By Jessica Higgins
November 2, 2017
Over the past several years, The Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities has been going through a metamorphosis. In 2015, the passing of Sharon Hickman (our executive director who co-founded DVI back in 1985) shook the organization to its core. Who were we without the leader who had guided us since the very beginning?
For the past year, we attempted to answer that question through an intensive strategic planning period. The answer we came to? We are The Initiative.
There were several factors that brought us to this new chapter, but the absolute most important influence on our decision was our clients. Every change our organization makes must, first and foremost, reflect the interests of the people we serve. Our name change was a purposeful, focused effort to make sure our organization’s name advertised our inclusive services.
There were two issues we identified with the title “Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities.” The first was that our clients aren’t just victims of domestic violence: they’re also experiencing sexual assault, stalking, elder abuse, caregiver abuse, and human trafficking. Having “Domestic Violence” in our title made it sound like that was all we did, and could have prevented clients experiencing other forms of victimization from reaching out to us.
The second issue was the “Women with Disabilities” piece. While the majority of our clients are women, we also serve male and trans victims of abuse. What message was our name sending to those clients? That our services wouldn’t be available for them because of their gender? One of our organization’s values is inclusivity, and it was crucial that our name reflected this value.
And so The Initiative was born: it honors our past as “The Domestic Violence Initiative” without potentially excluding anyone seeking our services. And it speaks to the fierce energy and passion within this organization that has burned for 32 years.
We’re excited to strengthen our existing programs – like expanding our outreach efforts, and pushing our direct services to be more inclusive, trauma-informed, and individualized than ever – as well as launching new projects, like this monthly blog! While this first blog is more of an update on what’s been going on with us, future blogs will be tackling a variety of subjects related to disability and abuse – like why exactly women with disabilities are 40% more likely to experience abuse; what’s up with sex ed for people with disabilities; why it’s harmful to paint all mass shooters in the United States as being mentally ill; what ableism is and why you should care about it; and a whole lot more!
We’re so excited for this next chapter, and we hope you join us in working to create an abuse-free culture for all!