The effect of working in a domestic and sexual violence program

by Jenny Martin, SafePlace Communications and Media Relations

Anyone working at SafePlace, and probably any other domestic or sexual violence agency, has been asked questions similar to these at some point: “So, do you hate men now?” or “How can you be in a relationship after everything you’ve seen?” or “How do you do this every day?”

Melinda Cantu, Director of the SafePlace Family Shelter, has worked at SafePlace for 22 years. It seemed she would be a great person to go with these questions. This is what she says about how working at SafePlace has affected her personal relationships:

Melinda---Sandra-Commisary-for-web

“Working in domestic violence and sexual assault has impacted me on so many levels with regard to my personal relationships.  Initially, as many people who come into this movement have discovered, I was worried about all relationships and concerned about how abuse of power would impact me.  So I decided not to be in a relationship.  I then realized that what was important was to communicate my desires about what I wanted in a relationship, what I expected in a relationship and what others should and can expect from me.  I learned to really listen to the people in my life, I learned that sometimes it is not what people say, but what they don’t say that is important.  I have learned that no one can actually read anyone else’s mind – so I learned not to expect others to read mine.

I know that I am much more thoughtful and caring with those in my life – I am also more thoughtful and caring with myself.  I know that had it not been for working in this field I would have never learned how important it is to know one’s own limits.

I feel that had I not become involved in this movement my eyes would have been closed to so many things.  I would have had a hard time speaking up about violence when I saw it, in any form.  I think I have also learned that all of us have the capacity to be violent or not; and we need each other to hold ourselves accountable to honor and cherish our relationships with all of those around us.

I continue to learn that there is no perfect island where peace and love exist and that it takes work – individually, collectively, and  globally in order to create the peace we so desire; and sometimes that comes one person at a time; starting with me.”

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