Last spring, I received a call from a teacher at a local elementary school - her fifth grade class wanted to learn about domestic violence. Would I be willing to come in and talk to them in my role as WIT's Prevention Director? I enthusiastically agreed, but as I hung up the phone, I wondered, How do you talk to 10-year-old children about violence and abuse?
For an audience so young, they were amazingly receptive to my presentation, asking me thoughtful, insightful questions. Together, we learned about the dynamics of abuse, explored the barriers that a woman might face on her way to safety, and discussed what resources are available to her in Philadelphia, including at WIT.
Then they asked me, "What should we do if we witness domestic violence? How do we stop it?"
I had no doubt that, in that class, there were children who were witnessing domestic violence in their homes. I chose my words carefully; if they took away only one message from my visit, it had to be this one:
"You are children," I told them. "Stopping domestic violence is never your responsibility. Children deserve to grow up in safe households, free from violence and abuse. As adults, that is our responsibility to you."
I have kept their questions and their faces in mind as I succeed Roberta Hacker and stepped into the role of WIT's Executive Director.
WIT has an incredible staff and Board - it is such an honor to be working with some of the smartest and most fiercely passionate women I have had the pleasure to know. And I am so grateful to all of you who donate, volunteer, and support WIT. It is thanks to each and every one of you that we can do our work: empowering women to move forward in their lives, away from domestic violence and substance abuse.
As we reflect on and celebrate the past 45 years, we can start to look forward to the years ahead of us. Our vision for the future includes growing our prevention efforts, building collaborations with community partners to foster systems change, and expanding our reach to under-served women and diverse populations.
I am excited by the opportunities ahead of us, I am moved by the weight of the work, and I am humbled by the children in that fifth grade class. This is our responsibility to them.