People often ask me why I started the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness— they ask what happened that led me to devote my career to this topic. In my life as a daughter, I have been grateful that my parents provided me with a model of love and respect that inspires me. In my life with a twin brother, I learned how unique my parents are to have shown us that boys and girls are equally valued. In my life as a woman, I have learned that our society does not value women equally yet— and until it does, violence against women will continue to be the most extreme form of the oppression against women that still exists.
I started the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness because I had been listening to women’s voices. In my work as an advocate, I heard the following stories over and over until I decided that I could no longer listen without doing something about it. I heard “the policeman asked her what she had done to make her boyfriend strangle her.” I heard “the judge told her he understood why her boyfriend had hit her based on her bitchy attitude.” I heard “the university told her she needed to talk face to face to the man who raped her because it must have been a misunderstanding.” These words made me realize that training professionals to stop victim blaming and start holding perpetrators accountable is just as important as helping women after their bodies and minds are tortured by men who claim to love them. And I realized this problem was pervasive. In college workshops, I heard a young man say “well, sometimes girls need to be forced.” I started the Center because I hope to never hear these words again.
This organization is about hope. All of you who have decided to fight against men’s violence against women and violence in same gender relationships have given me hope. The police officers, judges and university professionals who stand up for women have given me hope. The vision of the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness is that our daughters will not suffer from relationship abuse or sexual violence. Our vision was created for all of the daughters whose lives should be honored. The daughters who were raped and murdered by men who were strangers and loved ones. Daughters whose boyfriends threatened to hurt them. The daughters who are scared of going outside because of what could happen to them. Our friends who jump at sounds. Our sisters who can’t trust anyone. Mothers who have kept silent. And those who have not come forward, but will, with your support.
It is time for all of us to find someone who isn’t involved and turn to them and say, will you help me end men’s violence against women and gender-based violence? And when they ask, why are you focusing on women? Tell them that violence against women hurts our daughters and our sons. Acknowledging gender helps us see how we can get to the root of this violence; change how we socialize young men to think about women and respect, entitlement and privilege, and about who is valued in our society. This has implications for ending all oppression, affecting men and women of all races, ethnicities, and sexual orientation. So when someone asks you, what can I do about it? Tell them to stand up against sexism because sexism makes women objects and by making them objects, men will continue to see them as “objects” to rape or beat. And we can stop that. When they ask, how can I stay hopeful? Tell them to look around and see that the majority of men do not choose to rape, control or hurt women which means that it is not inevitable. The majority of men want to do something to stop this violence against their sisters, mothers, wives, friends and daughters. And that is hopeful.
Imagine a world where women and men are equally valued, where perpetrators of gender violence are held accountable and where women and girls don’t have to waste any of their time living in fear.
I want to thank the men and women who are joining our efforts to make this world a reality. I want to thank my parents and my brothers for reminding me that this world is a possibility.
Founder & Executive Director
“The Center has given me the courage to speak out, with the facts, with compassion, with the knowledge that the movement to end violence against women is a movement that affects all of us. In no small way, my life has been changed by this internship.”