoration for me; almost like it ignited that fire again. With my cohort, we are like family. We still stay in touch. It reminded us that we aren’t the only ones doing this work and it got exciting again. It also opened my eyes to more of the intersections with racial justice and other movements. DV is not a single story. Survivors are also dealing with racism and housing and additional injustices. Not only survivors, but advocates too. The Women of Color Network, for example, is a group of advocates who work to support us as staff members. I think we’re pretty progressive here, but there are still these things we need to work on to address culture and color within our organization and ensure the wellbeing and empowerment of our staff as well. We all need partners and support. We can’t do this work alone.

Anyone outside of the domestic violence field should know that’s its a very complex issue and we need to talk about it more. I wish people would stop asking “why do they stay?” We need to shift those questions and stop victim-blaming.

If DV were to end, we would also solve xenophobia, racism, poverty. We can’t fix one without looking at the whole picture. It’s too complex. Goals that we have in common with other movements are safety and accountability. With racial justice there are similar goals — that people deserve to be safe in their communities. With DV, there are people who use control and abuse and need to be held accountable, just like police need to be held accountable for their injustices and misuse of power.

Anyone outside of the DV field should know that’s its a very complex issue and we need to talk about it more. I wish people would stop asking “why do they stay?” We need to shift those questions and stop victim-blaming.

There’s a report that interviewed over 200 DV survivors and asked them how they define success for themselves, and then compared their responses to what advocates think success looks like. Success is not only about DV. For survivors, it’s so much more than that. We cannot define it for them.

We want to change the way that people are talking about DV and uplift the power of community. In effort to help shift this narrative, I’m involved in an effort focused on art as liberation. Groups and organizations come together to talk about all the ways in which art can facilitate community connections and public dialogue — whether it’s through murals, djs, music, spoken word, etc. We can all learn from one another and work together to share how important art is when it comes to healing.

It’s really hard to imagine what the world would look like without DV and poverty and all the other issues that come along with oppression. I imagine, since everything is connected, that in a world without violence, the most marginalized would be at the center. There would be more people of color in leadership roles; trans people, native people, women of color. We would all recognize how important one another and our communities are. We would recognize the power of family. Right now, American culture is about the individual. We need to change that. It’s more about community and family and access to education. If all that stuff was solved, we would be open enough to learn from different communities, spaces, and each another. I would also be out of a job! So I would just find a job that pays me to travel.

One last note — something I think is really helpful for advocates and survivors is the power of humor. It’s important for me to be able to joke about this stuff sometimes. That’s how you cope.

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