The Women’s Foundation of California is proud to introduce you to the 2016–2017 class of Women’s Policy Institute–State (WPI) fellows. This visionary group of grassroots and community leaders is embarking on a year-long intensive training program that will enable them to effect change at the center of California’s policymaking: the Capitol in Sacramento.
You are a member of the Interpersonal Violence team. How did you come to be so committed to sexual assault and domestic violence work?
I began doing this work in 2002 as a volunteer, after moving to a new city. My original “plan” was to finish school and obtain my teaching credentials, however, as I took the state-required training needed to volunteer, I learned so much about the epidemic of violence against women, specifically women of color, including learning to identify personal experiences that, before the training, I never knew how to identify, define or describe. After completing the training, volunteering, and eventually working at the agency, I knew this work is what I want and need to be doing. I’ve learned so much about myself and have grown immensely in this work!
What drew you to the WPI program? Why did you apply?
I’ve learned so much from my direct services work. I’ve also learned that as much as I love working directly with survivors, change needs to happen on a larger scale, a policy scale specifically. The work we do at local agencies is amazing, however, we can only do so much within the existing structures and laws we have to navigate in order to help support survivors. I was drawn to the Women’s Policy Institute for its specific focus on interpersonal violence and its commitment to creating spaces for women specifically. Public policy always seemed like it was “not for me”, mostly because it’s rare to see women of color in that space. I applied to WPI for personal growth opportunities as well as to bring all my direct service experiences to help inform policy changes that will improve services and support for survivors.
If you could tell Governor Jerry Brown one thing about your issue area and the people most impacted by your work, what would it be?
Incarcerated survivors are criminalized for being victimized and that has to stop! Hurt people will go on to hurt other people. If we continue to criminalize survivors for surviving trauma, we are perpetuating the violence. Creating additional barriers for survivors does not help reduce violence.