30 Years Over Violence

/ Monday, November 4th, 2013 / No Comments »

This year marks my 30th anniversary with Peace Over Violence which when I started had a completely different name…YIKES! Thirty years in the same job– either I found my niche or I am in a rut! A lot has happened on my watch at POV, including changing our name and launching the PEACE OVER VIOLENCE brand, and establishing two centers – one in Pasadena and our Metro headquarters in downtown LA. We opened the POV Children & Youth Center, expanded our services to include child witnesses of domestic violence, expanded our work with youth, maintained the longest running rape & battering hotline in the country (42 years) developed teen relationship violence curricula and self-defense & empowerment programming, founded and expanded Denim Day in LA into a national sexual violence prevention education campaign Denim Day USA, and we were the first to originate the message that There is No Excuse and Never An Invitation To Rape.

 

We are in the process of reinventing POV to be the sustainable organization it needs to be for the next 30-40 years.  We are transforming how we treat trauma through our Transforming Trauma Initiative. Through adopting newer body-mind-spirit healing modalities based in brain science and body knowledge, we seek to enable more opportunities to free the body from the trauma trapped within. More choice, more options— for healing! And yes we believe that healing is possible, and that survivors of intentional violence can heal and thrive! We need to change the narrative that being a survivor of rape or domestic violence is necessarily a life sentence of misery.  Survivors are some of the strongest and most resilient people I know.

 

But what interests me more than where we have been is where we are going? The past is important but nothing is more important than the present; what we do now can heal the past and take good care of the future. Through our capacity building mandala and strategic planning process we are developing the mind and muscle, the spirit and stamina to lead, innovate, adapt and co-create a safer, saner community over the next 40 years.

 

People have been asking me how I have kept at this for so long—since violence prevention is not a sprint, it’s a marathon! My motivation comes from my roots in the Sixties. As a sophomore in high school geometry class I remember reading William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich…the book on my lap. I flunked geometry! I was influenced and educated by the “rights movements of the sixties & seventies”—civil rights, the feminist movement, gay rights and learning about the holocaust. My values were formed then. I figured out early on that the pursuit of social justice and equality had to be part of my life (and that I should stay away from math). And there was the personal emotional component of being a witness to domestic violence in my family.

 

I choose to work in violence prevention because I believe that there can be no equality or freedom when violence or the threat of violence is present.  Inequality IS violence.  I feel blessed to have worked in this job at this agency for so many years. The legacy of family violence runs deep in the human family and I can think of no other more sacred path than the path of peace over violence. We are committed to building healthy relationships, families and communities free from sexual, domestic and interpersonal violence. This is our mission and this is my life’s work.

 

What sustains me are relationships. (And by the way this is not a retirement statement. I am far from done!) I am continually energized by the amazing people that I have met and have had the opportunity to work with- shoulder to shoulder as partners on this path. —The words of poet Marge Piercy from the poem TO BE OF USE come to mind:

 

The people I love the best/
jump into work head first
/ without dallying in the shallows /
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight. I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart, /
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience, /
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward, /
who do what has to be done, again and again.

 

The POV staff past and current and my partner in all things POV, Associate Director Cathy Friedman (who is now celebrating 27 years over violence) have all been allies and co-conspirators over many years. What sustains me and the organization are our amazing volunteers… we value our volunteers… I started as a volunteer. The Hotline counselors, advocates, our Voices Over Violence, our advisors and our intrepid board members. Their commitment to service and community is exemplary. Volunteers are the backbone and the heartwood of this organization. My family of course sustains, nurtures and challenges me. I want to acknowledge their centrality to my life and my life’s work.

At my core I consider myself an advocate. Using our voices as advocates is fundamental to the work at POV and it is in our agency DNA. Advocacy means to stand up on behalf of someone else or speak up in support of a cause. I like to think that staff, survivors and volunteers all find opportunities to strengthen their advocacy voices while at POV. I have always felt that the term Executive Director was an elevated term for community organizer!  When I became the ED I put myself in a Masters of Non-Profit Management at the University of San Francisco.  I did this to learn how to do what I was supposed to do as a manager and as a leader at an agency committed to violence prevention.  I was never interested in becoming a better bureaucrat but very committed to eliminating violence against women and children. Participating in a movement-the violence against women’s movement has engaged me for many, many years.  The work itself has been sustaining as I have been blessed with opportunities to be creative and to contribute, to collaborate and to communicate all in a compassionate workplace. The 5 C’s.

 

I remain ambitious for Peace Over Violence to continue to thrive and equally ambitious for the violence against women’s movement to expand, deepen and broaden. Some days I feel like I am just getting started!

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