Last Friday, I found myself sitting in a meeting of the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition. I was sitting between two women – Donna J. Byrne to my left and Tam St. Claire to my right. (I’m hoping they don’t mind me mentioning their names.) I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I was struck by it on my drive back to the office.
I was sitting between two women who are responsible for me being here.
I returned to Bucks County from Los Angeles in December 2004. I had two daughters who I wanted to educate in Central Bucks School District instead of Los Angeles Unified. I had been raising them on my own for over a year. I did not have a job. I was not volunteering anywhere. I was finding myself and my purpose in my new life. I found Donna and Tam and A Woman’s Place and the next leg of my glorious life adventure. Within weeks of arriving back in Bucks County, I was part of A Woman’s Place and A Woman’s Place was part of me.
While I have worked in community benefit organizations since 1995, I did not have a background in domestic violence. Let me give you some numbers. In 2012, there were approximately 627,053 people living in our shared Bucks County community. More than 300,000 of those community members were women. According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Translation – 100,000 women in our Bucks County community. Those are big numbers. How did we get here?
Who are these women? The NOMORE website explains it well. “They are not numbers. They’re our mothers, girlfriends, brothers, sisters, children, co-workers, and friends. They’re the person you confide in most at work, the people in your book club, your teenager’s best friend – or your teen, herself.” How did we get here?
A natural follow up to the question “How did we get here?” is “Where are we going?” I believe my life is the culmination of the forces and elements and experiences and people that make me who I am today. I know with flawless clarity that Donna and Tam are two inspirational women who are why I am here today, in this movement and committed to truly empowering women to live flourishing lives.
I am not alone. I stand in a crowd of women and men, vigilant in their commitment to a community where everyone can flourish. We are baffled by the numbers and try to understand, “How did we get here?” We stare into the face of bias and imbalanced power and wonder, “How did we get here?” We imagine all that is possible for humankind and question, “How did we get here?” We know that the shame and the isolation and the violence are all bad for our community health and we know we must map a new path. We ask, “Where are we going?” and with inspiration we walk our talk to a flourishing future.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is a time to raise awareness of domestic violence while we volunteer our time to, advocate for, and give to the vision of a society where all individuals are safe in their relationships and can flourish.
I am grateful to Donna and Tam… because they are how I got here. And they will be there on the journey to where we are going.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE? AND WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
Ifeoma U. Aduba