10 Year Emergerversary!

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In 2008, two expert domestic abuse organizations, Tucson Center for Women and Children and Brewster Center, came together to form Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse. Since then, Emerge has dedicated every single day to providing families in our community the opportunity to live free from abuse.

We’ve seen significant increases in the number of people reaching out to Emerge for help since the merger. Last year alone we served nearly 6,400 people. Starting this past April, local law enforcement is now using the Arizona intimate Partner Risk Assessment Instrument System (APRAIS), a screening tool used to identify which domestic abuse victims are at the greatest risk of serious injury or death. Those who are shown to be at high-risk will have more immediate access to Emerge’s services. As a result, referrals of victims reaching out for, and getting access to, services are on the rise since the implementation of the tool.

With your continued support, we can enter our next decade with the strength to provide services to meet increasing demand, while advocating to create a community that ends domestic abuse together.

Join us in celebrating 10 years as Emerge and the 42 years legacy of both organizations! 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Celebrating 10 Years Merged!

In honor of the merger between Tucson Center for Women and Children (TCWC) and Brewster Center to form Emerge, we have captured the voices of current and former staff and board members to reflect on the merger experience, Emerge’s growth over the past 10 years, and the continued need for domestic abuse services in our community today.


Thoughts from Former Leadership

In this article, former CEO, Sarah Jones and former Board Chair, Lori Bryant, both of whom were at the helm of the merger between TCWC and Brewster Center, discuss their memories of the merger and the importance of Emerge in our community then and now.

The Merger Experience
Both Sarah and Lori agree that the most difficult aspect about the merger was combining the cultures of each organization. Brewster Center and TCWC approached domestic violence from different perspectives and methods, both offering significant value to what would become Emerge. “When we began talking about this merger,” Sarah said, “we talked about making it purposeful and not just about ‘adding more zeros.’”

Domestic Abuse: Perceptions in 2008 vs. 2018
Lori believes the community’s perceptions about domestic abuse have changed over the last ten years. “I think people are more aware and open to talking about it. I think that’s changed because it showed up in the NFL, it shows up on Entertainment Tonight, and people think, ‘oh wait a minute – it even happens there.’

“You couldn’t even bring domestic abuse up ten years ago without someone asking ‘why doesn’t she just leave?’ I think now, there’s a lot more openness to continue the conversation, learning about the cycle of violence, and why victims stay and sometimes go back.”

Emerge’s Role in the Community Today
We asked Lori and Sarah about Emerge’s role in the community in 2018. Sarah said, “Someone has to continue to tell the story, and tell it in the daylight. I think Emerge holds a special place in trying to be proactive in solving the problem, while addressing the crisis. It’s a strain and a stress to do both, but I think Emerge has to call that question. Agitating the system in a way that is thoughtful and professional shows that you’re not OK with the way things are, but you’re doing it strategically, not reactively. My hope for Emerge is that it always holds that space.”

Lori agreed. “Emerge is a disrupter, as they say in the for-profit world,” she said. “Emerge is solving a problem with your services – not just doing the same thing over and over again with the same result.”

 


Staff Share Their Stories

To understand the legacy of the merger, we interviewed four employees who either worked at Emerge or with Emerge during the transition. Both Charlene Mazur (Hotline Specialist) and Jesica Beckel (Tucson City Court Liaison) have worked at Emerge through the merger, and Amy Gomez and Sheronda Jordan worked with Emerge during the merger while at Pima County Attorney’s Office and Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault (SACASA) respectively.

Dedicating Yourself to 24/7 Work
“Someone has to be available 24/7 for these survivors to have access and support,” Jesica said, “If someone is in crisis at nine o’clock at night, an employee has to be there to open the door.” All of them agree: domestic violence isn’t the kind of work you can “shut off” when you leave. “We don’t just flip the switch and go home,” Charlene said. Amy echoed her: “This is not just a day job where you clock in and clock out. You live your passion and you speak your truth, and it is an integrated part of you.”

Sheronda talked about the support her family gives her to dedicate herself to domestic abuse work. “Some people we serve don’t have any support at all; they might be isolated because of the abuse they experienced and they’ve lost all their family and friends. The support my family gives to me and each other allows me the opportunity to give to our community unconditionally. It’s a remarkable feeling to be a part of that, and I have gratitude for the people we serve who trust me when they are vulnerable. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve this community.”

What Has Changed Since the Merger?
When Charlene reflected on the results of the merger, she said: “I feel like we took the best of both agencies and put them together. I have high hopes for continuing the men’s program because that’s where I think the hardest work for a lot of people is. But I also feel like that is where the most change can occur.”

Amy took it back even further to the beginning of domestic violence services 40 years ago, and how it’s progressed since. “We were just trying to keep women safe, to put a bandage on it. Now we are engaging men in this work, which is wildly different. And the conversation continues to evolve when we look at people talking about the intersections of race, class, gender and sexual orientation.”

What’s Left to Be Done?
“We have the capacity to build more partnerships,” Sheronda said, “Emerge continues to think about how to strategize with our community partners to better serve survivors.”

Jesica shared her vision for the future. “I would love to see a community that no longer accepts domestic abuse and makes it difficult for abusive behavior to exist. I want there to be a space that can make it easier for survivors, victims, and their family members to reach out in order to get support without stigma or judgment. That is the idea: to switch things around. Make it less accepting to those who are using abusive behavior and more welcoming to those who need that support. One day we will get there.”

 


The Future: Breaking the Cycle for Good

After a decade of being merged, leadership at Emerge is taking time to reflect on the challenges we’ve overcome, along with those still left to solve. All in all, current CEO, Ed Mercurio-Sakwa, Executive Vice President Anna Harper-Guerrero (bottom right) and Director of Emergency Services, Kelly Evans (top left), are looking to the community to help Emerge put an end to domestic abuse once and for all.

Believing in the Dream
“If I think about how we got from the merger to here, one of the beautiful things about Emerge is that we’re always dreaming. The work is never done. We always have crazy ideas that many people don’t believe in. But that’s because we’re always trying to think outside the box about what will actually work,” Kelly said.

Our permanent housing program is a great example. “Historically,” Kelly explained, “if you had employment and general stability, then you were the chosen one to get housing because you qualified. Then we realized the model didn’t make sense – folks are coming from a long history of trauma, how do we expect them to get stabalized within four months, especially when living in shelter?”

Anna acknowledged the families, friends and children in the lives of Emerge employees. “Abuse doesn’t end at five and people in our community are dying. My choice to do this work is a big ask of our families, friends and children, but that’s what a community looks like that’s committed to supporting survivors.”

Ed spoke of the importance of doing things differently, “I think about our work with men. The choice to be disruptive to the status quo, intentionally asking people to step out of their comfort zones, is the biggest risk we have chosen to take. Though, the potential for positive change makes it all worthwhile.”
Same for Anna. “My life has been greatly impacted for the better through the experiences I’ve had with survivors: everything I’ve learned about power, strength and resiliency I’ve learned from them. It’s allowed me to bring my son into this world with a language and understanding that has been provided to me through the many experiences I have had in my years doing this work.”

The Work Continues
When asked what the end goal looks like, Ed and Kelly spoke of the impact the community can have on ending domestic abuse. “We’ve always acted as if, and the community has always believed, that Emerge is the solution to domestic abuse – we’re a part of it, but we’re not the ‘end all, be all,’” Ed said, “Yes, we need the community to invest in us because there are victims right now who need us. But ultimately, we have to change the mindset about who is actually in charge of whether DV exists or not.”

Anna weighed in on the work still to be done at Emerge internally. “I think we’re still taking stock of our culture at Emerge – we need to continute having internal conversations about important topics, like having difficult conversations about intersectionality: race, gender identity, sexual orientation, both in terms of delivering services and in making sure that our leadership team also includes those voices. The evolution of the organization depends on it.”

“Emerge’s philosophy hasn’t changed, but I feel that we need to constantly challenge ourselves and the ways that we think and talk about people’s experiences. It is our work to ensure that the way we interact is about humanizing people and the experiences that they have had with abuse/violence. We can’t just get a pass and become stagnant because we’re a large nonprofit: we have to check ourselves and push ourselves to serve people in the way they need to be served.”

Ed, Anna and Kelly agree: although there’s a tremendous effort in gaining a single inch of progress in a long race to end domestic abuse, we are seeing real change within the community, which is what victims of abuse are counting on us all to do.