We’re a small staff that relies on volunteers to do a lot of our work. My role is to train and recruit them. Our outreach involves going out into the community and offering presentations or inviting people to come in and talk about how we can all support the community.
My mom used to volunteer for WOMAN, Inc more than twenty years ago, so I’m second generation. I talk about how we are an organization that is dedicated to supporting ANYONE impacted by domestic violence. We want others to know that everyone, no matter who you are, can get support.
I love helping others. I’ve been that way since I was little. It was part of growing up and seeing how happy my mom was when she was supporting other folks and working with WOMAN, Inc.I knew when I was growing up that I wanted to help the community. I really was drawn to the core vision and values of WOMAN, Inc — that all bodies are welcome in this space. We’re willing to help anyone regardless of gender or ethnicity or race. I love the sense of community and camaraderie that we have here. We support one another and survivors.
We also offer help to folks who support survivors, in addition to survivors themselves. This includes caregivers and people who are affected by DV, but not directly impacted. I was working for another organization and a man came in once whose daughter was experiencing DV and the dad wanted to get support but we couldn’t offer that. Here, we accept anyone throughout their unique walk of life, which is incredibly important. We do a really good job of supporting survivors — and their families — wherever they are in their life.
We understand that DV isn’t just one person’s issue or a private issue; it affects whole communities on multiple levels. To help people who are survivors, caregivers, or even those who cause harm — it’s a different approach, and sometimes a more challenging one, but it also means we’re not just putting one agenda on one person. We’re throwing away the agenda and looking at the entire picture and community. Often, there isn’t capacity for that at other DV organizations; they have to be only survivor-focused. We, on the other hand, don’t put the weight on just one person and instead are able to look at whole family and consider where what resources are available to help the survivor/family.
We understand that DV isn’t just one person’s issue or a private issue; it affects whole communities on multiple levels.
There’s no doubt that DV intersects with almost everything. With a lot of the movements that are going on right now and continue to grow, I think we’re all fighting for the same thing — we want equality and safety more than ever. If you look at DV, a lot of folks want to feel safe again — however “safe” looks like for them. In a healthy relationship, there has to be equality. Our movement and others also want equality. Like other social justice movements, we all want equality and safety and basic human rights.
When you look at DV, it’s never the only thing going on. There are also folks who are battling homelessness and substance abuse and a lot of other challenges that stems from not having equal access to many different things.
One thing that I would hope that other movements would know about DV survivors is that they’re incredibly resourceful, resilient, and amazing, and “domestic violence survivor” isn’t their only identity. They are moms, dads, brothers, sisters, lawyers, janitors, teachers, and more. When folks think about DV survivors, there’s usually a skewed vision of a scared woman in a corner and it’s actually not that. There’s a whole other way that someone can be a survivor.
On top of that, others also need to let go of agendas and what they think would be a better option for a survivor, and instead help them figure out what’s going to work best for them. I never hear “what barriers does this survivor face? Is leaving an option? What do they really want/need?” What we hear more often is “why don’t they leave?” Being survivor focused does not mean victim blaming either. Every survivor views success differently. People need to set their agendas aside and try to understand that DV is only one piece of the puzzle — housing or financial implications or keeping the family intact could be the bigger issue. I hope that other movements will focus on the family as a whole and let go of agendas and what they think is a viable option — sometimes law enforcement is not a viable option. Other groups, like religious groups for example will often default to suggestions to make the relationship work or call the police. You need to let go and really hear what the survivor is asking — whether it’s communal support or making their kids feel safe or not being shunned from a specific group because of the decisions that you make. All community groups can take a step back and let go of what they think is the solution, and instead listen to survivors and help them get what they actually need.
If we’re really going to talk about ending DV, we also need to talk about equality and making sure that everyone has access to the things that meet their basic needs.
Ending domestic violence will require getting rid of the patriarchy and gender roles and expectations. It will require getting rid of violence, oppression, and health disparities at multiple levels especially at the structural and institutional level. Education and prevention is important, but we need to start sooner and really talk about consent and empowerment and what a healthy relationship looks like. Also, having folks be accountable for their actions. Redefining gender roles and finding other ways to resolve conflicts and exist together in relationships is essential.
If we’re really going to talk about ending DV, we also need to talk about equality and making sure that everyone has access to the things that meet their basic needs. There are so many intersections, and if we’re able to tackle certain parts, we’ll be better able to tackle a lot of other problems. We can’t look at it in isolation. It has to be equal across the spectrum.
My vision for the future without domestic violence is that the whole world would be a much better place. Every single country would work collaboratively and peacefully and everyone’s health and wellbeing overall would be in a much better state. Everyone would benefit from a world without DV because it intersects with so many other issues. How great would it be to live in a world where everyone was equal and had their needs met?