April 2, 2020

A Love Note to Anti-Violence Advocates

Ann Brandon, Director of Prevention, OAESV

I feel privileged to be able to write our staff blog this month, but I also feel immense trepidation and anxiety for it to be the “perfect message” during this unprecedented time. 

I’ve started writing and stopped, restarted and stopped again. I needed to sit with my thoughts. It isn’t about me personally, it was more about finding the words that could relay the extraordinary shifts each one of you have made both personally and professionally, emotionally and physically, to adapt your services to support survivors. There are no words that can capture how the field is united together and intrinsically connected. You’ve responded to a global pandemic. We collectively jumped into “crisis” mode to figure out how we continue to provide advocacy to those that we know are still experiencing harm, knowing those numbers are rising as we “shelter in place.”

Advocates this is a love note from me to you…

You are doing this work while simultaneously trying to care for your own kids or other family members. You are doing this when your own anxiety may be at an all-time high. You are doing this with uncertainty and confusion. I want to let you know that, however you show up, OAESV sees you. Please be kind to yourself.

 I am not surprised, but I am amazed at how quickly you were able to shift yourselves regardless of the pandemic. Those on the direct front lines responding to hospital calls or heading into shelters, or those who still have to go into work without proper protection, words escape me. A blog thanking you feels so inadequate and disconnected.

The fact that you are still underpaid and overworked is not lost on me.

We are literally putting your health and safety in danger.

We must re-evaluate how we support you.

We must acknowledge this and make changes…

A love note for you may feel useless. You’ve always deserved mad props and respect for work you do. I send you ultimate gratitude from the depth of my heart, and so should every person in our field that is protected. Currently this is life-threatening, hazardous work. I stay hopeful that all institutional trauma is fully exposed now, that we don’t return to doing the same things over and over…

On that note, I would be remiss to not mention the recognition of our field’s institutional trauma and inequity to people of color, LGBTQI, and those with disabilities. It is glaringly obvious and well researched that practices within the anti-violence field are already oppressive and racist. We know these harmful practices are already happening during this pandemic. How we treat each other in the field will be exposed more now than ever through this pandemic.  

-We must do everything we can to call this in.

-We must put a spotlight on harmful institutional and societal policies and how they’ve been implemented with or without equity.

-We must use whatever privilege we have to stop using violence against each other if we want to promote non-violence in our community.

If that message made you feel uncomfortable and you don’t think we need to address this right now, then we need YOU to deconstruct your beliefs that encourage us to push aside the obvious harm we are causing. I say that with love, not to shame you. We must prioritize the health and safety of those who are most harmed by the anti-violence fields’ institutional and systematic racism and discrimination. We need to work to mend the harm, and take pro-active measures to center anti-oppression and equity within our field. Please connect with OAESV staff to learn more on this.

As we begin SAAM and shift everything virtually from in-person events, I wanted to remind you of the OAESV SAAM resources that were sent out a couple of weeks ago. Our communication team did a fantastic job with those resources. I also want to acknowledge how difficult this shift is, how important it was to connect with survivors and new voices that support our work. We will find a way, like we always do. We are, and have always been, first responders to survivors. That will never change. Step into a new way, and as strange as it feels, it may become another tool in our toolkit for those who have access. For others, we can work together to find safe solutions.

I sign off all of the OAESV staff meetings telling my co-workers what an awesome job they’ve done responding, and how grateful I am for them. We have a team of experts that have jumped into action figuring out new protocols and policy updates, providing Cultivating Conversations in Crisis webinars, supporting programs, connecting to hospitals to figure out who is allowing direct advocacy and what preventive measures they are taking. They did all this, not unlike you, while taking care of young kids at home, home-schooling, missing their loved ones, and quarantining themselves too. They are as concerned about this pandemic as each one of you, and I am lucky to work beside these colleagues.

A special shout out to our Executive Director, Rosa Beltré. There are so many ways she has shown up for us, it’s hard to narrow it down in a few sentences. She is constantly working to keep us all informed on state and national updates; she is checking in on us, sending us thoughtful and supportive messages; making sure we are protected and safe (as much as we can be). She immediately acted and met with board members, agencies, and other statewide entities to create aligned protocols to shift to make sure your agencies policies quickly adapted to support those who could work from home. She helped synthesize all of the information regarding state and national policies for leave, sick time, and FMLA.  The list is too long and her action and support have touched all of us.

So, if you have a chance, send a little thanks to Rosa and the OAESV staff! They’re my heroes…

This note was sent with much LOVE and gratitude, and always, please take care of yourselves during this time. We will find a way to get through it if we work together. Stay home, stay safe. And THANK YOU for all that you continue to do for survivors in our state.

Warmly,

Ann

P.S. Don’t forget all of the resources!

SAAM packet link here: www.oaesv.org/members 

For OAESV COVID resources click here: www.oaesv.org/covidsupport 

Trainings click here: www.oaesv.org/trainings 

Escape