Love is NOT Abuse: My experience at a Domestic Violence Shelter

WOW, I haven’t posted since my first day! There is a lot going on in my life right now. My Aunt/Godmother who battled breast cancer a few years back recently relapsed and now has a very advanced liver cancer. My family and I have made her a priority and, as she gets worse, we are spending more and more time with her. Also, its graduation season! I have been attending a graduation every weekend it seems and they just keep on coming. On top of that, I started my summer job. As you continue to follow my blog, you will come to see how important my job is to me. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to feature it and my connection to social justice.

Like most freshman, I struggled with my transition into college. I found myself feeling lonely and lost and was unhappy with my group of acquaintances I has latched on to as I desperately tried to fit in. My loneliness slowly perpetuated into self-destruction. I deemed myself as “not good enough” and criticized myself too harshly. I was caught in the vicious cycle of negative body image and poor self-worth. It was not until I joined Belles Service Organization, a group of 50 women committed to volunteering 30+ hours a semester around the Los Angeles County that I finally began to feel like I belonged. Not only did I feel like I had found my family away from home, but the gratitude that I received from those I served offered me a new sense of purpose in my life. It no longer mattered to me how people looked at me because the families that I encountered and the 49 other woman that I served with looked at me with admiration; they judged me, not by how well I fit into my jeans or by the clothes that I wore, but by my passions. They saw in me my yearning to help others and they deemed in beautiful.

My deep passion for service and newfound self-acceptance led me to my current job as a Community Engagement Fellow for Good Shepherd Shelter, a shelter for battered woman and their children. As a fellow, I am the liaison between my school and the shelter. I am the main resource on my campus to the Shelter and am the primary advocate of the issue of Domestic Violence. I coordinate and hold volunteer trainings, consciousness raising events around campus of domestic violence and oversee fundraising events for the shelter.

More importantly however, through my job, I have had the opportunity to interact with the children who live at the shelter which has proven to be the most worthwhile of all. Although I cannot say that I have ever directly experienced the issue myself, I can say that I can relate to the feelings that many of the children there are trying to cope with. There is fear, confusion, sadness, loneliness, betrayal; the same feelings that I have had to deal with and that have made me strong and at times seek guidance of others. It was not until I made this realization that I was really able to align myself with the children I am working with. This is what has connected me more to the issue. I was inspired to participate in the healing of the families and the growth of each individual. I no longer see myself as serving the individuals at the shelter, but rather as a sister who is concerned about their well-being and interested in their progress.

Working for a non-profit has helped me to realize that there is certainly a need for a strong voice particularly for worthy causes that seem to be silent to society. Working with the domestic violence issue this past year really emphasized the need for more action. Because of this, I have a better focus on how I would like to use my communications major to be the voice in a non-profit organization. To be honest, before I had the opportunity of volunteering at a non-profit organization, I never really thought that this was going to be my career path. I have always known that I liked to help and support others but I had not thought of working for a non-profit until I spent significant time at the shelter. I know that it has been said before, but it is important to say that it is very rewarding to work with those who need support. My goal is that they get as much from me as I get from them.

My deepening passion for the cause and my ever-growing love for the children and their families have inspired me to dedicate my time to their well-being and the growth of the shelter. I have since begun developing the shelter’s first consistent extracurricular program, a dance program geared towards providing the women and children an outlet of expression. The goal of this program is to improve the well-being of the families and to ease their healing process. I have also become a member of the Junior Board of Directors for the shelter, a group of 25 – 40 year old “young professionals” who serve as ambassadors, helping to organize fundraising events. At 21 years old, I am the youngest member and have acquired a deep admiration for the dedication shown by the Board of Directors and Junior Board that has inspired me to continue my fight for the social justice of the women and these children.

My passion and commitment to the families at the shelter and to the issue have not only offered me perspective, but they have lifted me up from the darkness time of my life in ways that nothing ever has. I no longer look back at this time with great disdain and sadness, because I know that without I would not have embarked on a journey to self-acceptance and passion that led me to Good Shepherd Shelter. I have grown so much spiritually and professionally during my time at the shelter that I could whole heartedly say I have found my purpose in life- I want to the woman for others; a woman that, per the values of the Good Shepherd Sisters, supports the residents through their healing process; affirms the dignity of each one as a child of God; and strives to end the generational cycle of violence; a woman that thrives off the challenges in her life, because they make her stronger.

I cannot stress to you all enough how important it is to go out there a do good for others. I found my way out of the darkest time of my life by living graciously and full of humility.

Now that I feel settled into my schedule and all my initial meetings are out of the way, I will blog more Smile