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Keeping Vigil at the Bedside of Freedom Remarks from the 2012 Domestic Violence Awareness Month Vigil

Good evening. My name is Ifeoma Aduba, and I have the best job in the world.

Technically, at the moment, I have two jobs at A Woman’s Place – Director of Public Advocacy and Interim Executive Director – and I love them both. I have the two best jobs in the world.

I have the honor of standing side-by-side with each of you – whether you are volunteers, staff, Board members, donors, Advisory Board members, community partners, or truly brave souls seeking assistance. I stand beside each of you, supportive advocates all, each day and offer freedom.

Freedom may seem a bold statement to make. Some may question if that is really what we are doing at A Woman’s Place. So I repeat – I have the best job in the world because I have the honor of standing in this community of advocates each and every day and offering freedom.

As advocates, we are standing with and giving voice to those whose voices have been subdued. We work daily to balance an imbalance of power between those who have and those who have not. We not only recognize, but know at the core of our being, the worth of people. We look at the world around us and know without question that it would be better if each individual were safe and able to flourish. We commit ourselves to empowering women and ending domestic violence. We demand, for ourselves and for those who have been subdued, that there is NO MORE domestic violence.

At the core of our freedom work is a social justice movement. Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells us that justice demands three things:

  1. That the truth of our lives and what has happened to us be told;
  2. That to whatever extent possible the harm be repaired;
  3. And that the conditions that gave rise to the injustice be forever altered.

To take on such social justice work can be scary. Not everyone will agree with us. Many may even vehemently oppose what we do. Others may react out of their fear of what they will lose if we tell the truth, repair harm, and alter the conditions that give rise to injustice. To take on social justice work, to take on the work of offering freedom, can be terrifying.

For the brave souls who come to A Woman’s Place seeking assistance, each day is terrifying. They have endured threats and abuse and violence in ways that we cannot and do not want to imagine. Their glorious and melodic voices have been silenced and their spirits crushed. They are heartbroken, mourning the loss of love and dreams, and bathed in betrayal wondering why they are not worthy of something better.

It takes tremendous courage to pull ourselves out of that fear every day. And in my best job in the world, I get to give witness as truly brave souls extricate themselves from that fear. I get to witness daily courageous acts – whether packing a bag to leave, filing for a protection order, calling a hotline, or just getting out of bed. I get to witness daily courageous acts and offer freedom.

As Sue Patton Thoele tells us in her work, The Woman’s Book of Courage, “Freedom comes from having the courage to know that fear is not to be avoided, but faced, lived through, and learned from.” Every day, I witness the creativity of brave souls as they face, live through, and learn from what they fear on their journey to freedom.

Since 2006, when Bucks County conducted its last domestic violence fatality review, there have been more than 30 domestic violence related deaths. 30. In Bucks County.

You and I are gathered tonight in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We honor those lives lost and the lives before them. We honor the 1 in 4 women who will experience violence in her lifetime. We honor the 1 in 3 teens experiencing violence. We honor those who, as we sit here tonight, are within the walls of what should be a safe home and are being told they are worthless. We honor everyone seeking freedom and those advocates who stand with them giving them voice. We honor freedom work and the social justice movement that is at its core.

We promote healthy relationships. We speak out when we see injustice. We stand with the brave souls who survive the violence each and every day. We assure them that they are not alone. We are here as they journey out of fear and into freedom.

I want to thank Kristin Ortlieb-Potts for her words tonight and the others serving A Woman’s Place and the community on our Board of Directors. I want to thank Jay Deppeler for his leadership and partnership on this issue within the community and the others that serve with him on our Advisory Board. I thank Tammy Grosso for sharing the truth about her life with all of us. Thank you to Pastor Dorry Newcomer who continues to shine as an example of the generosity and grace that is possible when Christians get it right. Thank you to Zack Nicolai who has blessed us this evening with the gift of beautiful music and thank you to the entire Rolling Hills United Methodist community that welcomes us into their home and makes us feel like it is also our own safe home.

I also thank each of you for joining me as an advocate for social justice. I thank you for joining me in telling the truth of our lives and what has happened to us. I thank you for repairing the harm to whatever extent possible. I thank you for altering the conditions that have given rise to the injustice. I thank you for demanding that there be NO MORE domestic violence.

I thank you, but I also ask you to answer this call to action. This October, take a minute to say NO MORE. It does not cost you anything, but the rewards are invaluable.

Say NO MORE to blaming victims of domestic violence for the abuse.

Say NO MORE to excusing abusers.

Say NO MORE to looking the other way and pretending you don’t see or hear the abuse.

Say NO MORE to risking the lives of police officers responding to domestic violence calls.

Say NO MORE to acting as if domestic violence is a “private family matter” rather than a costly community concern.

Say NO MORE to thinking domestic violence only happens in certain neighborhoods to certain kinds of people.

Say NO MORE to lives lost in Bucks County.

Thank you, all of you, for joining A Woman’s Place in keeping vigil tonight and in saying… NO MORE.

Ifeoma U. Aduba
A Woman’s Place Interim Executive Director

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