I have been a member of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (Action Alliance) for approximately 30+ years. Therefore, I have been a member since the late 80s. I became a member as a survivor and then gradually moved into various aspects of the Women’s Movement which has been synonymously linked to Virginians Against Domestic Violence (what the Action Alliance was called in the early years and their acronym was VADV). The sexual assault state coalition at that time was called Virginians Aligned Against Sexual Assault (VAASA). Both of these organizations merged into one organization approximately ten years ago.
My rationale for becoming active within the coalition in the late 80’s derived from their “fundamental principles” pertaining to victim services and how these principles fed my need to fight oppression and the passion to become familiar with every aspect of victimization. I devoured research and I still have an insatiable appetite for any and all research pertaining to victimization and trauma and recovery. I became the chair of the Women of Color Caucus (WOCC) and watched the caucus blossom into a membership of 40 women which thrived for three years. During that time I was facilitating support groups for a non-profit, creating my own non-profit, reading and participating in as much of the field of domestic and sexual violence and stalking as I could. I watched VADV morph into a viable organization of women who saw their dream of shelter structure and service delivery come true.
However, somewhere a transition occurred and the core of our work began to be dictated by what was beneficial to becoming renowned versus what is best for survivors. Upon reflection I cannot really put a finger on the actual time this occurred but it was the wave of the future which tended to narrow the scope of service delivery and impose restrictions and requirements that affected how we viewed provision of services to victims. The feeling of family and comradery was replaced by the mechanics of output and accomplishment. A few of us maintained contact and managed to preserve a sense of purpose, while some of us abandoned the vision of healing many future survivors, for the viability and aggrandizement of an organization. This happens to many organizations as growth becomes the goal opposed to being a viable entity in which output and productivity embraces the needs of the victims; promoting healing on a continuum while constructing and maintaining a place where victims’ voices are heard.
We should remember that we built our foundation on the mantra “Peace on Earth Begins at Home”. If we do not alter our course and remember our historical journey, who was at the table in the beginning, and the longing we had to maintain the belief that we are stronger together, we will lose our vision of our future. We believed strongly in diversity and maintaining ideologies which challenged the “majority culture” as we practiced the essential components of cultural competence and victim driven services. We have gravitated toward embracing the mainstream societal influences while overlooking or not comprehending this is not always beneficial to victims, especially the underserved populations. Is not this what sank the Titanic? The disaster was not caused by the icebergs. Yes, that is what caused the ship to sink but the captain’s belief that his ship was unsinkable caused him to stay the course which took him straight into danger. I urge us all to be aware of the distress warnings being heard from those who were tossed overboard for the good of the coalition. No organization is infallible. If we do not heed the cries of the survivors we will capsize. It is not what is seen that takes us down, it is what remains hidden.
Reverend Patricia Jones Turner, MA is a preacher, pastor, teacher, poet, trainer, counselor, educator, writer, and a motivational speaker who guides those who participate in her workshops into self-enlightenment. Rev. Jones Turner says, “One cannot transcend the ‘world’s’ perspective without confronting and accepting our own inadequacies. It is in the acceptance of our ineptness that we come to understand we control nothing but should seek to give everything; thus fulfilling our destiny and accomplishing our purpose unto Heaven.”
Our guiding principles As The Alliance conducts its work, it is essential that survivors, the interests of survivors, and those impacted by sexual assault and domestic violence are at the forefront of all decision-making.
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