Written by Hess, Baltimore/D.C. Leader
My work with World On My Shoulders is a voluntary action; as is prior times in life that I would volunteer or work with populations affected by domestic abuse. In the beginning, I felt it hard to get in the non-profit world of DV advocacy. I would share the story of my mother; in 1996 then 27 year old Desiree Chavis met her demise at the hands of the man that had been her abuser and her boyfriend. I considered myself a “success story”, someone the clients could look to as someone that simultaneously understands, and as a vision that there is a life after abuse.
I realize now that not only was sharing my story making me seem more like a liability to most places – instead of the source of heightened compassion – but that also the whole mindset was a sack of shit. How dare I fancy myself a success (at breaking the cycle of domestic violence ) when days before my 28th birthday I realized that monsters still live under my bed. As a child that lived in a home where domestic violence was present, met with exceptional explanatory stories, mingled with drugs, and the times my mom thought she had enough; it all imprinted things on my brain that the latter years of a relatively stable childhood couldn’t remedy. As a child I played the part of “healed” better than I do as an adult. I was healed and thanks be to God that a small child had the ability to walk away without many scars. In reality, I hid my scars because I didn’t want to be seen as a disappointment in the ability of my paternal family’s love, and a tragic case.
Flash forward. The night a few days before my birthday. My family and I live above another family. Thin walls and weak floors leave room for little secrets. It’s with embarrassment that I admit to knowingly living above a woman that is the constant victim of her partner’s rage. I’ve asked many friends what to do because she hasn’t asked for help and I know will side to protect her abuser. Many nights I laid in my bed as a grown woman with children of her own, tightening into a ball while the roars of the monster under the floor fill my home and theirs with screams, crashes, cursing, and verbal manipulation.
Most would ask, what’s the issue? Isn’t this what you do? Help DV victims?
The issue is that I didn’t sign up for this. It sounds ridiculous but I leave my home or walk into positions where I can mentally switch on my “helper’s hat”. I fancied myself as someone that broke the cycle of domestic violence when it came to my own family. This time, it permeated into my home and froze me. I hadn’t involuntarily overheard domestic violence since I was 7 years old. Many nights a week felt like a personal hell that had caught up with me.
I write this after hearing certain things that made me slap down on my floor like Iyanla on the “not on my watch” meme. Part of it was returning the favor for when they’d bang on their ceiling when they deemed my children too loud during the day. I felt impulsive and reactive in the moment, but – in rewinding – maybe my actions were strategic and some sort of overdrive. The police local to me have shown that domestic violence isn’t high on their priorities. A noise complaint, physical threat, and verbal demeaning from my neighbor – as I dare interrupt his abusive tirade – is what I called the police about and documented. Calls about domestic violence have always fell through. But this call worked for the police making a presence at least. Towards the end, I requested that the officers look for signs of domestic violence as that was part two of the noise source, and – as expected – they didn’t.
I asked for anyone that was up to talk to me, and one of the first to respond via inbox was Julia, up during the wee hours of the morning.
She asked what I needed. She didn’t ask details. She didn’t probe me to see if I was worthy of the resources she had to offer. She believed me.
As someone that has volunteered with DV orgs before, I can tell you that asking “what do you need” in that trusting tone, as the first thing to come out of a worker’s mouth is a lot less common than it should be. That immediate validation fills in many feelings of distance. I told her that I just need help finding a good price on a hotel.
This is what Julia does with EVERYONE.
The way she approaches this is a way that could transform more lives if she was given the support World On My Shoulders not only needs, but truly deserves.
I write this from a hotel room that my husband is working overtime to pay for. For many, their abuser is their partner and they have no funds and no support to relocate to a hotel for the night.
This has laid so heavy on my heart tonight. That with many federal sources of aid potentially closing down to help fund the larger and more bureaucratic dv orgs, supporting your smaller direct service orgs instead of supporting larger orgs is so needed. The work Julia has been able to do on her own is not only impressive, but legitimately rivals bigger orgs in sheer determination.
World On Your Shoulders needs your support so that they can support others.
For the cost of a few forgettable items you buy in the Dollar Spot at Target, you could fund a portion of someone’s new start.
I’m asking, as favor not to me or to WoMs, but a favor to current and potential recipients; could you pledge $5 a month? Or maybe a one time larger pledge since tax-refund season has padded a few pockets? Could you pledge anything so that somewhere, a child – today, tomorrow, or next week – could find refuge from the monster?
Put your heart into it.
-Hess, Baltimore/D.C. Leader
Make a pledge: http://worldonmyshoulders.org/support/annual-giving/