We go through life seeking purpose and fulfillment. Often, our jobs and careers provide only a means of utilizing our intellect or skills, or perhaps earning enough to support ourselves, or because it’s work that’s enjoyable. Not everyone gets an opportunity to do something in which all of these factors are met while also finding purpose and fulfillment. I am fortunate to be in that space.
As the executive director, I come to MAITRI every day because I am blessed to be working in a nurturing environment, surrounded by passionate and committed individuals. I come to work because no matter what stress the day brings, I feel that I contribute in some small way to reducing someone’s troubles, or at least share a part of it. I have worked directly with women and children who constantly amaze me with their resilience and ability to endure and overcome the devastating impact that domestic violence has had on their lives. I come to work because I believe that as slow as the process may be, there is hope for a better community and a better future that ensures dignity for all individuals. I show up to work every day because I care.
A common thread that often reminds me of why this work is so important is the determination I see in those who have suffered from domestic violence – even when the chips are down, and the road ahead seems so long and full of obstacles, and they feel like they’re almost ready to give up, they still have a belief and faith in themselves and in the possibility that things can change for the better. I have seen that struggle in so many of the survivors we work with, and witnessed the successes and milestones that bring them cheer; sometimes they are as big as gaining custody of their children, or sometimes they are as small as passing their driver’s test and getting a license. All of them are significant, and all of them are a victory.
The work that we do, and the work of so many other community movements, is fundamentally about equity and social justice. Domestic violence is based upon the power of one individual over another which creates complete inequity – often compounded by issues of immigration, the ability to pay for a lawyer, the ability to communicate in English, or the fear of social stigmatization caused by the cultural fabric that our society continues to don. Our work and other movements share a common goal: restoring human dignity, safety, and the right to be an equal stakeholder in the community.
Domestic violence is not often clearly understood by those outside of this field. There is a lot of denial and often inaccurate labeling. I wish that others could know that it’s not always about physical violence; abuse can be severe and damaging yet not be physical. It can get to the core of the individual who is being subjected to the abuse and cause devastation that is long lasting, and also negatively impact their children and other loved ones. Domestic violence is not just a woman’s or a man’s issue – it is a community issue that needs to be recognized and addressed by all.
The key is to first accept that domestic violence exists in every community and is more prevalent than most of us realize. Second, we must acknowledge that it needs to be stopped and prevented, and that each one of us has a responsibility and a stake in doing so.