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Communities Creating Change

There is something we each can do to create change towards a safer community. Below, we interview a few people who are answering the call to end domestic abuse in their own unique ways.

Partner Highlight:

Jesus “Chucho” Ruiz works as a Youth Program Facilitator at Chicanos Por La Causa and as a Men’s Education Program Facilitator at Emerge. He shares his thoughts from experience working with youth and men around gender dynamics and violence against women. He also shares pieces of his own journey toward creating a safe space for women in his life by continually examining his own choices and the impact they have on his children and partner.

Why did you get involved with ending domestic abuse?

After working with youth for many years, I had an opportunity to receive training about a high school curriculum that focuses on healthy masculinity. When I received the training, I reflected on my own behaviors and realized how I’m complicit in my everyday life in perpetuating violence toward women. I gained insight on my own controlling and abusive behaviors and I wanted to explore more, which is when I went to the Men’s Education Program at Emerge.

I began to develop a deeper sense of empathy and consideration for the experiences of women. I realized my role and responsibility, not just in listening to the voices of women and being accountable for my actions, but I recognized this was the solution to the bigger picture of ending violence toward women.

I understood that domestic abuse and violence against women looks all different ways and that I was complicit in many of them. That’s something that I could stop. I identified patterns of my own abusive tactics toward women, along with deeply rooted beliefs. I also identified the disconnect men have with their own emotional intelligence as a result of socialized gender roles.

Why do you think it’s important for the community to get involved in ending domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is a societal issue and there are systems of oppression that reinforce this culture of abuse in our society. It’s prevalent in every aspect of our lives, in our families, in the media. It’s not about one individual or family doing the work—it’s so embedded in our culture, it will take our entire community to start working toward change for us to make progress. We all need to be speaking up about it and acting to end it on all different levels, whether it’s the community, family, individual or political level—it’s important because it’s a larger issue that’s connected to other systems.

From the work I’ve done in high schools, I’ve seen how important it is for these conversations to become the norm within a classroom context. The moment you start talking about gender dynamics with teenagers, everyone gets super attentive. It’s something that youth are looking for, but it’s not spoken about in a school setting. It’s a need. Youth are wanting to talk about it, but often those spaces are not available, and when it’s not talked about, all they know is what they see around them. Everywhere I’ve gone with the curriculum, the youth are incredibly receptive and enthusiastic about wanting to have those conversations. It’s awesome to see when they start to take over the conversations.

What suggestions do you have for how people can get involved?

Being intentional and creating more spaces for people to talk about gender dynamics will make a big impact on our community. We need to saturate our community with these messages. What systems do you have access to or ties within, and how can you help create a place for these conversations?

Another thing is to interject and intervene in situations that some people might consider subtle with the understanding that it’s a part of something bigger. For example, jokes here and there that degrade women may not seem harmful, but they’re connected to the larger picture of violence.

On a more interpersonal level, as an individual, challenge your own beliefs. Be honest, vulnerable and willing to hear the stories of survivors and women. For example, if you find yourself questioning or judging someone’s truth, ask yourself why: why are you skeptical of their experience?


Partner Highlight:

April Ignacio is a tribal member and co-founder of Indivisible Tohono, a grassroots group concerned with current federal and Arizona legislation primarily impacting the Tohono O’odham Nation. Indivisible Tohono connected with Emerge after one of their members attended an “A Call to Men” event hosted by Emerge and wanted to bring the event to the Tohono O’odham community. Together, Emerge, A Call to Men and Indivisible Tohono hosted a powerful event. Today, as Indivisible Tohono continues to work within the tribal community to end domestic abuse, April talks with us about why it’s important for everyone to get involved in ending DV and what you can do to help.

Why did you get involved with ending domestic abuse and why do you think it’s important for the community to do so?

The overwhelming statistic that 84% of Native American women will experience violence in their lifetime. We recognize that 90% of the court cases heard in the Tohono O’odham Justice Courts are domestic violence cases. Domestic abuse is a systemic problem that affects more than the person being abused and the person using abusive behavior.

Indivisible Tohono wants to be part of the solution by amplifying the need to fund programs and educational opportunities for our hemajakam to participate in. We want to address these issues in our community openly and unforgivingly, and provide safe spaces to discuss the change of culture needed for everyone to feel safe and loved.

What suggestions do you have for how people can get involved?

Confront in a calm manner. Listen without judgement. Believe the survivor.


Partner Highlight:

Elizabeth Burcin, Perinatal Educator for Women’s and Children’s Services and Chair of the Domestic Abuse Awareness Committee at Tucson Medical Center

Why did you get involved with ending domestic abuse?

I’ve had friends and family affected by this issue. One of my best friends in my home state of Pennsylvania experienced domestic abuse. She was a nursing co-worker and was living with a violent husband. On Christmas Eve one year, he threatened her and her three children with a knife. She grabbed her purse and her three kids and she ended up spending Christmas through New Year’s in a shelter.

She didn’t want to endanger anyone so she didn’t tell any of us, plus she was embarrassed and didn’t want people to think less of her. When she got divorced and was able to speak more freely of what she had experienced, it opened my eyes to the scariness of it, and the isolation and helplessness that victims feel.

I was also on the Domestic Violence Committee at Northwest Medical Center before coming to work at TMC.

Why do you think it’s important for the community to get involved in ending domestic abuse?

It’s a silent issue for a lot of people. The community doesn’t know about the scope of it because so many survivors live in the shadows.
Domestic abuse affects all levels of socioeconomic status and it affects every area of this community.

Children who grow up witnessing domestic violence may have lifelong impacts from the trauma – and are more often at risk of living in a similar environment when they grow up, either as victims or perpetrators.

If we want to stop that cycle of generational abuse and if we want to honor the humanity of others and help them live in safety and reach their own potential, then we have to become educated about domestic violence and get involved in putting a stop to it.

What suggestions do you have for how people can get involved?

Even though my friend had a good job and could support herself, she had nothing but the clothes on her back when she left. When she got to the shelter, she was so grateful for a toothbrush and a bar of soap. At TMC, we do toiletry drives for the shelters, which is something other employers or churches or neighborhood associations can do.

Other suggestions are to be supportive and educated by knowing the signs of domestic violence so you can spot and support friends and family if you think they are in a relationship where they are having issues. At TMC, we have wallet cards available in public areas and also with committee members, including human resources and security. These cards have information on resources and how to get help. Even if a woman (or man) is not receptive at the time, you might be planting a seed, because it often takes them several attempts to actually leave a domestic violence situation. And finally, if you are a nurse, please be aware of signs of abuse when working with your patients and offer them resources when appropriate. Here at TMC, over the past few years, we have made an effort to ensure that staff is trained to respond effectively when a patient needs support or assistance so they leave TMC knowing that we care and can provide assistance.


Partner Highlight:

Tahnee Jackson, Site Manager at My Friends Closet in Three Points.

My mom and Friends of Robles Ranch, (our non-profit community board) opened My Friends Closet about 16 years ago, where we sell clothing and household items to raise money for the community. As the site manager there, I love my job because I love this community. We have customers who never buy a thing, but have been coming to our store for years just to have someone ask how they’re doing.

Why did you get involved with ending domestic abuse?

When I was 18, I worked at a camp for underprivileged children. Up until that summer, I assumed most kids had a happy childhood like mine. The reality came crashing down my first week as a cabin counselor for young girls. Never in my life had I imagined the things that could happen to children. I moved to Three Points many years later and got into Children’s Ministries. By this time I had children of my own. Again, the stories that I heard from these kids were horrifying.

One day my mom and I stopped by My Friend’s Closet to drop off items, and a woman came up to us for help with physical signs of abuse. As she shared her story, it stuck with us when she kept saying, “How did I end up like this?” She was a successful woman with a loving family. After that day, my mom and I decided (along with Friends of Robles Ranch and all of our volunteers) that we were going to find out more about domestic violence.

So, with seemingly few ways to reach out to survivors in such a small community like Three Points, we started a program called Shop&Talk at My Friend’s Closet, a trust-building, ‘women only’ event to shop and get to know each other. Like the quilting bees of olden times is what I told people—women supporting women.

After Shop&Talk, we also came up with Purses of Promise, a program where you fill up a purse with women’s hygiene items to give out to women who are homeless for a variety of reasons, including DV. The purses are also filled with pamphlets of local resources, including Emerge, as well as notes with beautiful words of encouragement and strength.

Why do you think it’s important for the community to get involved in ending domestic abuse?

Simple – If a community doesn’t acknowledge domestic abuse, then it will never end. You can’t fight for those whom others decide don’t exist.

What suggestions do you have for how people can get involved?

We are big believers of starting in our own homes. Start with the man (or woman) in the mirror and ask, “If I am not willing to acknowledge and make a change, how in the world am I going to convince others to change?”

I avoid confrontation as much as possible, but I have also personally chosen to confront (despite shaking in my boots) people who tolerate different forms of abuse. I’ve intentionally done this in front of my children, who are now adults, so that they can see firsthand that I will not tolerate abuse and set an example for them.