W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Newsletter - October 2013
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San Francisco "Shines A Light On Domestic Violence"


As a supporter of W.O.M.A.N., Inc. you probably know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). You may see people wearing dark purple ribbons; you might even don one yourself in a show of solidarity with survivors of domestic violence.

For someone like me who has been working in the field to end domestic violence for most of their adult life, DVAM can take on a different dynamic. DVAM brings a litany of invitations, workshops and press conferences, requests of our agency and of our time. In all honesty, it can be hard to muster up the excitement and inspiration I was able to experience in the past. I am happy to say that changed this past October 1st, 2013. 


The Commission on the Status of Women, along with the Department on the Status of Women planned a DVAM kick-off event. Mayor Ed Lee, George Gascón, San Francisco District Attorney, Emily Murase, PhD, Executive Director, San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, Andrea Shorter, Vice-President, Commission on the Status of Women, Chief Greg Suhr, San Francisco Police Department and Beverly Upton, Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Consortium were all on hand to show their support, lending their energy, time and capacity to honor survivors of domestic violence. Advocates lined the steps of city hall, all holding signs outlining the 40 DV policy reforms made in San Francisco since 2002.

As Mayor Lee opened the event, celebrating the fact that it has been 40 months since a known domestic violence homicide has occurred in San Francisco, I was so humbled to be sitting on those steps. When advocates, city officials and leaders come together with a common cause; when resources, time and capacity go to ending any type of oppression, change CAN be impacted in the lives of those experiencing it.

I started thinking about all this, touched by the turn out of our city’s leaders, proud to be sitting with my friends who work for change each and every day. And then Ayesha Louis, daughter of Pearla Louis, San Francisco’s most recent domestic violence homicide victim took the stage. Her speech was truly one of the most inspiring and poignant I’ve heard. You might remember Pearla Lewis, whose body was found in a suitcase drifting the Bay. Pearla was murdered by her partner, for no reason at all; murdered because she loved the wrong man.

Ayesha, along with her brother, reminded me of WHY I do this work, and why I STARTED doing this work. Ayesha talked about her mother Pearla, and was quick to remind us that Pearla was not just a statistic. Ayesha shared stories of Pearla’s support and love, her kindness and goodness. Of how all that was stolen by a man who claimed to love Pearla, even though he beat and eventually murdered her. Leaving Perala’s family without a mother, sister, mentor. It was heartbreaking. I scanned the crowd and found that many of us had the same tears in our eyes. And that grief united us all, inspired us to do our best to end this senseless violence. Ayesha and her family have something to teach us all. They are testament to resiliency, to the power of love and being able to turn your anger and sadness into action.

I was sitting there on the steps, next to my friend from the Riley Center, feeling beyond fortunate to have had the honor of sharing space with Ayesha and her brother, of learning what it is to survive a tragedy while I thought about what W.O.M.A.N., Inc. can do to prevent another one.

As the event progressed and the day faded away, we saw the lights of city hall glowing purple for the first time ever; another milestone. I left the gathering feeling grateful, enriched, so honored to be doing this work, proud of my 17 years; and yes, wearing a dark purple ribbon. I left feeling inspired. 


~ Jill Zawisza, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Executive Director


Show us your support this October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month and make a donation to help us sustain vital services for survivors of domestic violence.

Make A Secure Donation to W.O.M.A.N., Inc.

A Survivor's Story of Resilience and Courage

Alma has endured many trials in her life, one of them being domestic violence. The equanimity she shows reflects the strength of a survivor and a protective mother. When Alma and her husband arrived to the U.S. from Mexico, they were having many conflicts and unhealthy arguments. After the birth of their first child, the abuse escalated to physical abuse. Alma realized that this physical and emotional abuse was affecting not only her but also her daughter who was witnessing the violence, and she made her first attempt to leave. Yet, leaving an abusive relationship is challenging and it took Alma several attempts – during which she had another child - before she permanently was able to leave her abusive relationship and take care of her two children on her own.

While trying to leave, Alma sought out W.O.M.A.N., Inc. and began participating in therapy, a support group and case management through the Latina Program. W.O.M.A.N., Inc. also helped Alma find Spanish-speaking individual and group therapy for her children.  With our agency’s support, Alma prepared her application for a U-Visa to receive a work permit and legal status. With our case manager, she filled out job applications, and found a safer home where she and her family could start their new life. She was also able to apply for public benefits such as CalFresh, MediCal, and cash assistance, and obtain a Mexican passport at no cost for herself and her daughter.

Thanks to Alma’s courage and persistence, her family is in a much healthier and happier place today. Her U-visa was approved and in two years they will have the opportunity to apply for a green card and residency. Her personal story showcases how difficult it can be for a survivor to leave an abusive relationship, and how important it is to have support services like those provided at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Today, Alma participates in our monthly Echando Pa’lante meetings where she has become an outspoken and active member. She is always willing to help other members with resources and emotional support. Both her children are successful students and happy kids, and she was able to get back to her passion: teaching dance classes. After a presentation by ALAS during an Echando Pa’lante meeting, she received information about how to start her own business, and now she has her own dance business offering classes to adolescents getting ready for their quinceaneras.

Last month Alma came to the Echando Pa’lante meeting and, as usual, her kids participated in the Children’s Group. Her daughter, now 9 years old, told us how proud she is of her mother. We at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. are also very proud of her and all of the accomplishments she has achieved in the last few years.

To read Alma’s full story, please visit A Survivor’s Story  on the W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Blog.

Help Our Adopt A Family Holiday Gift Card Drive!


Please help empower survivors of domestic violence and make the holidays special for their children! Join us in supporting our 6th Annual Adopt a Family Holiday Gift Card Drive!

This holiday season, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. is looking for some very special donors to support families who have experienced domestic violence. 

Along with our amazing donors, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has provided assistance that serves as an invaluable resource for survivors of domestic violence: EMPOWERMENT. 

W.O.M.A.N., Inc. is asking donors to provide gift cards, rather than actual wrapped presents, for participating families. Your donation of a gift card allows the survivor to be part of the holiday shopping experience, allowing them to pick out the best gifts for their children.

All of our participating clients are engaged in our programs and have a vested interest in making some big changes in their lives, and the lives of their children. 

Many of these clients have recently left abusive relationships and lack the funds to get their children holiday gifts. Others are finding it difficult to find work, or their jobs allow them to provide the bare minimum for themselves and their children. 

These people are deserving of your help!

Interested? Please send your name and contact number to: adoptafamily@womaninc.org

You can also check out our Amazon Adopt A Family wishlist - we have links so that you can easily buy gift cards to Walgreens, Safeway, or Target for survivors.

Please enter the shipping address as:

W.O.M.A.N., Inc.

333 Valencia Street, Suite 450
San Francisco, CA 94103

W.O.M.A.N., Inc Nominated for 7X7’s Favorite Charity Contest

Great news! We have made it to the nominee round of 7X7 magazine’s Favorite Charity Contest for the second year in a row. The contest was created in partnership with Pacific Gas and Electric Company and is now on its fourth year. The popular San Francisco magazine will recognize seven finalists, the top 6 of which will be given a $2000 grant. The charity with the most votes, though, will receive a grant for $10,000. Right now, we are one of 49 San Francisco Charities vying for the prize. The voting for Top 7 will end at 5pm on November  12th. After that time, voting for the grand prize will continue until November 29th. After the votes are in, the winner of the $10,000 grant will be announced the first week of December. Last year we were able to make it all the way to the Top 6, thanks to all of your votes. To make that happen again (or even aim higher to become the charity with the most votes!), please visit their site to vote for us and take a look at all of the spectacular agencies in the running. Remember, you can always vote more than once!

Donor Highlight - Stephanie Burns


1) What is your name?

Stephanie Burns

2) How did you first learn about W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

I know I shared this story with you, so I'll work to keep this one as short and simple as I can :).

In spring of 2010, I met an individual by the name of Brandon Brown, with whom I shared my vision of creating an event in honor and celebration of women survivors. In response, he told me that there was someone in SF that I had to meet. He put me in touch with a good friend of his from high school, Lija McHugh, who's on the W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Board of Directors. Lija and I met in August of 2010, I shared with her my idea and the inaugural Surviving & Thriving was hosted on October 28, 2010.

What's truly amazing about the inception of this event is that the vision was initially focused on creating a one time event honoring women survivors of sexual assault. Thanks to a chain of serendipitous events and a few incredibly dedicated and phenomenal individuals, Surviving & Thriving was founded in honor and celebration of all of the Phenomenal women in our lives, and the proceeds extend to both W.O.M.A.N., Inc. and SFWAR. The result has been a community of artists, organizations and individuals committed to changing the landscape of violence against women and one heck of a celebration honoring the strength, courage, and grace of the women who have encouraged and inspired us!


3) What inspired you to support W.O.M.A.N., Inc.'s anti-violence efforts?

My inspiration has been twofold - stemming from the influential women I've encountered and my experiences as a survivor. Throughout my life, there have been many Phenomenal women who have encouraged and inspired me, and it has been these women - and all the phenomenal women in our lives - who are honored at Surviving & Thriving.

As a survivor of sexual assault, I also wanted to benefit an organization providing support for and encouragement to women who are facing the disempowerment and disconnection that comes from such an experience. Through my healing and that of others, I've learned that there are many common threads between the experiences of sexual assault and domestic violence. Both are pervasive, life-threatening and dehumanizing and require immense amounts of strength, courage and grace to overcome.

What served as a catalyst to my healing was being part of a community and understanding that I wasn't alone. From those realizations came forgiveness and freedom. Surviving & Thriving increases awareness and education about W.O.M.A.N., Inc. and SFWAR, and as importantly, creates an extraordinary community of women and men who are supportive, caring and responsibly addressing the challenging social issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.


4) What is the impact you hope for your support to have on the community?

As Maya Angelou so eloquently shared, 'Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.' My hope is that through this event, survivors will recognize the courage that they possess both as survivors and as thrivers. They will recognize that their strength lies in allowing themselves to be vulnerable and in sharing their experiences, and with time, they will heal and see themselves as the Fearless and Phenomenal women that they are.

For Surviving & Thriving, my hope is that the event will continue to develop a community that is courageous, that advocates for women, that stands together and says, 'Enough is enough!' A community that understands that when we harm or violate another human being, we hurt ourselves as well. By speaking up and speaking out, we will change the landscape of violence against women.


5) Can you share one fun fact about yourself?

Growing up, my first pet was a ladybug named Rose. When I was in 3rd grade, my parents decided to move to another town. After selling our house, they explained that Rose was not part of the agreement and would be staying behind. In my mind, all ladybugs to this day represent change and good luck - and are named Rose. 

Intern Highlight - Anna McDonald

1) How long have you been working at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

I started training over the summer, but didn't start coming in and seeing clients until late August.

2) What do you do at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

I sit with people in individual therapy, help facilitate the support group, and answer calls on the crisis line.

3) How did you come into this profession?

I decided at a very young age that I wanted to help people, but it took me awhile to figure out the method for doing so.  I decided to work in a therapeutic setting after attending the Tamalpa Institute in Marin, where I used movement and the arts for my own healing process and was able to witness the power of the arts for others, as well.  Due to contact with domestic violence in my own life, I decided that I wanted to work to help those who are experiencing or have experienced abuse to find their paths toward healing.

4) How has your involvement impacted your life?

This work has made me very cognizant of the need to take care of myself really, really well in order to be of assistance to others.  It feels great to be doing something about the pervasive violence in our culture, and is a big step forward in my life.

5) What do you enjoy most about working at W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

I love the wonderful staff who made me feel at home immediately, including my fellow therapy program newbies.  I also really love sitting with people whose resilience and desire to work on themselves and their lives is humbling and awe-inspiring.  It's an honor to hold their stories.

6) Can you share one fun fact about yourself?

I am an artist who utilizes many mediums, but I really love to dance!   I am trained classically (ballet, jazz, etc.), and also in modern, post-modern, and middle eastern dance forms.\

The National Network to End Domestic Violence Survey: Domestic Violence Counts


Since 2006, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) has been conducting Domestic Violence Counts, a census of domestic violence (dv) services.  The census is a count of adults and children who seek services from U.S. DV programs during a single 24-hour survey period.  It documents the types of services requested, the number of service requests that went unmet due to lack of resources, and the issues and barriers that DV programs face supporting survivors of domestic violence.  The information gathered from the census provides a snapshot of the daily successes and struggles programs face while assisting survivors. 


W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has been participating in the census count since the NNEDV began conducting the survey.  It’s important that domestic violence programs across the country are participating in the 24-hour census because, even though it only gives a snapshot, it provides us with useful information that we can share with the community, and use for funding purposes.  What’s further appealing is that the National Network to End Domestic Violence uses the data collected from the census count for policy advocacy.  For example, data that includes statistics like, in 2012, DV programs served over 64,300 individuals yet there were over 10,000 unmet requests for services in that one day.  Most of the time these unmet requests for services are due to the lack of sustainable funding. 


On a positive note, the data collected from the 24-hour census count validates the work that DV aDVocates do on a daily basis.  It feels good knowing that California supported 5,258 individuals seeking domestic violence services in just one day.  It’s also important to note that 42 states had a 80-100% response rate, meaning, at those rates, domestic violence programs and shelters within a state responded back to NNEDV with their findings for that day.  This shows how invested the domestic violence community is in doing this, at times, difficult yet rewarding work.  For more information about the National Network to End Domestic Violence Census Count, visit: http://www.nnedv.org/resources/census/3418-2012-report.html

Connect. Unite. Evolve. For a resilient and peaceful community

Remember our Moving to End Domestic Violence Group, well, it has a new name! W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s wellness group will now be known as “Connect. Unify. Evolve.” or C.U.E.! 

At W.O.M.A.N., Inc. we understand the importance of self-care, and in response C.U.E. seeks to further community mental and physical wellness through social self-care events. Wellness is a holistic concept that takes into account both physical and mental wellness. With this in mind, C.U.E. will promote wellness through physical activity, greater connection to community, and promotion of healthier relationships. Examples of quarterly C.U.E. events include yoga, meditation group, walking/running, Doggie walks, park meet-ups (kids and dogs), healthy potlucks, and marches/demonstrations.  

C.U.E. events are intended for all supporters of the anti-violence movement within our community. This includes both service providers and recipients.  WI staff, volunteers, board members, and other members of the community supporting non-violence are encouraged to participate. By opening the event to all, we hope to remove barriers that separate survivors from service providers. We hope to build community and show that we are all supporters who care about creating a nonviolent community. 

Upcoming C.U.E. Events:

•Doggie Walk - November 9, Meet in Dolores Park by Children’s Playground, 12-2:30p, bring your own lunch

•Getting It Out/Write to Heal: A Writing Workshop – January 17th & 18th, more details to come

The Women's Policy Institute Accepts Mariya Taher


W.O.M.A.N., Inc. is excited to announce that The Women’s Foundation of California has selected staff member, Mariya Taher to join the 2013-2013 Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) as part of the domestic violence team. The Women’s Policy Institute is a yearlong program of intensive advocacy and leadership training retreats in Sacramento that teaches women activists and grassroots organizations how to successfully navigate the labyrinth of Sacramento. During the program, women work in teams to develop and implement specific policy advocacy projects of their choosing with a mentor who is experienced in public policy work. Read on to see what W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has to say about Mariya joining The Women’s Policy Institute:

"Understanding that legislation can have a 'top-down' impact on the life's of survivors of domestic violence, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has long been involved with the legislative process. When Mariya expressed an interest in applying for the WPI, we knew that her participating in the fellowship would help us move our mission, '...empowering domestic violence survivors to create lives free of violence' forward. Key pieces of legislation have created protections for survivors in the workplace, at their residences and in the criminal legal system. Being a part of this process will provide Mariya professional development opportunities and we are so pleased that we will be able to support her as she embarks upon this exciting process.

"It should be mentioned that getting into this fellowship was a competitive process; plenty of talented people were not admitted into the program. Mariya deserves accolades for being a part of this fellowship, we are very proud of her!”

~ Jill Zawisza, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Executive Director

“I’m really excited about being accepted into the WPI Program and to begin to better understand the public policy process. I think too often, legislation passes that sounds good, but can have adverse effects, and so it’s great that WPI allows those who have grassroots level experience and who understand the dynamics of oppression to come to the table and connect with legislators to create policy that supports vulnerable populations.”

~ Mariya Taher

To learn more about the Women’s Policy Institute, please visit http://www.womensfoundca.org/womens-policy-institute

Using Data to Tell Your Story: A Peer Learning Convening on Evaluating Impact

From 2010 to 2012, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. was a recipient of the Organizational Strengths Grant (OSG) offered through the Strong Field Project, a four-year effort by Blue Shield of California Foundation’s Blue Shield Against Violence program. Through use of these grant funds, W.O.M.A.N., Inc. took the lead in developing the Domestic Violence Information and Referral Center, a centralized database now accessed by over 34 domestic violence service providers throughout CA to aggregate and organize information on domestic violence agencies and services, and coordinate referrals to survivors.

In addition to funding, being a recipient of this grant has given our agency the opportunity to participate in a wide array of peer-learning and capacity building conferences and workshops. The most recent of which was the “Using Data to Tell Your Story: An OSG Convening on Evaluating Impact held on October 2nd at CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in Oakland. Staff members Jill Zawisza and Mariya Taher attended this workshop, of which the focus was on understanding how collecting data on our agencies’ services is critical in determining our agencies effectiveness in reducing and ending domestic violence in our community. The workshop also offered the perfect opportunity for those OSG grantees whose focus was on evaluation to share their challenges, successes, tools, and innovations while undergoing their specific projects. Overall, the workshop was a great success and staff members Jill and Mariya were able to bring back some useful tools to implement at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Thank you Blue Shield Foundation for your continued support in strengthening the capacity of the domestic violence field and we look forward to the next OSG Convening.

Building Futures with Women and Children Joins the DVIRC Project

W.O.M.A.N., Inc. staff members Mariya Taher and Tania Parks recently traveled to San Leandro to hold a training on the Domestic Violence Information and Referral Center (DVIRC) for agency staff at Building Futures with Women and Children (BFWC).  This domestic violence shelter and family violence resource center is a fairly new member of the DVIRC, although W.O.M.A.N., Inc. has worked with them closely in the past to provide the maximum possible assistance for clients of both agencies. This recent training was put in place to help BFWC staff navigate the DVIRC with ease and was a chance for most of the training participants to discover the site for the first time. About ten participants were present and all seemed very interested and engaged in what the DVIRC had to offer their clients and themselves, as service providers and advocates.

During the training, participants were taught the structure of the site, how to find resources for their clients, and ways in which to stay connected to other domestic violence agencies through online forums and a community calendar. Towards the end of the training, BFWC staff who participated in the training gave very positive feedback and expressed excitement at getting acquainted with the site’s many features. After such a successful training, we are confident that the wonderful staff at BFWC will be able to actively use the DVIRC and implement its use in their everyday routines!

Volunteer Spotlight - Brendan Tucker


1)When did you first get involved with W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

I attempted to get involved in W.O.M.A.N., Inc. very shortly after moving to the Bay Area, late last January; unfortunately, I had missed the training by literally a week. I waited until the next training cycle to join, and I have now spent about a month volunteering at the Crisis Line. I also joined the Events Committee just a few weeks ago.


2) What inspired you to do anti-violence work?


I joined W.O.M.A.N., Inc. for both personal and political reasons, reasons which of course overlap and influence one another. I grew up in a home amidst domestic violence and heavy substance use, the effects of which dominated and permeated everyday life. I thus felt I had some intimate knowledge of the subject that could be put to use by standing in solidarity with others affected by it. In political terms, as someone who identifies as a white/settler/cis-gendered man, I have great social privilege that manifests itself through, among other things, the patriarchy of which I am both a product and – as much as I'd prefer not to be – a propagator, like every cis-man. I do my best to constantly be self-critical and fight this oppression; I see volunteering at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. as a way to scrutinize my own behavior, give support and care to survivors of patriarchal oppression, and work to make DV a regular part of our discourse of patriarchy.


3) What kind of opportunities have you been involved with here?


I volunteer weekly on the Crisis Line and work with the Events Committee.


4) How has your involvement impacted your life?


Training was difficult but illuminating for me. I found myself remembering numerous events from my childhood that I had either not thought about in many years or perhaps was remembering for the first time. I found myself able to explain certain aspects of my personality as well as those of family members during the section on DV and children. Ultimately, despite some episodes of being upset, I am glad to understand my and my family's mental lives much better.


5) What pieces of wisdom would you share with new volunteers or community members who are interested in supporting W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

I experienced some hesitation in joining W.O.M.A.N., Inc. because I worried about the frustration and limited anti-oppressive nature of giving care and support to survivors without being able to combat abuse at the root. Without denying the importance of social service and other sorts of support work, it is disheartening to feel one is only easing the lives of the oppressed without ever dismantling the systems of oppression themselves. I imagine others may be similarly hesitant and frustrated. I have been pleased thus far, however, with conversations on the crisis line with survivors in which I've felt I was able to help them reach – without being patronizing or proselytizing – some understanding of the nature of abuse and patriarchy, an understanding that, I hope, will guide them for the rest of their lives, perhaps even politicize them.

Click here to read Brendan's full interview on the W.O.M.A.N., Inc. blog.

Upcoming Events

Surviving & Thriving: Celebrating Phenomenal Women

When: Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Where: 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco, CA

Details: The official countdown has begin! Join us in celebration in San Francisco or make a donation in support of the fourth annual Surviving & Thriving – an unforgettable evening of art, cocktails, light hors d’oeuvres & music to honor the Phenomenal women in our lives and the men that love them!

All proceeds benefit SFWAR and W.O.M.A.N., Inc.


Wish List

The following in-kind gifts (new or gently used) will help W.O.M.A.N., Inc. to support survivors of domestic violence in a holistic and relevant manner:

  • Small rolling luggage case for laptop

  • Digital camera with video

  • Gift Cards for Walgreens, Safeway, Ross, local restaurants, etc. (For survivors and children who must flee without funds).

  • Motel Vouchers (for those survivors who may only need one night in a confidential location until they can find a shelter or leave town).

  • Muni Passes, Muni Passport or Muni single ride tickets, or BART tickets

  • Room/Cubicle Dividers

  • Laptops

  • People willing to throw a Party With Purpose Party for W.O.M.A.N., Inc. For more details, please contact outreach@womaninc.org or leave a message at (415) 864-4777 ext 317

Check out our Amazon wishlist to easily purchase some of these items on our behalf.

W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Facebook Followers - https://www.facebook.com/WOMANInc
W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Twitter Followers - https://twitter.com/WOMANinc
W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Pinterest Followers - http://pinterest.com/womaninc/

To learn more about contributing to our wish list or making other types of donations, call Jill Zawisza at 415-864-4777, Ext 306.

Copyright © 2013 W.O.M.A.N., Inc., All rights reserved.

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