by Josey Ross
I have done anti-violence work for three years now, first doing education and outreach for college-aged people of all genders, then working in a transition house for women and children fleeing abusive situations, and now as a Victim Support Worker, working with (mostly) women who have experienced family and/or sexualized violence.
Few things bring conversation with a new acquaintance to a halt like my answer to “so, what do you do for a living?” Inevitably there is awkward silence. As a culture, we don’t talk about violence against women outside of hyperbolic and reductionist accounts like those seen on Law and Order: SVU (a show that single-handedly undoes the myth-busting work I spent two years of my life doing). We don’t like talking about it. Talking about it brings it out of the shadows of what happens to other people, and into the reality that it is perpetrated against ourselves, our sisters, lovers and friends, and that it is often perpetrated by those closest to us. That is an uncomfortable reality.
After the looong uncomfortable silence, I always hear this: “wow, that must be so depressing!”
It’s hard. It is very hard work. But it is hugely inspiring and optimistic work. I am daily blown away by the strength and resilience of the women I work with, of the wisdom they have gathered and used as they keep themselves and their children safe in realities most of us cannot even imagine. And of the immense courage it takes to reach out for help, knowing that leaving is often the most dangerous period in a woman’s life.
I try to celebrate that strength, courage and wisdom with the women that I work with. In a culture that hides violence against women, and still implicitly holds that it is women’s responsibility to not be victimized rather than their perpetrators responsibility not to victimize, celebrating survival is an act of resistance.
It is for this reason that I am so excited by the Faces of Courage: Stories of Change project that Surrey Women’s Centre has put together for National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. Each day the website features a brave, beautiful woman’s story of survival and healing.
Please take a minute to celebrate and resist, by reading and sharing these amazing stories of survival and transformation.