The Network’s membership community invests every day in the future we are building together, for all of us. This happens through the work they do and the way they do it. By investing in Voice, Repair, Freedom, Justice and Community, Vermont’s local sexual and domestic violence advocacy organizations are living into a world where all people can thrive.
Advocacy Organization Appreciation Week is a time to shine a light on these investments. Each day we’ll hear from people doing the work in their communities. Their insights can help propel us all to consider where and how we are investing in the future we need, and fuel the joyful collective work of building it together. Today, advocates from Umbrella and the Women’s Freedom Center talk about investing in the idea of Justice.
INVESTING IN OUR VISION: JUSTICE
By Kara Casey, Director of Economic Empowerment
I am the woman offering two flowers whose roots are twin. Justice and hope, hope and justice, let us begin. –Alice Walker
“Justice means survivors themselves get to define what they want and need to have happen,” explained advocates from the Women’s Freedom Center, “AND that it actually happens.” For the Vermont Network’s membership community, Justice is expansive, requiring the transformation of communities and institutions as well as individuals. There is a shared commitment to embodying the change we envision. Anti-violence advocacy organizations enact their vision of justice in their interactions with each other and with survivors.
Chelsea Corrow, of Umbrella, raised up a simple truth: believing survivors is essential to achieving Justice. Henekis Stoddard, also of Umbrella explained that investing in Justice requires, “centering the leadership of people who have been harmed to create social systems that that do not perpetuate harms but meet people’s needs.” All agreed that this involves shifting power toward people and communities most impacted by the harms of sexual and domestic violence.
For the staff of the Women’s Freedom Center, it all starts with deep listening. They invest in Justice in their daily work “by staying focused on each survivor’s unique experience and keeping them in the lead. We also continually examine our own biases and understanding of social justice issues and aim to stay porous to other perspectives. We welcome the ongoing evolution in our own thinking and practice. And even as we help individuals navigate crises, we always keep systems change at the forefront of our work.” Henekis agreed, noting that, “Justice would mean we have whole structures that exist because survivors’ voices were heard and are designed to give them what they need.”
Investing in Justice creates benefits that are profound for survivors of violence and abuse and ripple out far beyond. “The prevalence of injustice affects the health and well-being not only of individuals and their communities, but society as a whole,” explained Chelsea. “To truly thrive as human beings, we must ensure justice is received.” She added that, “Justice will not come without wide-spread social change.” For Chelsea, investing in Justice looks like supporting youth in their own empowerment and capacity to create change and build communities where people are in healthy, connected relationship.
And where will these investments get us? Advocates at the Women’s Freedom Center envision a future where “everyone has a fuller range of options in their lives” and people value each other and community more than privilege and power. For Henekis, a Just future includes real accountability and transformative practices by individuals and systems that cause harm, adding, “I am humbly noting that my own imagination is limited by the structures I am in. There are solutions & approaches that I have not even dreamed of yet.”