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Curry, Elizabeth A.
Communicating collaboration and empowerment
h [electronic resource] :
b a research novel of relationships with domestic violence workers /
by Elizabeth A. Curry.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 348 pages.
ABSTRACT: This dissertation is an experiment in thinking with the story, not about the story in order to erase the boundaries between analysis and narrative. CASA, Community Action Stops Abuse, is the context for this research on the lived realities and meaning of working with an empowerment philosophy. A University-Community Initiative (UCI) grant with CASA and the University of South Florida is the occasion to study the communicative aspects of individual and collective perceptions of empowerment. The dissertation focuses broadly on two UCI project goals: developing a collaborative relationship and producing a booklet of stories about the work of paid staff and volunteers. The heart of the dissertation is my relationship with the CASA workers and how scholarship and advocacy intersect with a philosophy of reciprocal and compassionate empowerment.
Adviser: Carolyn Ellis.
CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse).
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Communicating Collaboration and Empowerment: A Research Novel of Relationships with Domestic Violence Workers by Elizabeth A. Curry A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment Of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Communication College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D. Arthur P. Bochner, Ph.D. Jane Jorgenson, Ph.D. Kathleen de la Pea McCook, Ph.D. Date of Approval: May 9, 2005 Keywords: CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), engaged scholarship, action research, feminist research, poetic activism, life stories, narratives Copyright 2005, Elizabeth A. Curry
Dedication I dedicate my dissertation to my mother, Captain Mary Ofriel Curry, the bravest and kindest rascal I have ever known. She was an army nurse in Europe during World War II, recognized by the French government for her service. She was also an incredibly empowering mother of three children. My Mom has been aptly described by friends and family as wiry, intense, generous, funny, smart, and utterly her own person. I learned courage and compassion from Mom, as well as how to believe in positive possibilities for myself and othe rs. Mom did not always approve of my decisions, but her love and acceptance were truly unconditional. She also nurtured my spiritual core by her example. For that, I thank my Mom and her special patron of impossible causes, St. Jude. It took me a l ong time to appreciate all her precious gifts. I also dedicate this dissertation to all the families who have experienced abuse, the courageous survivors of domestic violence, and the people who work to empower and comfort those who need shelter from the storms of life. I believe in their goal to bring peace to our hearts, minds, words, and actions so that home is a safe place for everyone.
Acknowledgments Writing this dissertation has been an arduous, but empowering endeavor, thanks to my committee members academic guidance and emotional support. Kathleen de la Pea McCook, my library colleague for over 20 years, was the impetus for the beginning of my journey when she suggested I pursu e my doctorate in Communication at the University of South Florida. Jane Jorgenson made space for divergent ideas with her patient listening skills and gentle analysis Art Bochner helped me grow with his rigorous scholarship and apprecia tion for a generous spirit. My major professor, Carolyn Ellis, was a model for me with her probing, innovative and evocative writing. At times, it was almost impossible for me to focus on my research or readings while caring for my terminally ill mother As my life became progressively more chaotic, my committee members let me proceed at my own pace, and they communicated trust and respect for my work and me. I also want to express my deep apprec iation to all the CASA staff members who opened their work and their hearts to me for the past four years. During my Moms illness and then death, my life was on staggeri ng overload. My relationships and the time I spent with CASA kept me grounded. The CASA staff members truly understood crisis and lifes chaos, which helped me to find my way. This work is indebted to those who read my drafts, gave me advice, listened to my ideas, believed in me, and encouraged me to write: my favorite sister, Peggy Miller, Laura Ellingson, Barbara Stites, Christin e Davis, Deborah Walker, and Amy Harcar.
Finally, I acknowledge the scholars and write rs whose stories have inspired and informed me since I first learned to read. Their work was the source that empowered me to write this research novel, a lifetime collaboration of ideas.
i Table of Contents Abstractv Chapter One: Co-constructing Stories of Changing Relationships..1 Appreciation.1 Looking for Feedback..2 Communal LunchBreaking Bread Together Chapter Two: Ferocious Activism, Collaboration, and Compassion Re-framing the Distance be tween Self and Others University Community Initiative Pl anning Meeting, September 7, 2000.29 The Revelation of Friends.39 Arriving at the NCADV Conference.43 Plenary Session and Memorializing Compassionate Activists.49 Chapter Three: Research Reflections: Subjectivity and Strengths Domestic Violence: Whose Side Are We on?... Reflecting on the Super Glue of Collaboration with CASA Staff.60 The NCADV Discussion Group and Food for Thought Subjectivity and Positi oning the Researcher.80 Research Questions, Research Reflections Narrative Method and Ways of Knowing..84
ii Communication and Empowerment..87 Chapter Four: Mutually Observing the Process....90 Community-based Research..90 Ideas Floating and Swimming Around..94 Cooking up Feminist Ideas..102 Dissertation Dinner..105 Messages of Friendship NCADV Empowering Conversations..114 Chapter Five: Poetic Activism: Many Faces, Many Voices Sharing the CASA B ooklet of Stories.116 Composite of Experiences...126 A Composite Story: Small Talk with a Big Voice..127 Whose Story Is It?...140 NCADV Poster Session Closes...143 Chapter Six: Life Stories: Moments of Meaning.144 NCADV Plenary of Stories..144 Telling Stories..151 Clarissas Story: Mother Couldnt Braid My Hair: Remembering and Breaking the Cycle...159 Judys Story: He Pulled the Strings : My Job Was to Protect Her... Homers Story: Finding My Voice: Drawing from My Pain ..168
iii NCADV Interlude on Life Stories... Chapter Seven: Beckys Story: An Advocate Needs Shelter and Sanctuary...178 Empowerment is Personal and Political.. Unexpected and Emotional Violence at CASA... Good Dream Bunny.198 Becky Needs Her Own Good Dream Bunny...201 NCADV Helping Hands..203 Chapter Eight: Advocating for Kids: Empowering and Compassionate Framing...206 Issues Knotted and Tangled.206 The CASA Youth Center and Youth Advocates.212 Becoming a Youth Volunteer..216 Collaboratively Cooking: Worms in Dirt Helping or Harping at the Volunteer Meeting.229 The NCADV Visitation Center Program Ends Chapter Nine: Empowering Staff and Organizations..235 Collaborative Inquiry at NCADV CASA Meeting to Explore Empowerment..239 Conversations Constructing a Social Construction.245 Empowerment Stories, Blame, and Ethics..251 Re-storying Empowerment.254 Who Am I? Insider, Outs ider, Collaborator?..266
iv NCADV Winding Down.272 Chapter Ten: Conclusion: Looking Back and Coming Home...273 Considering Criteria Looking Back, Looking Forward Sanctuary for the Vulnerable: Above the Clouds on the Airplane..284 Sharing Pain and Laughter...285 Epilogue: Floating with the Currents...290 Opening to Possibilities...290 New Horizons Bridging Boundaries...293 Coda Thinking About Stories......296 Fitting the Pieces Together......296 Engaged Scholarship in Feminist Action and Research..297 Ambiguous Emotions and Creating Sanctuary....299 Defining and Framing Empowerment.301 Reciprocal, Vulnerable, Compassionate Empowerment.305 An Invitation for a Journey..308 References....310 About the Author ...End Page
v Communicating Collaboration and Empowerment: A Research Novel of Relationships with Domestic Violence Workers Elizabeth A. Curry ABSTRACT This dissertation is an experiment in thinking with the story, not about the story in order to erase the boundaries between analysis and narrative. CASA, Community Action Stops Abuse, is the context for this research on the lived realities and meaning of working with an empowerment philosophy. A Universi ty-Community Initiative (UCI) grant with CASA and the University of South Florid a is the occasion to study the communicative aspects of individual and collective percep tions of empowerment. The dissertation focuses broadly on two UCI project goals: developing a collaborative relationship and producing a booklet of stories about the work of paid staff and volunteers. The heart of the dissertation is my relationship with the CASA workers and how scholarship and advocacy intersect with a philosophy of reci procal and compassionate empowerment. This layered account of my CASA experiences is framed by my observations at the National Coalition Against Do mestic Violence conference. The narrative methodology supports a fe minist philosophy that extends the personal and the political to th e personal as the theoretica l. The CASA workers and I engage in what Kenneth Gergen calls poetic activism, writing or speaking about something in order to cause change, a form of communication activis m. My dissertation
vi is based on feminist research principles in the form of engaged scholarship and participatory action research accomplished through participant observation and interactive interviews, wr itten as ethnographic narra tives, life stories, and autoethnographic stories. I coined the term research novel because my research data is reported in a creative, narrative format that integrates th e literature review, methodology, and analysis throughout the story. The boundary between anal ysis and narrative is dissolved with an emphasis on connected knowing, the language of possibilities, appreciative inquiry, strengths-based service, and positive reframi ng. Rather than oppositional approaches of either/or thinking, my work embraces the ambi guities, contradictions, multiple identities and blurred boundaries of our lived experiences. The concept of empowerment can be am biguous, particularly for women who are seeking ways to redefine power and empowerment. An area for further study is the connection between empowerment and th e framing of vulnerability, including individuals perceptions of the paradoxical nature of compassion for self and others.
1 Chapter One Co-constructing Stories of Changing Relationships Appreciation My stomach churns with nervous juices as I drive along the narrow, brick street approaching CASAs domestic violence Shelter. 1 This feeling is such a contrast to the joy I felt two months ago when I delivered ho liday cheer to each staff member, a glass snowflake with a letter expressing my apprecia tion for their work and contributions to the community. Thinking of my holiday gifts ove r the years -first a spun glass heart for each person, next a glass star, and then a glass angel calms my nerves. Four years ago, Deb Walker, my research colleague, and I began this winter ritual of visiting all the CASA locations for an annual appreciation tour of the Outreach Program, Legal Advocacy, Peacemakers, Administration and Finance, Development, the Thrift Store, the Transitional Housing office, and the Shelter. Deb would prepare festive baskets and tins filled with home-baked cookies and I would wrap small holiday gifts for about 50 staff members. Working together on a University-Community Initiative (UCI) grant project, 2 we became part of their organiza tion in order to understand the lived 1 CASA was previously known as Center Against Spouse Abuse, but the organization changed the meaning of the acronym in 2003 to Community Action Stops Abuse. The new interpretation of the name better reflects the organizations overall vision. For detailed information concerning the organization, access www.casa-stpete.org. 2 We submitted a proposal in 2000 for a UCI grant, which subsequently was funded in 2001 by the University of South Florida through the Center for Enga ged Scholarship. Carolyn Ellis from the University
2 realities of those who work ag ainst domestic violence. Since the beginning, we have honored their experiences as we cultivated our research relationships with the CASA staff. This year, in an effort to reemphasize the collaborative nature of our research, I gave staff members the first draft of several hundred pages from my dissertation project. Having received virtually no feedback in the past month and a half concerns me just a bit. Many explanations for the lack of responses are plausible, like th e hectic pace of the holidays, their heavy work load, uncertainty about their observations, or the imminent due date for comprehensive annual reports to outside funders. To assuage my worry, I arrange to visit the Shelter and solicit thei r reactions in person. Based on my past experiences, I doubt there are any problems, but its been a collaborative endeavor from the beginning, so we need to write this account together. Even if something minor concerns them, I want to be sure we make time to discuss it. Looking for Feedback Walking up to the Shelter, I ring the security buzzer to be admitted. Pushing open the heavy wooden door, I am greeted by the calm demeanor and smile of Maria, the Shelter Coordinator. She ushers me into the office and closes the door. Several advocates are convened around the large, round table in the center of the open office space. of South Florida Communication and Sociology Departments and Linda Osmundson, Executive Director of CASA, were the co-principal inves tigators. Deborah C. Walker and I were the field researchers.
3 As I roll a chair from one of the modular desks to the table, people scoot over to make room for me. Maria announces, You all remember Elizabeth. Amidst their greetings, I pull treats from my worn canvas satchel: Hersheys chocolate mini bars, a bag of peppermint pattie s, and a jar of nuts. I brought you some goodies, I offer, thinking how I usually br ing something to the staff as a way of expressing my support for them, a nurturing touch. As people sample the snacks, Maria invites, Thanks, sit down and join us, Elizabeth. Were finishing up our st aff meeting. It wont take long. Remembering the first meeting that Deb and I attended in 2000 to discuss a potential collaboration with CASA, I note how our relationships have changed. At that first meeting, the staff was hesitant, re served, and suspicious, asking many pointed questions. After an hour we were dismissed, so that they could spend the rest of the meeting on Shelter issues and evaluating the possibility of a collaborative project. Looking around the table, I realize that only three of the six CASA staff here today are veterans of that fi rst UCI meeting four years a go. The process of sharing stories over the years has deepened my re lationships with those staff members. Judy, a senior CASA staff member for more than 20 years, has held many different positions and often mentors new staff. Her job t oday is to update the daytime staff with status reports from the night shift. She reports, Joan is still in the hospital. Shes under a false name, Star Brady--she picked out the name herself. The hospital has been alerted to the abuser, and she should be here in maybe two days.
4 Judy efficiently flips a page in her no tebook and continues. Sandy was really helpful with the new resident Moesha who came in last night, got sheets and blankets for her, showed her the kitchen. It was so good to see Sandy sharing and talking a bit because she has been so withdrawn. Most of the time I see her si tting and sucking her thumb, eyes darting in fear. Even here, Im not sure she feels safe. Maria adds, Shes so young, just 18, and she has two kids to support. Judy observes, Her life is as horrific as Ive ever seen. But thats why I was hopeful last night. It will take time, but I think she has a chance. I hope she does. As I listen, I glance up at the framed poste r in the corner that has been there for years. A simple spray of flowers covers a casket. Large maroon le tters on a glossy white background proclaim, She got beaten 150 tim es but she only got flowers once. I vaguely remember a poem that a victim wrote about flowers and beatings. Maria says in a serious tone, We have a major situation with Shannas safety. Her abuser has been stalking her. He has b een calling the shelter trying to verify her location, and someone called posing as Sha nnas mother. Yesterday, the stalking escalated with the police arresting a male tres passer at Transitional Housing, who turned out to be working in tandem with Shannas abuser. Shes safe for now because we moved her to another shelter in the state last night. Everyone still needs to be on alert. Bonnie, the Transitional Housing Coordinator adds, We have warned all the residents and posted signs. Im glad we got Shanna away safely, but now shell have to find a new job, and her kids will change schools. It wont be easy for her.
5 Judy continues, We had great news a bout Angie. The judge granted her an injunction so her abuser must stay away fr om Angie and her daughter for at least two years. She is so happy that the judge believed her! We need to check on the name of that judge. Bonnie makes a note on her tablet, Her application for Transitional Housing should be ready soon. Lets remind her to main tain her safety plan because we cant be sure hell adhere to the ruling. Everyone nods. Judy closes her notebook. Thats it for now. Staff members move to their desks, files, and other tasks. Several wo rk at the round conference table. Maria, Judy and I huddle at the table and continue chatting. Details of the recent murders in Tampa fill my mind. I think of the newspaper article posted on the CASA web site. The final seconds in the life of 13-year-old Lauren O'Mara are unimaginable. She has just seen he r mother and her brother ambushed and shot by her crazed father. She is runn ing down her street screaming. He is right on her heels. He catches her. What people said later, what they said after Robert O'Mara killed his two children, critically wounded his wife and took his own life last Friday was that it came as no surprise. After all, O'Mara's behavior agains t his estranged wife, Patricia ParraPerez, just kept escalating. He had broken into her home, beaten her, stolen her dog, accosted her with his car at her workplace. This is a familiar pattern. People who know about domestic violence will tell you
6 this: It just keeps getting worse. It is a progres sive, escalating syndrome. Each act of abuse and violence, unc hecked, leads to the next. But precisely because it is an escalating pa ttern, here is what that means: It means we can do something about it. . There is no such thing anymore as, "It's none of my business." (Troxler, 2004) Turning to Maria I say, On the CASA web site, Linda mentions the Tampa murders in her executive directors newsletter. Its almost surreal that it happene d just days after the Peace Breakfast. That must have been trau matic for residents and staff. Posing a question as much as making a statement, my tone is an invitation for their opinions. Maria nods sadly, I cant imagine how th at mother will feel when they finally tell her she survived and her children were murdered. Maria pauses. The media coverage is still everywhere and the Outreach Program has received lots of calls in the past weeks. The women in the Shelter are really shaken up, so we talk about it during our evening support groups. Some women are afraid to leave their abusers now. Others are more determined than ever to leave the abuser. Judy adds, The media has covered that cas e as a high-profile example, but there are so many more that arent reported on the news. The story is news only after the murder, but we know there are y ears of stories behind this type of event! I keep hoping that people will eventually understand DV [domestic violence] better, but it is such a complex issue. People just dont understand how dangerous it is when a woman leaves her abuser. They assume leaving is the best answer. We dont tell victims to stay or to leave their abusers. We encourage women to come up with a plan to stay safe.
7 With a slight edge in my voice I reply, They just dont get it! Judy, Maria, and the others laugh ruefully because CASA staff members often use that phrase. I was reading a book the other day that said domestic violence is the single most prevalent cultural pattern in th e lives of welfare mothers (Hays, 2003, p. 212), I share. Social problems and social services are often mired in victim blaming. Its a system that stresses deficits rather than strengths. I remember the volunteer training and the first meetings where you tried to explain different perspectives on DV, victim blaming, and empowerment. Maria cautions, Poverty is definitely part of the equation, but we need to be careful because some people assume that dom estic violence only happens to poor women of color. We know that DV occurs in all ec onomic classes and cultures, like the murders in Tampa. People might just be starting to see that the victims are just like you and me, just like them. How we see ourselves and how we define our rela tionship to those who are victims of abuse will hopefully change the future of services, policies, and funding. Even when I tell people th at one in every three women has experienced abuse, some people just cant comprehend it. 3 I remember when I first came to CASA I didnt 3 Statistical reports on domestic violence abound, and the numbers are often in dispute (Blair & Yoest, 2000). Therefore, I selected fairly conservative sources for th is discussion. A review of more than 500 studies by Homer Hopkins University's School of Public Health and the Center for Gender Equity (CHANGE) indicated that one in three women has been beaten, forced into sex, or abused during her life. The percentage of those who hide their abuse ranges from 22 percent to almost 70 percent (Heise, Ellsburg, & Gottemoeller, 2000, p. 4). A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice surveyed a national sample of 8,000 women and 8,000 men. Intimate partner violence is persuasive in U.S. society. Nearly 25 percent of surveyed women and 7.6 percent of surveyed men said they were raped or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting pa rtner, or date sometime in their lifetime. . According to these estimates, approximately 1.5 million women and 834,732 men are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States (National Institute of Justice &
8 understand DV or the work that you do. Ive learned a lot from you. Hopefully, what I write will help others understand more about reactions to DV and the consequences. The ideas about seeing strengths or working with empowerment apply to other parts of life, too. I love your writing, Judy declares. Iv e told you that before. Now that the meeting is over, lets take a break and then we can talk about your draft. For me, it was hard not to get bogged down in the punctuat ion, but I did what you asked--just reading for the story and the structure. The crisis li ne rings and Judy motions for me to wait. The Shelter is bustling with activity, with re sidents coming in and out of the office once the door opens after the meeting adjourns. A Shelter resident comes looking for the substance abuse counselor. Another woman is looking for the bus schedules. A baby cries loudly upstairs, and a woman sobs sof tly while talking on the hall telephone. Communal Lunch--Breaking Bread Together Returning from a restroom break, I find the group pooling money for pizza. Payday is four days away and budgets are tight I had been thinking of treating the staff to lunch today, but now it seems better to be just one of the group. Casually, I toss two five-dollar bills into the pile, but Maria hands one of them back to me. Gina, the new House Manager with short, spiked black hair and lots of energy, scoops up the order and Center for Disease Control, 2000, p. iii). The Ha rrell Center at the University of South Florida ( http://harrellcenter.hsc.usf.edu ) has cited estimates that three to ten million children are exposed to domestic violence with wide-ranging consequences for their emotional, social, educational, and physical development (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, & Perrin, 1997). The Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics showed 120,697 reported incidents of domestic violence in 2003, more than 300 per day. The numbers are even higher because many incidents are not reported ( www.fdle.state.fl.us/FSAC/c rime_Trends/domestic_violence/ ).
9 the money so that she can pick up lunch on her way back from getting the mail at the CASA administration building. I have to admit, Judy starts while waiting for pizza, Ive been reading your dissertation a chapter at a time, slowly. Then I finished it last night because you said you would be here today, she smiles wryly. Me too, says Maria, as she shu ffles through files and paperwork. Apologetically, I explain, I know it wa s rough, a really rough draft, and I appreciate your time. Some of the storie s youve read before, but I want to get your reactions to the structure, the new stories, and my observations about the stories. Basically, it all stems from the first year and the UCI grant, but then the stories also span the next three years after the grant ends. Judy is pensive. Four years is a long time, certainly longer than any other researcher has stayed at CASA. Most researchers in the past have been in and out with meaningless surveys, which are too much troubl e and not very useful. I remember when you came. I know why we accepted you and De b, which is why I liked Chapter Three and the story you wrote about that first staff meeting--or us discussing the first staff meeting. Reading your dissertation helped me see why you have been willing to work with us for so long. In the past, sometim es Ive wondered about that. I knew about your friends abuse, but your writing about co mmunication activism, collaboration, and empowerment just sounds like you, and your Mom. Its all connected in the stories. Bonnie interjects, The part about you praying in church right before your professor invited you to the meeting with Linda is new. I didnt remember that in any
10 other stories. You write more about yourself this time, I think. Bonnie is deeply spiritual, so Im not surprised she remembers that part. I smile, Yes, this is more about my relationships with CASA staff, my observations and feelings as I learn about domestic violence work. When I went to the NCADV [National Coalition Against Domestic Violence] conference, I was intrigued by the sessions where they talked about fe rocious advocates, peaceful warriors, and empowering compassionate leaders. It remi nded me of that first meeting with Linda, which I describe in Chapter Two of the dissertat ion. It seems logical to start at the very beginning of the process with my prayers, th e e-mail from my professor, Carolyn, the first meeting with Linda, and then my friends stories. You all know that I didnt plan to become involved at CASA. I had another project planned. But youre still here, ar ent you? Maybe its wher e you are supposed to be! Bonnie laughs. Judy reminds me, You know Im not a flag waver, and I dont claim to be a feminist. Linda is the executive director, so sh e needs to be a flag waver. Shes good at fighting for social causes. But the way you desc ribe the principles of feminist research makes sense. Maybe the problem with other rese archers at CASA in the past is that they didnt follow that kind of research Carefully choosing my words, I say, I gue ss the most important thing I see is that this work is full of ambiguities, emotions, and reframing the ways we see things, which fits with feminist theories. I remember how you feel about the feminist label but Im glad the narratives showed you how our collaborati ve relationship has been based on feminist
11 research principles.(Acker, 2000; Aldoory, 2003; Allen, 2000; Ashcraft, 2000; Borland, 1991; Brison, 1997; Buzzanell, 1994, 2000, 2000; Collins, 1991; Dankoski, 2000; Davies, 1992; Deveaux, 1994; Ehrenreich, 2001 ; Ferraro, 1996; Fine & Buzzanell, 2000; Fletcher, 1995, 1998; Fonow & Cook, 1991; Gatenby & Humphries, 2000; Gilmore; Gluck & Patai, 1991; Hasanbegovic, 1999; Hearn, 1998; Linden, 1993; Madriz, 2000; Maguire, 1987; Mattson, Clair, Sanger, & Kunkle, 2000; Middleton, 1993; Mumby & Putnam, 1992; Papa, Singhal, Ghanekar, & Papa, 2000; Putnam & Mumby, 1993; Reinharz, 1992; Skeggs, 2001; Stanley & Wise, 1991; Williams & Lykes, 2003). Maria looks up from her notebook and jump s in, Yes, the word ambiguity is the perfect description. At CASA, we see how life can be an emotional roller coaster for staff and residents. Its more like gray areas rather than black or white. We need to use judgment, not rules, in this work because we are dealing with people s lives--in crisis. I like the way you explain that in your dissertation. Tryi ng to create an empowering environment is very difficult and full of am biguities. Reading your thoughts and worries as part of the process helps me understand more about the research. I reply, My work at CASA evolved from observing others to something we call participant observation--getting invol vedto observing and reflecting on our participation (Tedlock, 2000). The narrativ es show the importance of the research relationships and interactions in the learning process (Boc hner, 1994; Bochner & Ellis, 1999; Ceglowski, 2000; Ellingson, 1998; Elli s & Berger, 2002; Ellis & Bochner, 2000; Milburn, Wilkins, & Wilkins, 2002; Tillmann-Healy, 2003), a process full of contradictions and struggles to find meaning in life. After a short pause, I continue,
12 Going back to discussing NCADV, what do you think about the NCADV conference in relation to the CASA stories? It shows how CASA fits into the national scene, Maria replies. Its interesting to think about the relations hip of the personal and the political, as you say in the dissertation. Each day we provide shelter fo r victims of abuse and thats a personal as well as political act. Yeah, overall it was great, but I dont li ke the boring parts. Judy makes an embarrassed face. Ive told you that before but I know you need to meet your academic requirements. She holds up her hand, palm out Truthfully, I like the parts about us the best, but you did a good job of blending th e different parts, like the swimming pool discussion with Linda in Chapter Four. Th at was fun, and I learned how the academic theories on action research fit with our work at CASA. I also learned some things about how our fearless leader thinks. I felt lik e I was in the pool an d at dinner with you! I laugh, My professor, Carolyn, says th e same thing about the boring parts, but she is an academic with a very strong commitment to narratives! In class we discuss many different ways to frame and present research, such as realist tales, confessional, impressionist, critical, formal, or literary ta les (Van Maanen, 1988), as well as more experimental, artistic ways of writing (B anks & Banks, 1998; Bochner & Ellis, 2003, 2002; Ellis, 2004; Richardson, 1995). The meth ods and format of the UCI project match CASAs organizational culture and philosophy, which is important. Thats why you fit in, Bonnie adds. You try to understand us, and help us, not just investigate or criticize us.
13 Thanks! I coined the term r esearch novel to describe this dissertation as an example of something called engaged scholar ship (Boyer, 1996) and action research (Greenwood & Levin, 1998). It is critical that my dissertation be accessible to multiple audiences. All of you tell me over and over again that you want it to be readable. My challenge with a research novel is to sa tisfy both the academic and the community audiences. In a sense, each audience gravit ates toward one half of the description: research or novel. I am reporting my research data in a creative, narrative format that integrates the traditi onal literature review, methodology, and analysis chapters throughout the body of the story. Research novel is a phrase that gets my attention! Judy quips. The idea came to me; then I looked in Websters Dictionary where the definition of research includes this meaning: careful patient, systematic, diligent inquiry or examination in some field of knowledge; a laborious or continued search for truth (McKechnie & Editorial Staff, 1997, p. 1538). That means there are multiple truths that hinge on how people interpret truth differently . The staff looks skeptical about my explanation of postmodern multiple truths, but I forge ahead. The word novel is commonly used to describe something as new, unusual, original, different, or unique. It also is used to describe literary works of fiction, which portray imaginary characters or events. Several staff members nod encourag ingly, so I continue. Combining fiction and research together may seem contradictory, but the word fiction is derived from the Latin word fingere, meaning to form, mold, devise (McKechnie & Editorial Staff, 1997, p. 680). By linking the words research and novel, I mean that I have devised and
14 written a literary work based on four years at my research site that expresses my understanding of truth. My novel is the combination of science and art, cognition and emotion, head and heart (Law rence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997). Marias eyes light up. Like in Chapte r Five, where you write the story about the CASA advocate at the community meeting. I remember how we couldnt figure out whose story it was until you explai ned that it represented all of us. Thats when it made sense to me how stories can be research. Poetic activism is the term you used. Right, I didnt create that term. It comes from another researcher, Kenneth Gergen, whom I cite frequently in my dissertation. I love that combination of terms, the poetics of writing or spea king about something in orde r to cause change--thats communication activism (Gergen, 1994, 2000, 2001; Gergen & Gergen, 1999; McNamee & Gergen, 1999). I think your work is poetic activism, and my dissertation is an example of it, too. I write composite stories and char acters to represent the information I collect from multiple, interactive individual or gr oup interviews with staff members. The characters or events in the story may or may not exist, but the storys content expresses ideas that I understand to be true. I fictiona lized some of the situ ations in order to communicate my perceptions to the reader. Sometimes you use the composite stories so that you can protect confidentiality, and that is essential at CASA. Your compos ite stories work for lots of reasons, Judy reminds me. Yes, thats true, I reply. One of the leaders in our field says, A life is a social text, a fictional narrative production. The method of production is primal. Form is
15 content (Denzin, 1989, p. 9). A life story isnt the life story but a telling of a story, one of multiple possibilities. Im not sure that my explanation makes sense to all the staff, so I use a metaphor. "This dissertation is more like a story stew than a sandwich. In the past, Ive written papers, articles, and chapters of books that use th e sandwich approach, with narratives sandwiched between the traditional li terature reviews and concluding analyses. Thats the stuff Judy skips because she finds it boring. Judy laughs and nods with her eyes wide open. I continue, In a s tory stew the theories and literat ure are mixed together with the conversations, settings, plot, and char acters of the narrative. With the sandwich approach, each part is separate, but related. The pieces are built on each other, but not necessarily integrated. The narrative can be us ed as an example to illustrate the relevant theories and conclusions. With a story st ew, however, the ingredients are simmered together and changed to form a whole new di sh, where the individual parts have merged. A combination of theory and analysis mixes to become the story. In the communication field, some people talk about how we can think with a story not just about it (Bochner, 1997; Frank, 1995). Carolyn calls it seam less writing in her methodological novel (Ellis, 2004). One of the new advocates says, Thats why we tell stories, sometimes personal stories, when we give presentations about DV. The stories help people understand. Exactly, I respond, and she looks pleased. Since the 70s, the feminist philosophy has extended the connection betwee n the personal and th e political to the personal as the theoretical. In feminist re search, the theory and the story often become
16 linked. The boundary between narrative and analysis is dissolved (Richardson, 2000, p. 927). At least thats what I hope I show in my dissertation. I have another metaphor, Judy declares. Your dissertation is like a big, fat chocolate layer cake because there are so many laye rs to all the stories! Lets see, theres NCADV, CASA, e-mail messages, stories about meetings, meetings about meetings, our life stories, your story of volunteering, composit e stories, and even stories about stories. Or maybe it is like vegetable lasagna with lots of layers, Maria says as she closes her file folders. The layers ma ke it rich and interesting, but hopefully not fattening! We laugh, and Gina returns just as Maria says, I think were getting hungry! Gina arrives, balancing three pizza b oxes and the mail pouch. She places the pizza on the table, and other staff members bri ng the paper plates and paper towels. The smell of warm dough, tomato and cheese makes me salivate. Opening the boxes, Gina says, We have cheese, mushroom, onions. Ill take mushroom! Robyn, a CASA youth advocate, exclaims with a bright giggle, as she arrives right behind Gina. When are you scheduled? inquires Bonnie, glancing at the 24-7 round the clock schedule board on the wall. Im working at the Youth Center this af ternoon, but I came to the Shelter to talk to Elizabeth about her dissertation. Im lu cky to arrive at pizza time, she winks. Robyns offer to contribute money to the lunch fund is waved away. The conversation stops for a short time while we eat.
17 One of the newer advocates asks, Elizab eth, I think Ive got a sense of what youre writing, but can you explain it for those of us who werent here at the beginning of the project? Id like to r ead the next draft maybe. Wiping my greasy hands and swallowing my half-chewed piece of pizza I reply, Sure Id love to have you read the next draft! For now Ill give you a summary and then we can chat some more with those who have read it--they can tell you what they got out of it. Pleased that she asked, I wonder if I should have made more copies of the first draft. I explain, CASA is the context for my research on the lived realities and the meaning of working with an empowerment philosophy. Building on this foundation, I research the communicative aspects of em powerment. The University-Community Initiative (UCI) grant project is the occasion for us to look at the individual and collective perceptions of empowerment, while we de veloped empowering co llaborative research relationships. The dissertation focuses br oadly on two of the UCI project goals: developing a collaborative relationship and prod ucing a booklet of stories about the work of paid staff and volunteers (Curry, Walker & CASA staff, 2002). The heart of the dissertation is the story of how I develope d relationships with the CASA workers and how our understanding of scholarship and advocacy intersects with a philosophy of compassionate empowerment. Oh, right! I read the CASA booklet of stories from the grant, the advocate observes. Some of those stor ies are in the dissertation?
18 Judy answers, Yes, my story of taking car e of my aunt and my uncles abuse is in there. Ive told that story for years, but seeing it written is so powerful. When I first read my story I cried. My daughter finally read it, too, after years of not being willing to discuss it. I dont know how Elizabeth takes all those pages of taped conversations and turns them into a story! I didnt get to read the w hole draft, but I looked at sections, Bonnie admits. Chapters Five and Six about our CASA booklet are good, and Im glad Homers story is included. His drawings are so special. She gets a mischievous grin on her face and bursts out, Who else could draw me as a bald Black superwoman on roller skates, flying over tall buildings with a t ool belt! We laugh enthusia stically, pounding the table and slapping hands. You all are so funny! Some people wouldn t expect the mix of humor with tears in this work. We pause and pass around the pizza boxes. Lots of memories, I murmur. Some are emotional and complicat ed like Beckys assault in Chapter Seven and my struggle at the Youth Center to become part of your team in Chapter Eight. Any thoughts on those chapters, which arent in the CASA booklet? Judy is solemn and looks around the table, When Beckys husband tried to kill her and then she ended up a resident, it was horrible. One day shes a CASA advocate, and the next day shes a Shelter resident. G od help me, there were times I was so angry with her husband, and then I got upset with her when she didnt seem to be taking personal safety seriously. I realized that I might be blaming the victim, but I was worried. It was confusing as hell for the whole staff!
19 Maria observes, Its back to ambiguity again because Beckys role and identity werent clear to anyone. The situation challenged our assumptions and in the end helped us reflect on our beliefs. I think it is an important story to include. I say, It is difficult to write that st ory for lots of reasons. I have over 16 interviews with her and staff about the assault, her residence in the Sh elter, the trial, and her recovery. The volume of information isnt really the main difficulty, but rather trying to convey the complexity, the meaning in the moments that are so emotionally charged. I guess my goal is to tell people how conf using it can be to deal with abuse. The Good Dream Bunny story melts my heart, and I didnt know you gave Becky her own stuffed bunny. That section is sweet and you are always bringing us goodies, Maria observes. I think the story shows that you got it, Judy says. You wrote an honest, but empathetic story. Thanks! I feel relieved, proud and hu mbled by her compliment. I ask, Any comments on Chapter Eight, the program on Visitation Centers and my story of becoming a CASA volunteer at the Youth Cent er? That is tough for me because I am digging deeply into the realities of wo rking within an empowering philosophy in situations that also can feel disempoweringon many levels. Robyn speaks up, Thats the chapter that I read thoroughly, for obvious reasons: Its about the youth advocates. The group chuc kles. One of the main things I took from the chapter is that each of us brings different perspectives, life experiences, and various frames to our work. The conversa tion with your sister shows me how you feel
20 when you start volunteering. There are parts of the story that s how problems with the Youth Center, but the way you write about it isnt negative. I guess because you are part of the group, involved in solutions, and cont ributing your time, the story doesnt seem critical. The insight about the kids surviv al skills is super, and volunteers need to understand the special needs of our kids. Cooking Worms in Dirt is such a cute story, and it could be used as a training tool for vol unteers. The whole chapter could help new volunteers. I love the part where the kids want you to smell their hands! Bonnie laughs at the quizzical looks that some staff members are giving her. You just have to read it! The story shows that we need dedicated sta ff to make the program successful, and this work isnt easy! You also remind me that be ing a volunteer can be scary. We need to work harder on getting and keeping voluntee rs. I think you can help us with that, Elizabeth. You know I will, I reply. Now at the end of the dissertation I have a chapter about defining empowerment. Do we need th at Chapter Nine, or is it repetitious or obvious? No, you really need that, Maria asserts firmly. It is the summary that explains how empowerment fits in CASA. Many pe ople wont understand how we interpret the philosophy without that chapter. I also like the way you work in ideas about compassion for self and others. I cant remember which chapter, but the ideas touch on how we seek to believe in the strengths of those with whom we work. It links to stories of advocates who have experienced DV so they understand it personally.
21 Bonnie adds, Empowerment is supposed to be the core of how we work, but it isnt easy to learn, especially if you want to be a helper, a fixer, a rescuer. Empowerment means allowing women to manage their own live s. Its not just an abstract idea because we need to practice empowerment every day in the way we talk and how we think. Elizabeth, your research has been empowering for us The stories you write for us bring tears to my eyes because I see the importan ce of what I do everyday, and realize that usually I don't think twice about the process. I just do it. It has become natural and I don't know if that's good or bad. With your research, you have given us all a chance to see our names, our stories, our work, and ourselv es in writing, and that's a good thing. It has allowed us to laugh, cry, and speak about issues within ourselves that we had not faced or recognized before. I think the resear ch has allowed us as a program to define and be more sensitive to empowerment. You model empowerment and write about it. Judy follows up, I agree. Your writing validates our work and us. I think of empowerment as walking arm and arm with someone. You offer support, and they can lean on you a little. But with empowerment you arent trying to carry them on your back. You cant just tell them what to do or even do it for them. You can help them find the resources they need. You can help them by believing in them. Right, seeing and believing in the positive possibilities, I respond. Empowerment and collaboration are major t opics for social workers, educators, business, government, non-profit organizations, nursing and community health workers, leadership training, and self-directed teams, as well as family therapists, community building, social justice activists, and othe r areas. However, studying CASA is unique
22 because the core philosophy of empowerment has been espoused since the inception of the Battered Womens Movement, and it relates directly to those served. Im personally interested in the ways we interact and comm unicate with each other th at seek to support and develop, rather than critic ize or control. I think empowerment is about believing in the best people have to offer and communi cating that to each ot her--with recursive implications. One becomes the stories one tells. . Stories then, like the lives they tell about are always open-ended, inconclusive and ambiguous, subject to multiple interpretations (Denzin, 1989, p. 81). For me, the importance of my dissertation is making a contribution to how we live our lives. In many ways, Im also writing about my own search for how I want to live my life. Robyn says, You learn empowerment by watching others, and sometimes other people help you to find your own sense of em powerment. We all find our own way of empowerment. Thats what I learne d at CASA and in your stories. I explain, The dissertation demonstrates that each of us has a part in defining social interactions, such as empowerment or collaboration, and defining how we see ourselves and our work. Reality is socially defined. But the definitions are always embodied; that is, concrete individuals and gr oups of individuals serve as definers of reality (Berger & Luckman, 1966, p. 116). The most important point to remember is that we create and maintain empowerment or disempowerment in a relational environment. Three assumptions of wh at Communication schol ars call a social constructionist worldview are the basis of my dissertation: first, tolerance of disparate voices; second, sensitivity to the proce ss of communication and the manner in which
23 knowledge is claimed; and lastly, the comm unicative social character of knowledge. The methodology and narrative reporting also are built on the idea that the most important vehicle of reality maintenance is conversati on (Berger & Luckman, 1966, p. 152). The narratives of conversations with CASA workers and others demonstrate that conversation serves not only to maintain, but also to c ontinually modify reality (Berger & Luckman, 1966, p. 153). My dissertation is full of c onversations in stories and about stories. Thats what we do at CASA. Judy offers an example: When I do support groups, sometimes I tell the women the story of the flower who thinks she is a weed because everyone keeps calling her a weed. One day, someone comes along and tells her shes really a rare, beautiful, and capable flower Then she starts to think about herself in a different way. After the story, I ask each woman to tell the group what kind of flower she sees in herself. The discussion is usua lly really engaging on those nights, and fun. I reply, Great metaphor. I like that. Will you give me a copy? Judy slides her chair from the table to her desk and rummages in a file drawer to get me a copy. People begin cleaning up their pape r plates and lunch mess. Judy reminds me that there is one more ch apter. Chapter Te n is the conclusion, and I can see where you are going, but the dr aft was rough, more like your notes. I did like the story about how you found CASA to be a sanctuary when your Mom was dying. It shows our sense of humor in the midst of chaotic emotional times, and it shows that we care for each other. CASA was a sanctuar y for me many years ago when my life was upside down. Judy raises her voice, Now that doesnt mean there arent days I want to
24 scream or I get a headache from this place, but in the end CASA is a sanctuary. The stories show that. I hope so, I reply. Throughout the narra tives, I tried to describe a commitment to DV work and research relationships that not only produce know ledge, but also . inspire hope and promote caring (Bochner, El lis, & Tillmann-Healy, 1998, p. 58). This hope is the seed of empowering, compassiona te lives. I pause briefly. Judy you are right Im looking forward to reworking Chapter Ten because the first and the last chapters are so important. As I pack up my bag to leave the Shelte r, one of the advocates asks, So what happens now? I reply, Your feedback will be the inspir ation for me to write an introduction. Then Ill review the whole thing and bri ng you a copy of the next draft, a polished version. If my professors approve that ve rsion, then we have a dissertation defense, which is like a presentation of the research Ill definitely le t you know when thats scheduled, and I hope a few people from CASA will attend. The staff members nod their heads. I think you could publish this for other shelters and advocates to read, one of the advocates offers. Laughing, I say, That would be a dream, and the next big project. Right now I just want to graduate, but I hope you are right about the publication!
25 Chapter Two Ferocious Activism, Collaboration, and Compassion Reframing the Distance between Self and Others One e-mail message changed my life--and my research plans. It planted a seed that eventually grew in different directions, branched into many ideas, and blossomed with relationships. Becoming involved in st udying domestic violence work wasnt my plan, but somehow thats what evolved. This is my story of how it started. The whirring of the closing garage door grates on my frazzled nerves as I return home and drop my duffle bag in the hall. Toss ing my keys and mail in the wicker basket on the golden teak bookshelf, I sigh, exha usted from juggling work and school while trying to care for my Mom, exhausted in a way I never could have imagined. During the past five days at Moms house, I didnt sleep well because she was up and down all night and I am worried about her. The comfort of my own bed beckons tonight, but I am determined to catch-up on my e-mail. I turn on the halogen floor lamp and my computer with a practiced and resigned motion. While the e-mail loads, I pour ice-cold green tea into a pottery tumbler. The rustic feel of the stoneware comforts me. Sinking into the large, dark-blue desk chair that slides easily to the desk on the cool champagne colored tiles, I scan the list of e-mail messages, cursing under my breath at the huge number, until I notice the name of my majo r professor, Carolyn Ellis. Class starts soon, and a
26 requirement for her advanced qualitative research class is a project th at is already in the works. Working all summer on data colle ction with groups using storytelling and personal narratives to understand leadership ch aracteristics, I am definitely prepared, but lately Ive been questioning my goals for the future. When I read Carolyns e-mail message, my skin tingles like something is s liding up the back of my neck. Maybe its the ice cold drink, or maybe its something else. From: Carolyn Ellis To: Elizabeth Curry, Deb Walker, Penny Ph illips, Judy Perry, Laura Ellingston, Yasmin Forienza, Elissa Lee Sent: Tuesday August 22, 2000 3:17 p.m. Subject: Question Research Project Are any of you interested, or do you know a very sensitive graduate student who might want to be involved in getting life stories from women who have been abused and who are in a shelte r? I have this wonderful opportunity but I cant do it myself. It might make a lovely thesis or dissertation project. If we cant think of anyone, Ill hand it off to a nother department or professor. Thanks, Carolyn Reply From: Elizabeth Curry To: Carolyn Ellis Date: August 22, 2000 9:28 p.m.
27 This is so strange. I just returned home from taking care of Mom for a few days. I took her to church, but I think it might be her last time. Shes getting weaker and weaker, can hardly walk from curb to church door. She cant breathe, cant see very well, or even hear the priest. Soon I th ink Ill need to move into her house to care for her. Mom doesnt want to ask me, but she needs help even with simple chores. She is happy when Im there. But I just cant face it yet, because there have just been so many ch anges in my life in past year. Anyway, while we were in church I prayed for the openness to recognize whatever path God wanted for me. I meditated on continui ng to be being receptive to changes in my life. I was trying to resist the urge to stay safe and continue the same work Ive done for years. I wanted to cleans e my mind of the confusion surrounding my research goals. So I asked God to give a sign that was as clear as possible. When I got your e-mail it gave me chills! Caring for Mom reminds me to treasure the time we have. Her spirituality is rubbing off on me too. At 50 Im trying to figure out the next phase of life. My work with women in leadership has led me to wonder about how I could use my research to make a difference in womens lives. Im still not sure Im the right person for this project about abuse or if its the right project for me, but Id like to explore it with you. I was wondering if someone with more personal experience with domestic violence might be better. But then I thought about how we are all unique/special. We develop different strengths through our life experiences and bring those strengths to each new
28 experience. I think I can be a very good listener and facili tator. I can refrain from judging people, which helps them feel safe. I can be patient and gentle and I care about empowering women. So maybe this project is part of the new chapter in my life. Reply From: Carolyn To: Elizabeth Sent: August 23, 2000 11:39 a.m. Well I couldnt be more delighted!!!! Deb Walker also expressed an interest. Want to do a joint project? Or you could both work independently at the same site. Deb has been interested in volunteers and I know you could find another area to study. Youd be exquisite as an interviewer. The women would warm right up to you and trust you. You know Ive had trouble getting into your library leadership project, though Im sure that we can figure it out. You decide and we will make it work. I love working with you, love your head and your heart. But I have to say that topics about life stories, trauma, aging, care giving and intense personal challenges just naturally arouse my passion. This pr oject excites me! Ill ask Marcie Finkelstein at the Center for Engaged Scholarship to schedule a meeting with the di rector of CASA so we can talk about possibilities.
29 University Community Initiative Planning Meeting, September 7, 2000 4 Im feeling uncomfortable. We sit in a drab, windowless room with scarred brown wooden tables covering most of the floor space, arranged so that people are separated by a wide expanse and there is lit tle space between the chairs and wall. One wall is covered with a dusty blackboard. Marc ie Finkelstein, Director of the Center for Engaged Scholarship, arranged a meeting for the CASA and univers ity representatives that might result in a university community in itiative grant project (UCI). I notice that there is no agenda, background information, or contact list of particip ants. This bothers me, but I decide that its an informal meeti ng so maybe an agenda isnt necessary. As we wait, the setting feels awkward, but there is an informality to the preliminary chatter. At first I think this is much different from ot her collaborative meetings Ive facilitated, but then I realize it is th e familiar feeling of exploring th e unknown, of beginning to form a new group and forging relationships. We are waiting for Linda Osmundson, Execu tive Director of CASA, who arrives in a somewhat harried state, clutching a campus map. Im sorry to be late. It is impossible to find parking here and I got tu rned around looking for this building! We laugh sympathetically. Linda is wearing a light sand colored pants suit with a turquoise blouse and artistic jewelry. Her face is framed by a mass of white curly hair. I notice her outfit and think about how it is similar to what I wore when I was the executive director of a non-profit organization before coming to graduate school. We commiserate with 4 Other versions of this story have been written for the UCI grant proposal, an introduction to the CASA booklet (Ellis, 2002), a book chapter (Ellis, 2004, pp. 269-271), and my colleague, Deborah C. Walkers dissertation on volunteers (2005). In this ve rsion of the narrative, I el aborate my perspective on the meeting.
30 Linda and introduce ourselves as she gets settled: Ca rolyn Ellis, professor of Communication and Sociology; Deborah C. Wa lker and I (Elizabeth A. Curry) doctoral students in Communication; Penny Phillips a university employee who graduated from the Communication Department; and Sarah Jones from the Womens Studies Department. Deb and I planned what we would wear --not suits, but not grubby, wrinkled graduate student clothes either. I guess you might call it business casual. We notice that Carolyn also has dressed for the occasion in a flowing skirt. This all signals a special occasion. At the time, none of us knew how extraordinary the experience would become. Marcie Finkelstein seems very pleased that we have all come together. I think of her as a smiler by nature. Marcie brie fly explains how she and Linda met at a fundraising dinner and adds that Carolyns e xpertise in stories would be a good fit with Lindas needs. Then Marcie turns to Linda, So tell us about CASA and your ideas. It bothers me that there is not even a verbal ag enda, or if there is, it is very loose, openended, and implied. I wonder about the purpos e and the process, something that I teach in my classes on facilitation and meeting mana gement. Shaking off my concerns, I listen, trying to be open to what is happening. Linda begins, Ive been frustrated with researchers who think that surveys and numbers can tell the full story. I look at th e potential harm that researchers can cause. I look at the motivation of researchers, what th ey are trying to get and what they are going to give us, or what's the benefit. So me researchers administer long interview questionnaires that can actually cause harm to the residents of shelters. Women tell their
31 story to these strangers because they desperatel y want to be heard. Then the researcher leaves, and we're left with a Shelter of women who feel ung lued. They're sad, angry, grieving, and upset. Researchers can sometimes re-victimize these victims of domestic abuse. Even if they don't harm residents, they often don't give back anything. Abused women never get to tell their whole story! Thats what I want--a chance for women to share their stories. Linda pauses. I am stru ck by the passion and sincerity of her voice. We all lean forward eagerly and give Linda our full attention. She has drawn us into her story. Carolyn comments, Story telling is what interests us. In our Communication and Sociology studies, weve concentrated on narrative as both a product and method of research. We want to hear your story. The courts and the police want to hear only about the actual incident of physical abuse, Linda continues, not 15 years of ps ychological and physical torment. There is so much more. People blame the women for the abuse in the courts, law enforcement, hospitals, the news media, and sometimes their families in subtle ways. These women are victims who suffer tragic circumstances, but even more so, they are courageous survivors with strong spirits a nd survival skills. People ask me, why dont they leave? These people dont understand how dangerous it can be when a woman leaves her abuser. I say, lets turn that question around and ask Why do the abusers hurt their victims? Why does society tolerate domes tic violence? At CASA we do all kinds of outreach to help people understand the stories of abuse, but we always need to do even more. I am
32 deeply affected by her framing of the question and reframing the way we look at abuse. The word courageous awakens my curiosity. So CASA is concerned with supporting th e voices of those who dont get heard, Sarah interjects, which is an important feminist principle. Their voices need to be heard and their stories need to be to ld in order to change things ! Deb and I nod, pause, and turn toward Carolyn in deference to her role as our professor. Carolyn asks Linda, What are the ways th at you work with the survivors stories now? Unfortunately even when women are housed at CASA, the staff only has time and resources to listen to part of the story. Sometimes the women tell us the most disturbing parts of their life stories on the day they leave the sh elter. My boyfriend killed someone or saw someone kill someone, one woman said almost as she was walking out the door, as though she just needed to leave the story behind. We can be part of giving voice to wo men who have experienced abuse. If we collect stories, we need to be sure that we include all the marginalized voices--minorities, lesbians, the elderly, disabled, Susan suggest s. We must be inclusive in our project. Linda describes CASAs services to th e deaf community, the elderly, lesbians, and communities of color. I begin to feel like the project has gotten too big, unmanageable, and unrealistic. I just cant see it and I think, Marcie should do something. She is the meeting facilitator. We should be recording ideas on a flip chart, but maybe thats too formal. Maybe Im just not right for this project; this is just not for me. Then I remind myself that we are brainstorming possibilities, trying to listen for
33 opportunities, not problems. I also remind myself that I can clarify our scope as a participant, ask questions to narrow the appro ach, or take notes to record ideas myself. Awareness of the process can be a hindrance so metimes, so I try to refocus on content. Linda continues, When I was in Engl and I was given a copy of a booklet of stories told by women living in poverty and abuse. It is a simple format, but very moving and powerful. These stories helped me understand their lives better. We could offer writing workshops, Deb sa ys, like Carolyn does in her classes, and the women could learn to write using personal narratives. Linda shakes her head to indicate a negative response. We already offer journaling in our support groups fo r shelter residents. We need people to write the stories for us and with us, not add one more job to already overloaded schedules. Our staff is stretched to the limit, and the crisis-oriented nature of the work is stressful. Linda closes that window of opportunity firmly. Do the staff members ever get to tell their stories? Carolyn asks. Well, no, not really. The women who work as staff members and volunteers at CASA dont leave their stories behind, Linda says forcefully. They come here, often survivors of abuse themselves. Their work is a daily reminder of their own stories, she replies, seeming intrigued by Carolyns inquiry. And thats a need they have--for someone to listen to them. You know, sometimes I dont even know which staff member is a survivor. Sometimes we dont have time to share our stories unt il we are attending a conference together and sharing a room or going to a survivors caucus together.
34 I can sense that we are getting closer to what I call the golden nugget of our discussion, but we arent ther e yet. We are sifting through the ideas to find a gem that glitters enough to captivate the group. W hat can we do for you? How can we help you meet your needs? Do you have a project in mind? I ask, building on Carolyns question. I can tell by Lindas open-eyed and smiling expression that she likes the unexpected questions. Im not sure, she says thoughtfully, but Im hoping for a different approach. In the past, weve felt ripped off because researchers come and do surveys, and then they often dont even shar e their results. When they do, the results often have little to do with the reality we liv e. Im mainly interested in working with people who will take the time to understand what really goes on at CASA. We need research that reflects peoples lives, not re search that uses insignificant questions and snippets out of context to test somebodys research hypothesis. We need the womens stories from their perspectives told in the context of their whole experience. Something like Women in the Trees, a book of short stories about abuse from the 1800s to the 1990s edited by Susan Koppelman (1996), or Ill show you the booklet from England. Deb and I make notes so that we can find copies of the short stories. That makes sense, I say. So the CASA st ory is comprised not just of the stories of residents, but also your stories and the stories of staff and vol unteers, I continue, summarizing what has been said so far. It is a moment where I begin to see the possibility for a project. The glimmer is spread ing. Linda nods enthusiastically. I ask, What if we constructed a project where Deb and I would participate in CASA activities
35 over an agreed period of time? Id be particularly interested in staff, their path to becoming staff, how they create meaning in their work. Ive been studying volunteers in other programs already, Deb contributes. I could concentrate on them. Im interested in why people become volunteers, and how their participation affects their own stories and their families. Linda nods, Yes, we need to understa nd our volunteers better. Many of our volunteers have personal or family connections to domestic violence. Although I cant participate full-time in the project, Id like to give my performance on being abused by my former husband, the one I did for Carolyns methods class, says Penny. Id want to focus on how I came, through performance and personal writing, to restructure my story from one wher e I was a victim to one that highlights the complex interpersonal and performative dynamics between me and my former husband. 5 "That might be very helpful," Linda muses, but she doesnt elaborate. I ask Linda, So you think it could be help ful for us to work with CASA on the stories of the staff and volunteers? Many of us have experienced the same horrors that those who come to us for help have faced. Some of our mothers and sist ers lived the nightmare of abuse. All of us have our own stories that brought us to CASA We listen and cry silent tears for the women whose stories we hear. Our pers onal stories are wove n around and through the stories of the women and children we cherish at CASA. This story about us has rarely 5 In her book, The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel About Autoethnography Carolyn Ellis (2004, p.269-283) writes the story of Pennys cla ss project, as well as the impact of her performance at CASA.
36 been told. This project could make a real difference in the way people see violence against women. I have a sense that we have found the pr oject swirling in all our ideas, and from the eager participation of others around the ta ble, I think they feel the same way. By listening to each other, we have sifted th e golden nugget out of the process and many possibilities. As an articulate, charismatic, assertive activist, Linda offers alternative frames and different ways of thinking. As we come together to craft a project, relationships will be critical. Clearly, involvement and collaboration will be key ingredients for CASA. Linda now is leaning toward us with a big smile. Carolyn adds, My colleague and friend, Doni Loseke, Chair of the Sociology Department, has written a book on womens shelters, and I know she is intr igued by the organizational components and policy implications (Loseke, 1992). From what she has told me, res earch on the workers and internal operations is rather limited in the literature (Iliffe & Steed, 2000; Loseke, 1992; Matesa, 1995; Priestman, 1995). Im willing to sponsor a UCI [UniversityCommunity Initiative] proposal to get funding for a narrative project, and Id provide methodological guidance. Not hypothesis testin g, Carolyn assures Linda quickly. By concentrating on how people create stories about their work, we could focus on the meaning of the experiences. We would work with you to co-construc t stories, not just write about you. It would be a collaborative project.
37 Deb contributes, Elizabeth and I could be in the trenches, volunteering, trying to understand CASA from the inside out. Wed hope to produce evocative stories that give readers a sense of the experience and make them feel some of what goes on there. Yes, we could also create a product from the experience, I add, one that would be helpful to the CASA community, something you could use in your outreach and training. Maybe something like the bookl et or the book your mentioned, our own Women in the Trees (Koppelman, 1996); only this booklet w ould have stories of staff and volunteers. Thats it! Linda exclaims, now beaming. That is what Ive been hoping for, and I didnt even know it until our meeting t oday. A booklet of st ories about staff and volunteers, about CASAs work, would be unlike any research we ve ever done. This really is a collaboration between the community and the university, says Marcie Finkelstein, who has b een quietly taking it all in. Its not just university professors using the community for their own benefit. As Director of the Center for Engaged Scholarship, I have been hoping for a projec t just like this one. I feel sure that if you write a cohesive UCI grant proposal, it will get funded. Assuming we do get funded, I say, I also would consider chronicling our collaborative process, perhaps producing a paper that provides a model of successful collaboration between the university and community. Im thinking about my extensive experience with grant writing and facilitati ng collaborative projects. I could make a difference here and bridge my academic and work experience. In some of my academic work, the synergy of a cohesive team seems lacking, and the CASA project offers the
38 opportunity for such collaborative work. Still, Im hesitant to abandon my original project that Ive spent three months researchi ng. What will my library colleagues think? They were so interested and cooperative during our focus groups on leadership and organizational stories. Im torn, yet I feel a part of the excitement that pervades the room. Linda says, This has been such an affi rming meeting, to be with a group of women academics who listen, share, and look for connection. Id like you to discuss the idea with the CASA staff and see if th ey are willing to work with you. As Carolyn, Deb, and I walk back to the Communication Department, we review our reactions to the meeting. We all feel like we have found a moment of meaning with Linda (Denzin, 1989). Deb enthusiastically declares, Im really psyched about this project. It will fit so well with my studies of volunteers! Hesitating, I say, Im interested in the possibility of working on the stories of staff and Lindas framing is provocative. Im not sure what to do with my other project, so Ill think about it and let you know before class in a few days. Wondering about how much time it would take to change projects, I begin thinking of schedules. Caring for my Mom 60 hours a week, doing a few days of c onsulting each month, and going to school often overwhelms me unless I break things down into smaller steps. Constantly organizing is my effort to stave off the chaos. Driving home from campus across the long bridge, surrounded for miles by the blue sky and the blue-green water, feels unsettling. Thinking about how working on domestic violence would fit into my roles and identities as librarian, trainer, consultant,
39 executive director, and information technologist I have trouble seeing myself as part of this project. One thought keeps returning: I dont really know anything about domestic violence. But then a compromise surfaces Maybe I could just do a one-semester project--helping with the gr ant proposal, since Deb and Carolyn have less grant experience. That seems like a possibility and I start thinking of what I can do, instead of what I cant. That evening, I browse the CASA web site and various links to domestic violence sites, gathering information as I internally debate my options. On-line I order the book Linda mentioned and several other titles, non-fiction and memoirs. Still feeling uncertain, I call several friends and colleague s to discuss a potential change in my research focus and site from library leaders to CASA workers. The surprising stories I hear lead to my final decision. The Revelation of Friends At my kitchen table, with notes spre ad on the large, whitewashed surface, I doodle while talking to my friend Yvonne on the phone. After listening to my description of the meeting about CASA, she doesnt tell me what to do, but asks questions, leading me to realize the proj ect would draw on the collaboration and facilitation skills that Ive been using for the past 20 years, just in a different field. We also touch on the potential ethical dilemmas th at might arise if I research the leadership classes Im teaching as a consultant, as Id planned (Cheek, 2000; Christians, 2000). Would the participants change their interactions if they were part of a research project?
40 How would my relationship with the emerging leaders be different? Would my writing be impacted because Im paid to conduct the classes? Then Yvonne says with almost no emotion in her voice. I have something very difficult to tell you. I was abused. Stunned, I listen. It was years ago. Carls drinking had gotten worse and worse. When I finally decided it was time to leave him, he exploded and tried to lock me in the bedroom . In her long pause, the hum of my old refrigerator invades the silence of the room with a distracting and irritating sound. As I ran out of the house, he chased me, grabbing my hair, ripping my clothes, and slapping me really hard. I ran to a ne ighbors house to call the police. Carl was so attentive at first, but then he got more and more possessi ve, critical, and violen t. I thought it was his drinking, but that was just another excuse. Her voice trails off, beginning to choke. I grip the phone tighter a nd push it toward my ear, liste ning to her with my whole body. Her disclosure makes me feel empty and flushed hot. I dont think I am shocked that she had been a victim, or am I? I know that I am surprised that she hadnt confided in me before. You never told me, I reply softly. I just couldn't," Yvonne's voice became a whisper. "I was so ashamed." I wish I could have helped you I say, ashamed that somehow I didnt know about her pain, that she didnt feel she coul d tell me. But on some level maybe I knew. She left him quickly and never talked about why. Im flooded with emotions, guilty and confused, but angry that the victim was sti ll the one who felt she was at fault for her abuse. She couldnt tell a friend because she thought that somehow the violence was her fault.
41 You did help me later. You were alwa ys telling me about projects we could do together. It was a low point in my life, wh en I didnt have any st rength or confidence, but it felt good to know that I had your resp ect. Sometimes you think Im smarter than I think I am. And dont forget that you always tell me that were smarter together. We laugh and end the call with promises to keep in touch. Absently, I put a bag of popcorn into the microwave. The smell, salty taste, and crunch help me refocus. But my thoughts are still swirling, so I call Wanda, another friend. When I tell Wanda about the potential project with a shelter, I dont mention Yvonne. There is a pause on th e phone line, and then Wanda tries to sound casual as she tells me, I was abused for nine years in my first marriage, before I met you. Nine years? But you never mentioned it, I stammer, thinki ng of all our latenight conversation and confidences. I even remember sharing ex-husband jokes. Well, it was in the past, she replies. Silence is a habit in the military. Imagine a drill sergeant who demands obedience at home, too. Things are different for me now, so part of me wants to forget, but another part of me wants to remember. If you decide to work with the shelter, it might be incredibly rough for you emotionally. I know, I volunteered for several years. Seemed like many of those working there were survivors. You can do it; just take care that the traumatic situations and crisis-oriented environment dont overwhelm you. Our volunteer trainer used to talk to us about compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma (Aschoff, 2000; Denz in, 1996; Fullerton & Ursano, 1997; Marotta, 2000; Matesa, 1995; McCann & Pearlman, 1990; Saakvitne & Pearlman, 1996; Schauben & Frazier, 1995; Wilson & Raphael, 1993).
42 These stories shock me because I have nt heard them before. My friends experiences resonate with Lindas description of silenced stories. For many years I have cared about womens issues, including violen ce against women, but I still didnt think domestic violence could happen to educated competent, and confident women who had good jobs. I wonder if I have been benevolen tly blaming the victims, a realization that shocks me even more. Like many people, I was distancing myself from trauma by assuming I could control the violence, thus re jecting its chaotic re alities (Brison, 2002; Greenspan, 1998). People find comfort in blami ng victims because that means they have control over their own life situations. If we have control, then we can avoid the horrors of violence and set ourselves apart from victim s. Otherwise, the chaos of violence seems unexplainable and thus unavoidable (Brison, 2002). Meeting with Linda and hearing about survivors challenged me to think about my beliefs. Over the next four years, my research relationships would change me even more, and I would learn that we are all potential victims and survivors. I met many CASA staff members who told me that they hadnt planned to work in domestic violence, but their work at CASA changed their lives. I met staff members who had personal and family experience with domestic violence. Most of all, I probed the meaning of domestic violence work and complexities of the core value of empowerment in the lives of those who undertake this work. A significant culmination of this research is my experience attending the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NC ADV) conference four years later, which helped me frame my experiences with CASA in a broader context.
43 Arriving at the NCADV Conference Clunk! The elevator door closes. Sigh ing, I trudge forward and scan the hotel room numbers. My feet are throbbing and my shoulder is cramped from the weight of my bulging briefcase. Im weary, mentally and physically, from traveling for the past week on consulting trips and crossing severa l time zones today. Pulling my suitcase down the turquoise and maroon hallway, Im car eful not to bump my jacket pocket and crush the macadamia nut, chocolate chip cookies the desk clerk gave me at check-in. The hotel room is empty when I arrive. At first, Im surprised that Linda is not in the room because it is 1:00 a.m., but then I remember that although my body feels like it is 1:00 a.m., it is only 11:00 p.m. here in Denver. Wondering which bed will be mine, I drop my briefcase on the floor and park my suitcas e next to the dresser. This is the first time Linda and I have roomed together at a conference, so we havent developed any roommate routines. On the bed near th e window, I see a thick spiral booklet, an envelope, a pile of colored papers, and a note with my name. Kicking off my shoes, I plop on the bed to read the note. Elizabeth, I knew you would arrive too late to register so I picked up your name tag, conference prog ram schedule, and a few things for you. I went to a pre-conference reception for surviv ors but I wont be too late. See you later, Linda.
44 Sighing again, not sure I have the en ergy yet to read the hefty conference program, I begin to sift through the p ile. A button slides onto the bed: Empower Dont Evaluate is emblazoned in large, white letters across the deep-purple background. The slogan is provocative and effective because empowerment is so important to the activists who work against domestic violence (DV). Th ey believe in fostering environments that create opportunities for self-determination and self-actualization. An empowering philosophy rejects the perception that victims of abuse are sick or deficient people who need a clinical diagnosis or evaluatio n. Illusive and sometimes ambiguous, empowerment is critical for our collaborative relationships. This is what intrigues me personally and drives my work. Empowerment is the core of my research, and the button seems like a sign to me that the c onference will be a meaningful event. I think fleetingly about my piles of dissertation work at home. My body tightens with stress. My neck cracks, and my mi nd wanders. There never seems to be enough time to write. Why did I come to this confer ence? More research? I dont need more data after almost four years. Curiosity? In the end, I guess the answers are simple. I came to NCADV because I thought that attend ing the professional c onference would help me understand the work of DV advocates and activists. Linda Osmundson, Executive Director of CASA, invited me to come and sp end time with her and I enjoy her company. Also, I was attracted by the conference organi zers efforts to build coalitions between researchers and practitioners, the same goal th at first inspired my work with CASA in 2000.
45 The hotel room door opens and Linda gr eets me, Glad you made it! You must be tired. I nod with a weary smile. Dump ing her purse on the desk, she points to the piles on my bed, Ill show you the schedule and help you get started if you have the energy. Thanks! After 10 hours of travel driving back and forth from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa and then flying out here to Denver, Im definitely flagging. But I perked up when the hotel gave me home-baked cookies at check -in. I got two so you can have one, too. They are huge! Linda sits cross-legged on the bed acro ss from me and says, Thanks! I got one when I checked in yesterday, but Ill take another one tonight. As we munch our cookies, I flip through th e conference program. Its strange. I really dont know what to expect. Ive gone to lots of differe nt state and national library, education, and communication conferences. Th ere are basic conference formats, but they are all unique, too. Any suggestions? Ill take my cues from you during this one, since you know the boring speakers to avoid! We laugh together. Yes, I know most of the speakers. Afte r 20 years Im one of the old-timers with this group. Usually I do a presentation of some sort, but NCADV planners didnt invite me to speak this year. My ego is intact b ecause I was asked to deliver the keynote speech for an international conference in Australia this fall. Sometimes its difficult when youve been around for so long. At NCADV conferences, I occasionally go to programs to get re-inspired or to meet new people, so that I can have lively discussions. At this
46 point in my career, one of my major interest s is mentoring new leaders in the Battered Womens Movement, as weve discussed before. Linda briefly explains to me the founding of NCADV, the organizational structure, and the relationships among other na tional organizations. L ook in the front of the program and youll find NCADVs herstory, principles of unity, ethics, mission, etc. She reads aloud, Our new mission statement is to organize for collective power by advancing transformative work, thinking and leadership of communities and individuals working to end violence in our lives (N ational Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 2004). This is the 25 th anniversary of NCADV and the first year that weve had a specific track to include researchers a nd practitioners, so its an experiment, a new chapter in radical organizing for change DVRAC [Domestic Violence Research & Action Coalition] was formed last year through the impetus of Barbara Paradiso at the University of Colorado. Ill be sure to introduce you to her, and youll probably want to attend some of the research-oriented program s. Linda hands me a bottle of water and advises me, Dont forget to drink lots of wate r in this hot, dry climate and with the high altitude. We both drink deeply. Browsing through the program for a few minutes, we scribble notes and make comments. I tell Linda, I definitely want to attend the Colorado Grassroots Action Research program and the discussion group specifically abou t researchers and practitioners, which should be a good networking opportunity. From the program descriptions, it seems that much of the resear ch is focused on domestic violence, services
47 to victims, and some on community collaborati on. I dont see much research specifically on staff, I observe casually. Linda points out another program, Right but look at page 59, Collaborative Inquiry: Constructionist Research for Organizational and Social Change by Rose Pullman and Susan Roche, which seems like it might be relevant to CASAs reorganization and our goals for revitalizing CASAs mission and philosophy with staff. I mark my program as Linda continues, S ee the reception that will feature the poster sessions with researchers and practitioners. I took the CASA booklets (Curry et al., 2002) down to the display tables this afternoon. 6 People were already taking copies, which is good because Im determined not to ship anything back home! We continue to review our program books and chat. Linda te lls me about the speakers and the issues. Flipping through the pages of the pr ogram I observe, Heres something interesting! Respectful Yet Ferocious A dvocacy. That program title interests me because the activists are powerful and asser tive, often angry over injustice, but the feminist philosophies of the Battered Wome ns Movement also stress compassion and empowerment. Thats Susan McGee, right? Lind a replies, You saw her at the FCADV [Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence] conference. She was the first keynoter. Shes really good. Do you remember her? 6 The booklet of stories cited here was one of the goals and a major deliverable of the UCI grant project. The process of creating the booklet is one of th e important layers of this dissertation, and the final product will be referred to as the CA SA booklet in subsequent chapters.
48 Now I do! She was very powerful, funny, sad, and very political. How about Ellen Pence? Or Irene Weiser? Ellen is a major figure in the Movement, and she has a Ph.D., but doesnt use the title much. Ellen was instrumental in developing the Power & Control Wheel that we use from the Duluth Model (Pence, Paymar, Ritmeester, & Shaepard, 1993). 7 The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence al so has adapted the idea and created the Advocacy Wheel, the Community Accountability Wheel etc. ( www.ncdav.org ). Irene is new to the Movement, but she started Stop Family Violence and uses technology as a grassroots tool to provide inform ation and develop political support (www.stopfamilyviolence.org). Iv e known Ellen for a long time, but I just recently met Irene at a march for women in Washington, DC. Heres another program, Ethical Comm unication: Building Coalitions with Coworkers. Ive heard CASA staff talk a bout ethical communicati on. Maybe I should go to that, I muse, while chewing on my pen. My late-night eating habit surfaces, and I wish I had about four more cookies or something salty for a snack. Lydia is an excellent trainer, but that program would probably be too simplistic for you. Im sure Id recognize most of the ideas, but Im interested in how she presents the topic. I want to understand the domestic violence perspective, which would help me work with the CASA staff. 7 The Power and Control Wheel is extensively used with staff, victims, and batterers to categorize violent, abusive behaviors. Further information is available from www.duluth-model.org or www.ncadv.org.
49 Linda hesitates. I can send you some li terature. Several of our staff members went to the training, but Im not sure if th e CASA staff has completely internalized the philosophy. That is all related to defining empowerment with the CASA staff because I think at times we support the women we serve more than we support each other. It is almost 12:30 a.m. (or actually 2:30 a.m. for me), so we arrange our wake-up calls and shower schedules. Sliding under the sheets, I hug the pillow and melt into the bed wearily. Linda says, The plenary se ssion tomorrow is on human trafficking, those sessions are the big-picture social justice topi cs. Then we have a memorial planned for two of the Movements leaders, Susan Schechter and Sandra Comacho. You can sleep late in the morning if you want. No, I want to go, even though its earl y, I mumble. Susans book was one of the first works about DV that you gave me to r ead (Schechter, 1982). I want to be a part of the memorial. This conference feels like a really important part of my CASA experiences, my relationship with you, and understanding DV work. Thanks for inviting me, but Im fading now. Dont worry about th e lights. I can sleep through just about anything. Rolling over, I quickly fall asleep, while Linda sits at the desk to catch up on her e-mail messages. Plenary Session and Memorializ ing Compassionate Activists As I walk toward the ballroom for the first plenary session, the hallway is crowded with display tables, people, and voi ces. As women greet Linda, she introduces me. Noticing the casual dress, interesting je welry, and comfortable shoes that many of
50 the participants are wearing, I feel at ease with the group. After pouring ourselves tall glasses of water, we settle into our chairs. Soon the session begins with Rita Smith, NCADVs executive director, acknowledging long-time conference participants, as well as the first timers like me. Rita introduces the keynote panel entitled, This Human is Not for Sale: Human Trafficking, with speak ers who address the law, social dynamics, team responses, and global case studies, as well as the connections between human trafficking and domestic violence. The statis tics and the examples are staggering. I think about how the program fits into the advi ce of my dissertation committee member, Dr. Kathleen de la Pea McCook, who wants to be sure that the issues of DV collaboration and empowerment are positioned in the larger context. Those attending the conference care about violence in society and those who are oppressed in the broadest sense, focusing on social justice and human rights for women, children, and families. My approach often centers on the stories of indi viduals--the personal that ultimately becomes the political. The conference is organized to blend both elements. When the applause for the panel quiets, an African-American woman with a husky body and booming voice comes to the platform and announces, Now we will begin our memorial session. To help us shif t our energy and spirit, please join me in a song. Many voices immediately meld with her deep melody. The group sings a refrain, like a chant, and a slow, rhythmic clapping spreads throughout the ballroom. I love being a woman deep down in my soul. I love being a woman deep down in my soul. The rhythm changes to a faster pace,
51 Deep, deep. Deep, deep. Deep down. Deep down. The song continues, Deep down in my soul, Deep down in my soul. I love being a woman deep down in my soul. I love being a woman deep down in my soul. As the sound envelopes the space, the speaker continues, I acknowledge all the men in the audience. You can sing, too. Sing I love women, or acknowledge your feminine side and sing, I love being a woman deep down in my soul. The song continues. Deep, deep. Deep, deep. Deep down. Deep down. I love being a woman deep down in my soul. I love being a woman deep down in my soul. As my singing is painfully off-key, I usually confine it to church, but today I sing out passionately in a loud voi ce that fills my spirit. Shifting to another space mentally, I feel a change in the audience and within myself. The group is somber now. On two la rge screens we watch videos about the lives of Susan Schechter and Sandra Comacho. La rge black and white posters of quotations,
52 all with the heading, Inspiring Words, surround the room. Audience members are invited to the front of the stage to eulogize their colleagues. Im unfamiliar with Sandra Comacho or her work, but feel touched as the participants talk about her as a peaceful warrior who inspired and empowered others wi th a combination of fearless strength and gentle love. Several speakers mention how she rejected negativism and looked for possibilities. The multiple meanings implie d by the phrase peaceful warrior zing back and forth like a slinky in my head. Captivat ed by the challenge of fulfilling divergent roles, I feel like I know her becau se I strive to embrace her outlook. Susan Schechter is memorialized next, and I feel a strong connection to her through her writing. A woman in a black T-sh irt with short salt-and-pepper hair says, Susan was an activist. She was a major part of our history, a mentor to many. At a time when radical social change is giving way to personnel policies and credentials, Susan gave us strength to hold onto our truths. At her funeral we didnt talk about her books, but about our relationships and her loving persona. There is a pause as the speakers voice wavers but then becomes strong again. She was loving, but she hated researchers who created false knowledge, hated the way so ciety makes women pay for male violence, and hated the tendency to oversimplify thi ngs. Probably Susan would have hated my overly simple list. Many people in the audi ence laugh sadly. I didnt know I loved Susan until her funeral, the speakers voice trem bles again. I liked her, respected her. Sometimes I thought she was a prima donna, but I wish I had told her I loved her. So today Ill tell all of you. The room is overf lowing with quiet that reflects a spiritual
53 feeling of community and testimony, almost like in church. I am filled with the love the speaker just shared, as well as th e sense of a greater purpose. Next on stage, a younger African-Ameri can woman with long braids, gold earrings, and a stylish ivory bl ouse looks at the crowd with a gentle smile that matches her words. Susan and I often disagreed about different fundamental issues, but we both cared passionately. She was easy to disagree with because she was generous about our differences. Susan was intense, serious, and vigilant about the voices of survivors. She made a permanent imprint on me and I learned empowerment from her example and leadership from my relationship with her. I note the phrase generous about differences, which to me means assuming th e best you can about people. It is the essence of empowerment, dialogic communicati on, and collaborative relationships that open conversation rather than critique or judge (Hammond, Anderson, & Cissna, 2003; Josselson, 1995; McNamee & Gergen, 1999). The button slogan, Empower -Dont Evaluate comes to my mind. Then a short woman with a ponytail speaks into the microphone in an emphatic voice. I was pulled into this work because Susan made me feel that it was the most important work in the world! She showed me how to be compassionate while being radical, even when I wasnt very good at compassionate communication. Id be getting riled up wanting to tell someone off, and Susan would gently put her hand on my arm so that I would pause and think. She could tell people truths, but in a loving way, so that people could hear it. At that moment, I wi sh I had met Susan Sch echter and interviewed her or watched her activism in action before she died.
54 Linda walks to the front and takes a microphone, Susan was a leader in many ways: in what she wrote, what she said, and how she lived her life. I admired Susans ability to speak about th e hard things that needed saying, but she did it in such a sincere, approachable way. People listened to Susan because she was open to multiple voices. She listened. She could even be open to those who we thought were enemies. I know that Im not always good at that, so Susan was an inspiration and an example. She practiced activism with a gentle spirit, but she was a strong, solid cornerstone of our Movement. As the memorial continues, I am moved to tears, and my body feels prickly with emotions and memories, like Im wearing a ne w wool jacket that feels both soft and rough. We have been sitting for a long tim e, but I no longer notice the hard, cramped seats because my mind is so full. I aspi re to live in a way that embodies the compassionate spirits of Susan Schechter and Sandra Comacho, identifying with the challenge of rejecting critical arguments in favor of possibilities and empowerment. Sometimes it is much easier to just focus on the differences and deficits instead of the strengths and commonalities. I notice how Linda expresses her admirati on for Susans gentle spirit and think about our first meeting, when Linda seemed charismatic, articulate, and committed, but also determined and very assertive. Some of her comments were highly critical of academia and researchers. My mind wanders back to how our research project began, and how I first learned about CASA, as well as some of the questions I posed to myself: Why did I become part of CASA? What drew me to the project and led me to spend
55 years researching domestic violence work and the empowerment philosophy? Several possible answers illusively flit through my mind, but none ar e definitive. Perhaps each answer is comprised of many threads, pulled together in the interlocking stitches of a colorful, crocheted afghan. The unique way Linda reframed the issues and used the word courageous to describe women who experience abuse intrigue d me initially. This frame counters the common conception of domestic violence and beckons me to explore it more. As a feminist from the 70s, I was receptive to the discussion of womens equality. My friends surprising personal revelations concerning their abuse and their sense of shame, and my realization that I may contribute to be nevolent blame, all spurred me to commit to the UCI project for one year. I saw an opportunity to make a contribution by using my grant writing and collaborative skills in a team project. When the first year was completed, I continued my work with CASA because I had developed relationships with the staff members and a commitment to the organizations social just ice cause. Attending the NCADV conference is a way I can enrich my understanding of the social justice issues and research relationships. My mind continues to wander, but then I hear the speaker at the NCADV podium say, Lets thank our panelists for our plen ary session this morning and all of those who organized the memorial ceremony. The appl ause is loud and sustained. Weve honored the leaders who have inspired our past and with their words, their work, and their love. You are all the future leaders w ho will share your enthusiasm and inspiration. Enjoy the day until we meet again tomorrow morning for the plenary session on the
56 prison-industrial complex, the rape culture, and violence in our world. Dont forget the vendor marketplace and reception tonight for the exhibits. As Linda gathers her notebook, she says, Im going to a meeting at the Radisson. You said you were going to the resear ch discussion group and then the DVRAC [Domestic Violence Research & Action Coalition] panel. So do you want to reconnect late this afternoon at the exhibits? I tell her yes and ask, Do you know where the Arapahoe Room is? Linda points down the hall, and we move into the crowd in different directions. Still not sure where the room is located, I clutch my program booklet and floor plan.
57 Chapter Three Research Reflections: Su bjectivity and Strengths Domestic Violence Research: Whose Side Are We on? Feeling a bit lost; I double-check the c onference program one more time for the floor plan of the hotel meeting rooms. Walk ing down the main hall past the restrooms, I stop at the Arapahoe Meeting Room and check the program marquee, which says, Domestic Violence Research: Whose Side Ar e We on? and I close my program. Ive arrived. My body relaxes as I slide into one of the chairs arranged in the circle. It is obvious that the room had been set up in a traditional classroom style, but has been rearranged into a smaller circle, with ex tra chairs stacked along the side wall. At first it seems like most people know each other, but they also greet me warmly with smiles and nods. The moderator signals th at its time to begin and says, Welcome! This is the first session of the research track for the conference. Our goal is to bridge the gap between practitioners needs and researcher s agendas. I want to acknowledge Dr. Barbara Paradiso for her work on the NCA DV Board and getting this research track organized. She gestures to a tall woman with dark hair lightly streaked with grey, as the group applauds. Barbara begins, I want to thank all of you who are participating in the discussion group, the poster sessions, and programs throughout the conference. Dont miss the
58 program this afternoon on Colorados projec t and DVRAC, which stands for Domestic Violence Research and Action Coalition. Thats my shameless plug for our panel program later today! The group laughs. T his morning we start our conference track with a discussion about research perspectiv es. Much of the research on domestic violence has victimized women and hurt the Movement, so we advocate for practitioners and communities setting their own agendas, conducting research themselves, using the vast information they have and partnering wi th academics who are also becoming part of the Movement. We have many different gr oups represented here today, so lets go around the circle and hear from each person. Tell us about your work and research interests. As the participants in the discussion group begin their introductions, I search my mind for how Ill present myself. I struggle to define my identity as an insider and an outsider, both and neither, someone in a liminal space with many roles as an academic, volunteer, collaborator, partne r, and action researcher I fidget as I seek a succinct way to pr esent myself and the UCI project to the NCADV discussion group. If I could tell the whole story they would understand, but theres not enough time. When its my turn I say simply, Im a researcher and a practitioner. As a gradua te student in the Department of Communication at the University of South Florida, Ive been a volunteering for almost four years with CASA in St. Petersburg, Florida. We are involved in a collaborative university-community grant project that started when Linda Osmundson told us that she was tired of researchers who didnt get it and wasted her time. I use Li ndas name because Im aware that some of
59 the leaders in the group know her. Several people laugh. Linda and I are exhibiting at the poster session. We are showcasing a booklet of stories that is one result of the project (Curry et al., 2002). What is a bit different about that project and my dissertation is that we are focusing on workers, paid staff, and volunteers. So be sure to get a copy of the booklet, and Im looking forward to talki ng with many of you this week, getting acquainted. By the way, this is my first NCADV conference. People murmur and smile. The introductions at the discussion group continue with a variety of comments about the difficulties in forging connections between researchers a nd activists. I think back to the interactive focus group with the CASA staff, where we discussed our assumptions, concerns, and observations on the research process. The challenges we faced and the collaborative relationships we established by working together on the UCI project mirror the concerns of the particip ants at this NCADV discussion group. Beginning the research as an outsider to CASA and domestic violence, my goal was to engage in scholarship that would involve CASA staff as partners and coresearchers. Positioning ourselves as co-res earchers, we strived for equity and positive frames, rather than describing people as inside or outside of either CASA or the academy. As collaborative partners, we attempted to form new spaces for learning. During the UCI research process, we highlighted the development of trusting relationships. The NCADV program continues, and I think back to the first meeting with the CASA staff and then the disc ussion we had later, as we metacommunicated about the
60 meeting. The story of how the CASA staff analyzed our first meeting demonstrates the empowering nature of our approach and the key points of collaboration. Reflecting on the Super Glue of Collaboration with CASA Staff Exiting from the interstate, I clutch the directions against the steering wheel and glance down. The CASA Shelters location is confidential. CASA would not even email directions to me the first time I visited a few months ago. Being careful not to miss the turn, Im thinking about my plan for today: that I would ask part icipants about their perceptions of our first meeting. Who were we to them? Who are we now to them? Who am I? Our first goal of the UCI proj ect is a direct result of what the CASA executive director told us about previous difficulties with res earchers. It is clear that developing relationships must be the foundation of the project, as well as documenting how we develop that collaboration. Scraping the curb slightly, I parallel park on the narrow, brick street in front of the CASA Shelter. I stuff my directions into the glove compartment and lock it. Walking past the tall, wooden fence up the driveway to the shelter, I think about the rhythm and timing of the environment. During our first visit to the Shelter, Deb Walker and I didnt stay long. We had an hour during the CASA staff meeting to explore the idea of a research project and the staff de finitely regarded us as outside rs at that point. Later, during my first visit to start observing and interviewing, I was concerned about respecting their time, so I planned to stay only an hour. I left three hours later after chatting and joining the staff for lunch. This was such a change from the first staff meeting. Once they decided to let us in, they embraced us and our sense of inclusion evolved quickly.
61 Today I'm more prepared for the pace of the Shelter, which is often hectic, but almost homey at times. Staff often must react to crisis situations, juggling their time, the ups and downs, and the intense interactions, and then unwinding from stress. After climbing the stairs to the porch, I push the button on the security box. A voice over the intercom asks me to identify myself, and th en I hear the buzzer as the heavy wooden door is unlocked. Clarissa smiles br oadly when I walk into the central work area with modular desks and overhead cabinets around the perimeter of the room and a huge, mauve, round table in the center. Boxes of donations, piles of mail, notebooks and files, paperwork, a library shelf crammed with books, two computers, and a copy machine are all crushed together in this all purpose area. Clarissa comes toward me with a greeting, Elizabeth, come in! She radiates with her direct, e fficient, and ebullient personality. She is wearing her black hair pulled back so that her large, ornate br ass, gold, and silver earrings dangle to her shoulders unrestricted. Her gol den-brown, animal-print jacket compliments her deep-brown sienna skin. As we walk toward her office, Clarissa offers me a cup of coffee. At CASA the coffee pot is always on. A box of glazed donut s sits open on the small, crowded counter. Judy, a senior staff member who has held numerous positions at CASA for the past 20 years, walks through the cramped corner and gr eets me in her matter-of-fact way. Ive got reports to do, but Ill see you on the porch for smoke break. Judy has been particularly generous with her time mentori ng me. She likes to conduct our interactive interviews on the porch because it is away from the phones, and it is the only place to smoke. Learning to be open to the twists a nd turns of our conversations at CASA, I am
62 aware that the staff guides the interviews as much as I do. We might start with a general topic or something that I hope we cover, but the interviews are not based on a formal set of questions. The interactive nature of the interviews also builds relationships through our conversations (Ellis & Berger, 2002; Ellis, Kiesinger, & Tillmann-Healy, 1997; Madriz, 2000; Reinharz & Chase, 2002). CASA staff members Judy, Becky, Maria and I smoke and talk on the porch just like new friends in the disclosure phases of our relationship, bonding and sharing stress release. I quit smoking years ago, but lately at CASA Ive been chipping, or what Id call bumming a smoke, occasionally. Sometimes I wonder about this chipping, which reminds me how tenuous my control is over an acknowledged, self-destructive habit. My mother is debilitated and on oxygen 24 hours a day because her lungs no longer function. Minimizing the problem in my mind because I only smoke at CASA, Im probably addicted to the camaraderie more than the nicotine. In Clarissa's office, we sit close, knees almost touching. Her office is the size of a large, walk-in closet at the back corner of the work area. The space is tightly crammed with two tall gray filing cabinets, a desk, two chairs, a computer, and a closet. Recently promoted to the position of Shelter Coordina tor, Clarissa needs a private office for her new supervisory and planning responsibilities My opening comment is general, asking how things have been since my last visit. Clarissa tells me about her promotion and the difficulties of being a new supervisor of other advocates. She freely tells me the details of her challenges supervising personnel. She trusts me, but I must be careful how I write about it because there could be legal ramifications to personnel decisions.
63 Clarissa, people are responsible for their own behaviors. When I was a supervisor, I tried hard to remember it's not th e supervisor's fault if an employee loses his or her job, I say empathetic ally, especially if you provide coaching and support for the person. That's just what Ellie, my supervisor, says! Clarissa grins and I'm pleased to have reinforced her supervisors advice. S he's a super boss who helps me learn. She's tough too! She doesnt miss a thing and she te lls you about it, but I don't feel defensive. I try to really listen to what she's teaching me. I like to be out in the workroom with other advocates and helping them, but sometimes E llie reminds me to let them handle their own problems. She tells me, Don't try to fix it for them but thats hard. You know what I mean, dont you? I know that role. Oh yes, I've been to ld several times that I'm a rescuer. I know it doesn't really help the other person, but it is just so hard to resist fixing things when you know just how it should be done! I tell he r in a playful, exaggerated, and arrogant tone. We both laugh spontaneously, grab each other's hands, and stomp our feet, laughing. Girl! You know just what I mean, being a fixer, a rescuer. Clarissa seems glad I understand. I am struck by an obvious, but critical insight, You know, I'm thinking this all relates to the power and control model that I learned at CASAs volunteer training. You try to empower women to take control of th eir lives. You let them make their own
64 decisions and learn from those decisions The women who experience controlling situations need some help, but not more control. That's what we are trying to do, not only with the residents, but with staff. You know most of us were victims, then we became survivors, and now we are working for CASA. We want people to make their own decisions, but they need to be accountable, too. Remember when you and Deb came to talk to us the first time about the research project and there was the woman by the door w ho was sullen, wouldnt sit at the table, and didnt speak the whole time. Remember? Yes, Deb and I wondered about her silence and body language. I havent seen her since that meeting. Im glad we are star ting to talk about the meeting because I need to write my quarterly report on the UCI grant project. Yet I think the conversation on supervision is important, too, because I need to understand the organization overall. The concept of empowerment connects the internal staffing issues, the services to shelter residents, and collaborative research. It wasn't you. She was having problems with me because she was so defensive about her work problems, so she didn't say a word the whole meeting. A telephone call for Clarissa interrupts our conversation and I discretely step out of the office for a cup of tea. The hot water pot is almost empty, so I refill it. I want to look like Im a part of the group, not just a guest, yet I know th at in many ways I am still a visitor who is welcomed into CASA. I wa nder to the round tabl e and scribble in my notebook as I listen to Becky, one of the advocat es, take a crisis-line call. She runs one hand through her short, brown hair as she ta lks in a low voice; her small body is crunched
65 forward, listening intently. When she completes the call, she turns, stretches, and explains, Callers often have multiple issues that surface in the midst of the crisis. We need to help them sort out the problems, so we can give appropriate referrals and they can consider their options. With our empower ment philosophy, we dont say you must or you should do this or that. We ask questions, especially about safety planning. We also answer their questions about available resource s and options. Crisis calls can be tough, and sometimes they dont call back or come in Then I wonder if well read about them in the newspaper. Of course, all the calls ar e confidential, but staff often can identify the situations reported in the paper. We seem to gravitate to the c hocolate jar after tough calls like the one I just had." Did she know I was listening? Was she reminding me of the confidentiality, helping me to learn the work, or did she just want to chat? I reply, I know what you mean. I reach for chocolate as my stress relief, too! To my ears, my attempt to commiserate falls flat because the stressors are so different. Making a mental note, I decide to bring chocolate for th e staff the next time I visit. The red light blinks off the phone bank as Cl arissa finishes her call. Back in her office I remind her, We were talking about th e staff at meeting. I remember the woman with crossed arms because we were worried she was negative about the research project. I'm so glad it wasn't that. As I said in my e-mail, today I want to talk with you and the Shelter staff about your impressi ons of that first meeting. A report is due for the grant, and I want to reflect the perspe ctives of all the partners.
66 Clarissa replies quickly. Our conversation has an easy, fast-paced rhythm. Well, when we heard about that first meeting the st aff was unsure, but not completely hostile. You got past Linda, our executive director, so th at said a lot. We know that she wouldn't let you into CASA unless she wa s comfortable. You see, we trust our leaders. Your project went through two levels before that sta ff meeting. Linda talked to the directors' team, as part of the chain. But she didn't dict ate the project, just asked us to meet with you and tell her what we thought. Kelly, the Outreach Program Director, was here that day as the representative for the whole dire ctors team. Ellie, my supervisor and our Residential Program Director, was out of town that day. I was glad that I met Kelly at CASAs volunteer training a few weeks before our first meeting, I reply. The training he lped me understand a bit more about CASA and domestic violence. Kelly seemed like a formid able person at the staff meeting. She had her arms crossed at her chest, and she kept asking Deb and me what we wanted to do in a very direct manner. I didnt know the supervis ory levels specifically at that point, but I knew Kellys opinion was influential from th e looks at the table during the meeting. Clarissa smiles broadly, Oh yeah, Kelly can be blunt all right. She speaks out, most of us do. I saw you hooking Kelly. Y ou complimented her on her training at the beginning of the meeting. Then throughout the meeting you would validate her training by mentioning what she said. You acknowledged her role in the organization as a leader. You were definitely working her, girl! We both chuckle. Quickly explaining, I say, I was sincere, I really was. Of course, I could tell she was skeptical, so I did try to find connections Her stories about re searchers sounded just
67 like Lindas descriptions, with a distrust of academics organization-wide. Everyone was looking at her, deferring to her. Being uns ure what CASA and DV were all about, I was acknowledging the expertise of Kelly and the group. Kelly sure wasnt buying it at first. Y ou got that right! But when she relaxed, the others began to talk. You never got defensive when you answered Kellys pointed questions. You were calm. You didnt ch ange the tone of your voice throughout the meeting, except to laugh. You and Deb both laughed. You didnt appear cocky or tense or formal. You were relaxed and not rush ed. Deb took lots of notes, and you talked more than you wrote. Oh, and we noticed you used our names. You called each of us by name, even though it was the first time we had met. You remembered our introductions. You watched people, really looked at them a nd you seemed to listen so intently. At one point, you told us what you had written, lik e a summary. Then you asked us if we agreed with the summary. That was good! Yes, I really noticed how you treated the group with respect. Clarissa continues, on a roll now. One key to that meeting was when you told us about your friends who had been abused and you cried. Then we saw you as a person, not a researcher. You were someone with feelings who could understand. Clarissa's memories and insights about th e meeting touch my heart, as well as my head. I explain, "I was surprised by my tear s, but you had the tissue box ready. I guess I was just so shocked and confused that my friends had never confided in me until I told them about CASA.
68 Its that kind of place; we work with emotions every day. We recognize that when you do this work its 24 hours day. You see violence all around and people tell you things, personal things, because they know you wont judge them. Clarissa pauses. I chew on my pen, conscious of waiting and lis tening. She continues, The thing that closed the bond, the super glue to the whole thing, was when you said, We want to learn about you. We want you to tell us how we can learn about what its like to work against domestic violence, what its like to volunteer. Wow! We weren't used to that approach so thats when we all opened up and started talking. Most of the time, the experts are trying to tell us what to do or why we are doing things wrong. So we can be distrustful. I think back to the time Deb and I spent collaborating on our graduate studies and on our research relationship when we coaut hored an article on collegiality (Curry & Walker, 2002) before coming to CASA. This was another backstage success factor in our first meeting because we drafted an informal agenda before we came to the CASA staff meeting; however, we also both recognized the need to be open to emergent issues. CASA allotted a short period of time for the first staff meeting, so while Deb and I had agreed on a basic approach, we trusted the process. Clarissa continues, The staff was pleased that you we re volunteering and working on different days. You committed to spending lots of time with us and it's easier to talk to you individually. Deb is so vibr ant and she works so hard, with no attitude. Last week, she cleaned the closet, stocked the pantry, and went to the store. Deb eats lunch with us and acts like one of us. She f its in because she doesnt act like she knows it all.
69 Feeling somewhat defensive since I haven' t volunteered yet, I say, I was busy at first writing the grant proposal, and everyone agreed that was the best use of my time initially. Soon Im going to help with sor ting Christmas donations, but Im not sure what else CASA needs. Ill talk to the voluntee r coordinator. She me ntioned grant writing, but Im willing to do any kind of job. I emphasize any type of job. Clarissa interrupts, Yeah, when I sa w you were going to do Christmas work I was impressed. Sorting all those toys and gi fts is hard work, and we need people during the holidays because thats a time wh en some volunteers are busy at home. I was thinking of maybe helping with th e crisis line because Judy and Becky said it was hard to get volunteers to try that. I know I would need lots of training, and with my Moms illness I frequently need to rearrange my schedule. I hate to be so unreliable, but Mom is in and out of the hospital, docto rs appointments, and therapy. I never know when shell have a really bad night. Over the holidays, my sister will be in town to help with Mom, so my time will be more flexible. I am encouraged when Clarissa responds, Oh, you could do the crisis line, because you listen! But wait til the time is right. You should know that we understand family time and handling crisis time! And dont forget that interviewing us and writing our stories for the booklet is part of your volunteering, too! Her comments make me feel better because I re-focus on what I can do, rather than wh at I cant do. Im aware of how her reframing makes such a difference. Bonnie, the house manager, knocks and peeks in the door, We're ordering lunch; do you two want anything?
70 We place our orders, and I ask Clarissa, Anything else you remember? Well, at the end of the meeting, after you left, we discussed it with Kelly and agreed to the project. Later, we talked about the research project in the advocates team, and people said it made them feel really spec ial. Really special, she emphasizes as she smiles widely, staring right into my eyes. She touches my hand. Her dark brown eyes sparkle and convey a deep message. Most people are interested in victims. We listen to their stories, but we don't get the opportunity to share ourselves. We'll get things out that we don't normally have a chance to discuss. And we know the value of sharing--its a process of validation. This work changes you. I think perhaps it was Gods plan for me to go through all the abuse that I did, so I c ould come to this point. Im a survivor and I remember that every day! Clarissa says passionately. When lunch arrives, I turn off the tape recorder, close my notebook, and say, "I'm going to make a note to follow up on that. Ne xt time we meet, I'll tell you how I believe God led me here, too. Clarissa and I join the other staff at the round table. Ellie, the Residential Program Director, comes down the stairs to have lunch with everyone. She has a kind, open face and a sweet voice. Her whole body radiates a calm, open sp irit. Soon the table is full, and Bonnie, the House Manager, is sorting out the orders, passing sandwiches to Judy, Becky, me, Clarissa, Ellie, and othe rs. Condiments, napkins, and utensils are scattered in the middle of the table.
71 Clarissa announces to the group, Elizabet h is here today for a special reason. She came to see what we thought about the first meeting we had with her and Deb. Shes going to write a report. People are quiet and look around at each ot her. I say, Working collaboratively means that whatever I write represents multiple views, not just my ideas. It is our story, not just my story. I gesture around the table. So there are no right or wrong answers. Just share whatever you remember. Taking a sip from my bottle of Arizona green tea, I wait, and then take a bite of my sandwich. Ellie begins, Kelly was the representative for the directors team because I was out of town, but I heard about the meeting. People said that you and Deb were down to earth. Everyone was impressed that you had already been to volunteer training. Her comments seem to open up the space for others. Becky offers her thoughts, Were not an easy group, and its hard for some people to understand DV. Women get enough bl ame, so we dont need volunteers or researchers adding to it. You and Deb seemed like you were going to get it. Judy follows up to explain, Yes, at CASA we use that phrase--those who get it and those who dont. Frankly, we have fe lt used by other researchers and university students. They come with long surveys, lo ts of questions, and sometimes the questions dont make sense anyway. We spend hours of our time on the project, hours we dont have, and then we never hear from them agai n! Students dont even tell us what grade they get on their projects! You said that you were committed to spending lots of time with us and volunteering. Th at was important to me.
72 Looking around the table with a mock solemn face, I raise my hand. I cross my heart and promise to tell you my grade--no ma tter what it is. Then we all laugh. I recognize Judys story about rese archers as a thread throughout the organization. Its a story Ive heard several times from various staff members. Bonnie adds thoughtfully, You treated us with respect, like equals. You used your first names when you introduced yourselves. You werent pretentious or judgmental. Ive got my hands full keeping th is house together. I dont have any time to waste. So your volunteer time with the pa ntry and the supply cabinets and bedding makes a difference. You all know that youve go t to wear roller skates to keep up with me. The group laughs again. I see more similarities to Clarissas comm ents. It seems likely that they have discussed this before. Clarissa comments, When you talked a bout CASA or the project, you used the words we, our, or us, so it felt like we we re all going to work together. You didnt lecture us. You listened to us, asked us inst ead of telling us what to do--thats like the way we empower residents at the Shelter. You believed in us and our knowledge. Ellie asks me, Elizabeth, what do you remember most about our first meeting? Id like to hear your observations. The st aff members nod and murmur their agreement. I am so glad Ellie asked because in my effo rts to honor their ideas, Ive neglected to share mine, which is not interactive nor does it contribute to relationship building. At the same time they express dislike for expert researchers, they invite me to give my opinion. We are creating a relationship of reciprocal respect for each other.
73 I remember my first phone conversation with Clarissa to plan the meeting. She talked a little about the difference between working with substance abuse at Operation PAR and working at CASA in terms of helping, fixing, empowering. Excited by Linda and Clarissas comments, I was eager to meet everyone else, but also nervous. You turned out to be a very tough gr oup! They laugh. I could de finitely feel the resistance in the room. Kellys arms were folded. I imitate the body language and there is more laughter. People kept glancing at each other. You kept asking us what we wanted to do, trying to find out our agenda. I kept trying to say that we would work together. Finally, I remember saying that we wanted you to tell us how we could understand you and your work. At that moment, I felt tension subside in the group; I felt the tr ust blossom. I also remember tears when I mentioned the abuse of my friends. I was surprised by those tears, but it seemed alright at the time. Clarissa gives me a knowing look. We had keyed into shared moments of meaning. Judy jumps into the conversation, That showed us you were human and that you had a connection to DV. Most of us or many of us have a personal connection with abuse. Youll find out more about our storie s as you interview us. We often tell our stories at presentations. Ive been te lling my story for about 15 or 20 years. I didnt realize the importan ce of those conversations w ith my friends until much later, but I knew I wanted to learn more a bout CASA and CASA staff. Yes, I want to hear your stories about being an advocate and why you do this job. Anyone who is comfortable sharing their personal stories, Id also appreciate heari ng those. I brought a summary of the UCI grant project proposal so you can see the general plan. You
74 probably have seen this before, but I want to review the goals one more time if thats okay. I pass out packets with a summary on top: Lived Realities and the Meaning of Working against Spouse Abuse: The CASA Story of Stories This proposal is for a pilot project to conduct an ethnographic study of CASA staff, volunteers, and former shelter reside nts. It focuses on the lived realities and meanings of those who work at shelters, an approach lacking in the literature. Since the 1980s, there has been much schol arly attention to problems associated with abuse. Yet this attention overwhelm ingly has been from the perspective of outsiders who pathologize battered women. Research Assistants will volunteer, observe, and interview participants at CASA; recording their observations through a narrative perspective that emphasizes evoc ative texts that call the reader to feel and enter the experience. The project will: 1. Establish a collaborative relationship between CASA and USF, and document the process; 2. Conduct an ethnographic study of the CA SA organization, staff, volunteers, and former shelter residents; 3. Study CASA's use of stories to communicate abuse as a social problem and dispel community misunderstandings; 4. Assess the feasibility of a volunteer program between CASA and the USF Communication and Sociology Departments; and
75 5. Result in a booklet of storie s to be used locally, stat ewide, and nationally with victims, scholars, families, communi ty groups, volunteers, and related agencies in reframing domestic violence in our society. I wait while people read the shee t. I continue, As I mentioned, today Im learning about how we are developing a collaborative process fo r the research project, thats the number one goal of the grant. Eventually, we will publish a booklet of CASA stories from staff and volunteers, as it says under goal number five. Deb will write stories of volunteers and Ill write about staff. Any questions or comments? I wipe my mouth with a napkin and wait. Judy begins, This makes sense. The re search could actually help CASA. For instance, number four would be good if we get more interns or good volunteers from University of South Florida like we have fr om Eckerd College. But I have a question about number one and number two--what does ethnographic mean? Good question. Thanks for asking, Judy, I say. I just recently learned that myself. Ethno means life and graphic means to write, so it is a type of research where you write about life, the lives you obser ve and the life you live (Tedlock, 2000). Nodding Judy says in her schoolteacher voice, Good explanation, but I just want to tell you that whatever you wr ite, like the booklet, it must to be something everyone can read, not just statistics or charts and boring th eories. Youre going to write stories, right? Im not sure how thats research, but well learn as we go through the project, I suppose. Yes, thats the kind of research we do. We write stories. Youll see that in the grant proposal we wrote a brief story about our first meeting with Linda when she told us
76 CASAs frustrations with researchers. I can send some other samples of research stories if you like. For this UCI project, Deb w ill be coordinating the internship volunteer activities and Ill be coordina ting the booklet. Ive already been working on a story about what its like to be a CASA advocate. Some good examples came from individual interviews, and next week Im coming back here for a group interview about what people say when you tell them what you do for a living. Pizza lunch will be my treat and maybe some chocolate desert, too! They clap and hoot with the offer of free food, as we all begin cleaning up our lunch mess. Driving home from the shelter, I thi nk about the first staff meeting and our conversations today about that meeting, embarrassed that I had underestimated their observation skills. I expected a brief conversa tion about the meeting in general. Clarissa, Judy, Bonnie, and Becky surprised me becau se they were so acutely aware of the meetings subtleties. They have honed their skills for many years, personally and professionally. For some of the workers who have experienced abuse personally, their ability to focus on the nuances of body language tone of voice, and the meanings behind the words no doubt served as a survival sk ill during years of ch ildhood and/or marital abuse. As a survivor of abuse, a substa nce abuse counselor, an d an advocate against domestic violence, Clarissa has continued to hone these skills with a variety of support groups, shelter residents, and victims of all kinds. Daily, she and her staff cultivate the ability to communicate individua lly and in groups. My previous assumptions now seem so critical. I reframe my stance by focusing on the positive results of todays meeting,
77 excited that the staff members are so willing to engage in what they call processing the communication and theorists would call metacommunication. The NCADV Discussion Group and Food for Thought As the NCADV discussion about research relationships conc ludes, I understand that CASAs issues concerning researchers relate to so much more than just one person, or one organization. Research has be en done on those in the Battered Womens Movement; at times it has been done ostensibly for them, but less often has it been done with them. This conference is a major move to bring researchers and practitioners together to explore issues of ethics, research relationships, and relevance. I feel a sense of anticipation for the next few days of the conference, tinged with euphoria at the realization of the broader implications. This is a group of people who will understand our goals, and I hope Ill gain insights to help me frame my relationship with CASA. When the group adjourns, a tall, slender woman with wispy gray hair wearing a sleeveless, white-cotton pants outfit approach es me. Hi, Im Dr. Cara French from Southern Coastal University. Im on the facu lty of the Sociology Department there. We shake hands and smile. I would like to hear more about your research on DV workers. Thats a fairly unique focus. She glances at her watch. Are you free for lunch? I readily accept her invitation, and we follow a small crowd to the hotel dining area. Seeing Linda engaged in lively conversation at a large table, I wave as Dr. French and I are led to a table in the back. As we wait in line at the soup, sandwic h, and salad bar, Dr.
78 French tells me a little bit about her bac kground and her teaching of community-based classes. When we are seated, Dr. French asks, So wh at is the topic of your dissertation? Surprised by her direct question, I reply, Dr. French, the hard part is to find my focus when I have so much data after four y ears of research on site at CASA. Ive been discussing the need to refine my topic with my major professor, Carolyn Ellis. Pausing, I think back to my proposal and reply, My dissertation is about university-community collaboration and the empowering aspects of research relationships. Im exploring how we express individual and organizational expe riences of empowerment, especially how we come to understand the concept as we story our lives. Dr. French listens, finishes chewing he r bite of salad, and says with a grin, Please call me Cara. You seem to have it defined fairly well. Empowerment and collaboration definitely fit w ith the philosophy of the Movement. Ive read some of Dr. Elliss work and I assign it to my class, es pecially what she writes about stigma, care giving, and death (Ellis, 1995, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2003). She has been a leader in qualitative research and autoethnographic wo rk, which you already know. I can see her influence in your work. She smiles. You mentioned that your research was about the staff, or working at CASA. Her statement is also a question. I reply, Yes, my dissertation topics unf old through my story of working with the staff members at CASA on their booklet of stories. The project helped me to understand how workers in DV frame empowerment and to reflect on how I construct the meaning of empowerment in my life. I thought it wa s more of an ethnography about the CASA
79 workers, but then it also could be cons idered an autoethnogra phy of how I came to understand workers and domestic violence. It is a story of construc ting stories that lead to new understandings. I think that everything we write is re ally about ourselves in some way if we acknowledge our subjectivity (Acker, 2000; Davies, 1992; Denzin, 1989; Ellis & Bochner, 2000; Ellis & Flaherty, 1992; Smith & Watson, 2001). Unsure what she will think of my last statement about subjectivity and reflexivity, I pause. With a calm, receptive demeanor, Cara nods encouragingly. As she adds dressing to her salad I continue, A big breakthrough for me was in one of my classes when we discussed work by my professor, Jane Jorgenson, about the co-construction of the researchers identity and research relationships as communicative rather than elicitative. (1999). My dissertation is a st oried example of sensemaking and reciprocal reflexivity. The narrative reveals multiple layers and frames within frames that are interdependent and demonstrate the research relationship as a multifaceted, social process (Ceglowski, 2000; Ellingson, 1998; Ellis & Berger, 2002; Ellis & Bochner, 2000; Ellis & Flaherty, 1992; Gergen & Gergen, 1999; Jorgenson, 1999; May & Pattillo-McCoy, 2000; Milburn et al., 2002). Cara leans forward, rests her chin on he r hand, and clarifies, So your dissertation is not specifically about domestic vi olence or Battered Womens Movement, but domestic violence is important as the cont ext. You are researching collaborative relationships that are constructed and co mmunicated in this context. You position empowerment as the main theme, since empowerment is a core value of the Movement and critical to collabora tive relationships. Right?
80 I finish chewing a bite of my turkey sandwich and nod several times and listen. I admire her ability to summarize my explanation. Cara continues, So you acknowledge your subjectivity in creating the meaning of empowerment. Im curious about why you decided to study this, how you position yourself in the research. Subjectivity and Positioning the Researcher The issue of subjectivity, objectivity, and research relationships is critical in my work. I reply, I see myself as a postm odern, experimental ethnographic researcherwriter. Hopefully my work will find a place in a democratic society that calls for moral and sacred qualitative social science (D enzin & Lincoln, 2000, p. 17), with the mandates for such work to come from our own sense of human community (Lincoln & Denzin, 2000, p. 1062). I warm to my thoughts, feel my words flow ing. When I look at other students, it seems obvious why they study particular topics Their research is enmeshed with who they are and what they believe is important. My own path was harder for me to discern because initially I was looking at the places, me thods, or issues in my research, rather than the heart of my interest. I started my doctoral studies by researching women in leadership. Now I see how that work basi cally revolved around co aching, collaborating, empowerment. My understanding flows from my life and establishes my subjectivity. Cara observes, I find that connections ar e important to research, but focusing on a few main points is critical, too. Im still not sure if you position this dissertation as your life story or as the story of CASA and the staff members.
81 I struggle with that question, I reply. M y goal is to write a story that combines the story of relationships, my interpretation of the relationships, and the stories the staff tell about the research. In the past f our years, weve worked on many different cooperative projects that grew from the UCI grant in the first year, but I plan to focus my dissertation on the CASA booklet of stories a nd the learning process that developed as a result of that endeavor. My writing mantra ri ght now is, One has to find the story in the experience, and not every experience is a story (Ellis, 2004, p. 107). Cara sighs, It all weaves together. Especially for those of us who were activists in the 60s and 70s, empowerment and giving voice to women was our work, who we were and are. The next generation is emer ging in the leadership roles for NCADV. Some of us old-timers wonder if the values will change. The foundations of my beliefs I le arned from my mother, especially empowerment. She always saw the glass as half full and believed the glass would eventually be filled to the top. Mom had a truly incredible way of framing things in a positive light, but I didnt always value or recognize her ability. In fact, during my early college days in my aggressive feminist period, I referred to her as a doormat. I guess I was struggling to distinguish between aggres sive, assertive, and accepting behaviors. Years of experience, reading, and time spent caring for Mom led me to a different level of respect for her. Now I understand a wa y of helping others by believing in their decisions and supporting them in an empowering way. I might be at the place in my life where I turn around and say, Oh my gosh, Ive become my mothe r! And thats a good
82 thing! I cant believe that Im telling Ca ra all of this. I suppose Im hungry for such discussion. She laughs. Sounds like my daughter. I can te ll that you were very close to your mother and I know from personal experience that care giving is difficult. My dad suffered a great deal before he died a few years ago. We both pause for a moment, acknowledging our shared challenges of care giving. I see that Cara understands by her moist eyes. She says in a low voice, Watch ing a loved one suffer can be an unspeakable experience except among those who have shared such trauma. I say, Working with CASA and at the same time watching my Mom suffer has changed my outlook on life in the past four y ears. Ive learned to find compassion for myself as well as others. I have a different se nse of what is important in life. All around the world, nations are at war, and in our daily lives we hear arguments, disputes, criticisms, and deficit discourse (Gerge n, 2001; Tannen, 1998). The language of possibilities (Friedman, 1993; Gergen, 1994), empowering belief in each other, and positive emotions (Fredrickson, 2003) are what I want now! Cara agrees, Working against domestic violence and traumatic experiences change you in the same way, often altering your perspective on life and bringing social justice to the forefront of our lives. Research Questions, Research Reflections The chocolate layer cake appeals to us both as we cruise the dessert bar. I also try a thin slice of cheesecake, and Cara adds two st rawberries to her plate. When we return
83 to our table, she asks me, So with qualita tive research and narratives, how do you frame your research questions? I have mixed feelings and thoughts about the big RQ--Research Questions--so Im calling them RR, Research Reflections. Im not trying to prove, predict, or control anything. Im trying to communicate how lived experiences hold ambiguous, conflicting meanings for us and within our relationships. Narrative is both a means of coping with contradiction and a way of communicating to ot hers the concrete details associated with the experiencing of contradict ions (Bochner et al., 1998, p. 53). Questions that have guided my reflections and writing are: 1. How do the CASA workers (including myse lf as worker/volunteer) describe or story life experiences in relation to their understa nding of collaboration and empowerment? 2. Does the context of CASA and life expe riences with domestic violence influence the workers framing of empowerment and collaborating? 3. What are some of the challenges and am biguities the CASA advocates perceive in their understanding of empowerment and their daily practices? 4. How do I, as a researcher and collaborat or, understand, practice, and reflect on empowerment in the action research setting, interactive interviews, and writing process? Cara sits up a bit straighter, stops eating, and leans her elbows on the table. I understand your commitment to an invitational ra ther than controlling stance. It fits the feminist nature of your work; however, you do ha ve a point of view. That point of view
84 is that you value narrative as a way of reporti ng data. Maybe your premise is that control is not the appropriate way to research empowerment and collaborative research, particularly in the context of domestic viol ence. Your point of view is in a positive framing, but you definitely have a point of view. I reply slowly, Yes, I acknowledge a point of view in the subjectivity that I embrace. I offer stories of my connecti ons at CASA and hope that readers find connections with their own lives. This issue relates to narrative ways of knowing, as well as narrative writing. Carolyn Ellis wrote a persuasive piece in which she countered the criticism against narrative. She wrote a bout the critical stan ce: This style of communicating differences in perspective on inquiry has rarely, if ever, changed my mind; it certainly has never opened my heart or increased my tolerance. Usually its made me defensive (Ellis, 2002, p. 400). Thats an insightful commentary on the difference between seeking power over someone versus honoring power with or within. Collaborative power or empowerment is an individual and a relational communication inquiry where we are open to differences. Narrative Method and Ways of Knowing We savor our desserts. It is obvious that we are not rushing to the next meeting. Cara signals the waiter for coffee, and I or der decaffeinated herbal tea. She says encouragingly, Tell me a bit more about your methods. You said you have written a draft, so I assume the methods and literatu re chapters are done. Did you do preliminary chapters in your proposal?
85 Im still writing and rewriting various stories and constructing chapters, but the methods and the literature sections will be integrated into the narratives. My formal methods statement is something like this: My dissertation is an example of engaged scholarship based on participatory ac tion research (PAR) accomplished through participant observation and interactive interv iews written as ethnographic narratives, life stories, and autoethnographic stories. Good summary! she applauds. I add, Of course, these methodological approaches are more than techniques; they are feminist ways of framing my research, philosophical ways of knowing, working, a nd learning. Cara smiles broadly. You have internalized your readings and your research. It shows. You model your theories. I am flattered, and I reflect on how much I am enjoying our conversation without any pressure to perform or conform to academ ic conventions. Cara has been a supportive coach. I havent asked much about her work, but she seems to be steering the conversation to my research. Cara says, I understand that narrative is a critical way of knowing, but Im interested in the narrative formatting of your dissertation. Your professor is well known, but not everyone in our field will embrace this format. I want to make a strong statement in my dissertation. I truly believe that narrative communicates most intimately and meaningfully for my work because the principles of participatory action research engaged scholarship, feminist research, friendship, and strengths-based service all come together in the narratives and life stories! I feel almost breat hless as I continue. The narrative captures or conveys
86 conversations, communication and the essence of our perceptions of relationships. Narrative method is an enactment of the genera tive power of the stories we create and the language we use to tell/share our stories. St ories are created in the relational process. Carolyn Ellis and Art Bochner have been my mentors, modeling ri gorous and creative ethnography that is passionate political, personal, critical open-ended, enlightening, pleasurable meaningful and evocative (Bochner & Ellis, 1999, p. 498). I remember their description of a good ethnography: a meeting ground where heart and head can go hand in hand (Bochner & Ellis, 1999, p. 498). I hope my work can fulfill this tall order in some ways. I dont want to get hung up on labels, but I am looking for a succinct, unique description, maybe calling my work a research novel. Have you read Carolyns methodological novel, The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography (Ellis, 2004)? It is a story about teaching qualitative research to a graduate class, so it is a textbook at the same time. Making a note of the title, Cara muses, I might be able to use that in my class, and then looks up. Maybe you could call your dissertation novel research. We both laugh and pause. Cara looks at her watch. Many of the ta bles around us are now empty. Almost time to go to the next session, but Im r eally enjoying the discussion. Hope you dont think Im putting you on the spot! Oh, no. It was good practice for me. At this point, Im totally absorbed in my dissertation. To have someone like you so interested has been a gi ft. I appreciate the time together.
87 Cara smiles at my appreciation. I u nderstand and remember the process. I wonder about the connection to communicati on theory, since you said you are in the Communication Department, right? I have a bit more time before the second afternoon session. Do you? Communication and Empowerment Yes, communication is essential to empo werment, and I definitely position my research and methods in communication th eory. Empowerment is considered a communicative study and I have found many diffe rent approaches (K albfleisch, 2003). Cara asks, Youre focusing on feminist issues and gendered communication, I assume? Yes, thats important. The concept of empowerment can be ambiguous, particularly for women who are seeking new ways of defining power and empowerment. The third wave of feminism has emerged in a time when contradictions, ambiguities, and multiple identities are embraced (Bailey, 1997). Feminist organiza tional scholars reject the oppositional approaches that hinge on either /or thinking. I find it can be so easy to fall into those distinctions. Have you heard of reciprocal empowerment (Darlington & Mulvaney, 2002; Darlington, Mulvaney, with assistance from Awadallah, Leite, & Brill, 2003)? It seems to encompass the feminist am biguities into a more cohesive explanation. The authors incorporate specific attributes into their concept based on their research: selfdetermination, independence, knowledge, choice, action, decision making with competence, compassion, companionship, and consensus, which they propose will create
88 an environment that fosters equality, mutual respect, attention, enga gement, empathy, and responsiveness. Cara makes another note. The term is so full of meaning, interesting. I can send you the citations, I say eager ly. We exchange e-mail addresses. Cara takes a deep breath and smiles, This is not the traditional dissertation format, but I like the organic, storied nature of your dissert ation. What counts is how your committee sees your work, but I think you will pull it together. Rather than writing a separate literature review, you are incorporatin g relevant literature into each chapter, right? I like your word--organic. Ive used research methods like participant observation, focus groups, and interactive in terviewing to collect data, and I choose to report my data in the narrative format. Empower ment is basic to DV, and as a relational communicative concept, it is linked to so many areas of study, like collaboration, compassion (Chdrn, 1994), respect (Lawre nce-Lightfoot, 2000), trust (Kramer & Tyler, 1996), resilience, and st rengths-based social work (Graybeal, 2001). These ideas are interwoven with narratives of empowerment throughout the dissertation to connect the ideas and elaborate on the meanings that people construct for empowerment. In my research I seek to avoid dualisms, embrace bl urred boundaries, and privilege reciprocity. Through the stories of my interactions with CA SA staff, readers will see how I reflect on the tensions of conceptualizing em powerment and living the philosophy.
89 Cara puts her napkin on the table. I l ook forward to reading your dissertation. And Ill get a copy of the CASA booklet at the poster session exhibit. Now I think its time for the next program slot. As we gather our purses and tote bags, I say, Thank you so much for listening, summarizing, and giving me your suggesti ons. Your feedback makes the whole conference worthwhile for me! You know, maybe Ill reconstruct our lunch and use it in the dissertation. Cara seems surprised, then amused. Anot her story within the story to tell. Be sure and send me a copy! She walks out the door toward the main hotel, and I double back to the stairs to find the next session.
90 Chapter Four Mutually Observing the Process Community-based Research Once again, Im trying to find my wa y though a maze of hotel hallways and meeting rooms. Fighting my frustration, I come to a dead-end. I recognize Barbara Paradiso from the earlier discussion group, so I assume the program on Asking the Right Questions: The Colorado Grassroots Action Re search is in the room with no sign. Barbara and one of her colleagues are having some difficulty with the computer and display equipment for the PowerPoint presen tation. Another tall, thin woman with honey-blonde hair, dressed in a tailored, red blouse and black slacks is sifting through piles of different-colored handouts. I put my canvas bag on the seat of a chair by the door and approach the woman. Can you us e some help with the handouts? I ask. She looks up and smiles. We do seem to have lots of different pages. Ill put the DVRAC sheets and the invitation to the r eception on the chairs. Then you can come behind me with the white PowerPoint packet and evaluation form. Walking among the chairs, piling handouts as we go, I introduce myself. She reciprocates. Im Elaine Enarson, from th e University of Colorado, in Womens Studies and Sociology. We continue bending and pili ng from chair to chair. What field are you in?
91 Im in Communication, interpersonal, with some organizational and gender studies, but most of my work is in narrative interpretation. Im studying collaboration and empowerment with DV workers, how we embody the Movements philosophies. Youre focusing on staff? Great! That sounds interesting; maybe well talk later. Thanks for your help! With the task completed, Elaine moves to the front of the room, and I sit down. Barbara Paradiso checks her watch and sits in a chair at the front of the room. Dressed in a full, black skirt and Birkenstocks her presentation style is as comfortable as her attire. She tells us, Its time to start. We have a small group, but more people may come later, and were looking at quality not quantity. Well look at both qualitative and quantitative research this afternoon. The group laughs at the research joke. She introduces the other panelists: Elaine Enar son, whom I met earlier, and Denny Webster from the School of Nursing, who is working with the computer display equipment. Though the presenters didnt use any titles during the introducti on, I notice their advanced degrees listed on the handout. Barbara asks the audience members to introduce themselves. Most of the participants are fr om academic institutions; a few previously had been practitioners, and they all still work with DV organizations in some capacity, as volunteers and researchers. There is an ar ray of interdisciplinar y connections, such as with health care, sociology, social work, e ducation, public policy, and law. As the only person from the communication field, I wonde r briefly how the other participants see communications role in activism.
92 Barbara Paradiso mentions that she was formerly the executive director of a DV organization, but during that time she had no collaboration with the local university because the community and academia functione d in very separate spheres. Now as director of the Program on Domestic Violence at the University of Colorado, Graduate School of Public Affairs, her goal is to bridge these worlds. Barbara begins her PowerPoint presentation, which is similar to the description in the program booklet. In the post-VAWA [Violence Against Women Act] world, research on domestic violence is abundant. The critical questions are: Does the current research respond to advocates needs, or is there a gap between research and the work? Are researchers answering the questions that are important to our communities, our organizations--to survivors of violence? The Domestic Violence Resear ch and Action Coalition [DVRAC] is a group of domestic violence service providers; university students, faculty, and staff; independent researchers; anti-violence act ivists; survivors; and other community members, who have come together to deve lop a community-based and action-oriented research agenda, uniting researchers and practitioners ar ound common goals. Today, well discuss the creation of th e coalition and the structure of our pilot study, its results, lessons learned, and future plans because we believe that community-generated knowledge is a critical component of concrete social change. As Barbara Paradiso talks about DVRAC I wonder if we could do something similar in Florida, maybe at the FCADV (Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence) conference. Possibilities pop in my mind, as I consider collabor ative opportunities for researchers from various academic disciplines to work together with practitioners from
93 different community agencies. How could we formally or informally connect with DVRAC? Would Barbara Paradiso come to Florida and make a presentation? Would there be enough interest in the state? I scribble notes onto my to-do tablet, so that I will remember to discuss this later with Linda. Then worries about details invade my thoughts like termites swarming, because th e amount of time required for starting a new project, along with community-based resear ch and volunteering, could be overwhelming. As the panel continues and Elaine Enars on talks about their research design, she stresses reflexivity, interpretation, an d listening as ways of building trust and collaboration. Their pilot project involved si x counties and a series of six focus groups with a wide range of particip ants, including criminal justic e workers, health providers, victims' advocates, counselors, and survivors. Elaine explains some of the lessons learned during their project and outlines th e DVRAC principles of community-based research, which is community-driven and info rmed, as well as applied; concrete and beneficial to the local community; values the perspectives, insights, and skills of local practitioners/community members in equal pa rtnership with academ icians; recognizes knowledge gained from lived experience; builds collaborations; and informs social change (Paradiso, Enarson, & Webster, 2004). Our work at CASA is aligned with these principles, I think smugly. For a moment, I mentally critique the CASA project as a small local effort compared to the Colorado project. They worked with so many communities and agencies. Then I remind myself to accept the unique value of each project, to value each for its different accomplishments rather than compare them in a competitive sense.
94 Inspired and validated by Elaines presentation, I am reminded of a discussion with Linda last month about my dissertation, social action research, engaged scholarship, empowerment, and subjectivity in research rela tionships. At our first meeting four years ago, Linda expressed intense frustration with researchers. Now she has become much more attuned to a different type of relations hip with researchers, as well as the use of narrative in research. During my time with the CASA staff and Linda, weve all been teachers and learners, sharing our knowledge, perspectives, and assumptions. The terms insiders and outsiders still surface, but the roles continue to blur, so we often grapple with words that inadequately convey the comp lexities. I think back to the evening a few months ago when I visited Lindas home for dinner, and how we explored ideas on participatory action research as we floated in the swimmi ng pool. It was an opportunity to reflect on the past four years of work toge ther and discuss my dissertation as a way to share our successful collaboration. Ideas Floating and Swimming Around A purple front door, I just love it! Its you! I exclaim, as I walk toward Linda and she welcomes me with a warm hug. Smiling, she stands on her porch in her bare feet, wearing a black bathing suit and gray, striped shorts, differe nt from her executivedirector attire at work. My favorite color, Linda replies. And thats my piece of the west, my roots. She gestures toward a huge cactus garden, towering about five feet tall and wide in the front yard. Im so glad you could come fo r a swim because theres just never enough
95 time at the office to really explore ideas. So on a weekend we can relax and catch up on everything. As we enter Lindas small, 1950s bungalow house, I am greeted by the vivid colors and interesting pieces of art, paintings carved figurines, pottery, tapestry, fans, and baskets. Youre a collector, just like I am, I remark. Linda hesitates and explains, I dont thi nk of myself as a collector, but I find mementos when I travel. As Linda leads me back to the porch and the pool, she asks, How did your writing work go today? It isnt easy trying to pull my ideas together. Ive been working on organizing the relevant literature, review ing my field notes, and re-readi ng the transcripts, so I can draft my outline. Ive been listing the stor ies and themes, but most importantly, Im writing stories about experiences that have been meaningful to me. After four years at CASA, my challenge will be what not to include. We laugh. Sometime tonight I want to explore ideas with you on my dissertation and working wi th CASA. I want to float some possibilities by you. Our swimming plans temporarily delayed by a summer shower, we settle into two teal-colored Adirondack chairs on the porch Linda introduces me to her special Orangeade juice made from tart oranges picked in her neighbors yard. As we munch on chips and hot sauce, our conversation jumps from subject to subject: staffing, budgeting, the board meeting, and the upcoming annua l meeting and award ceremony. Drifting from topic to topic, we cover shopping, church exercise, music, and our social lives, as well as news of family, sisters, nieces, and nephews. Forging a very personal bond, we
96 share the stages of grieving for our mothers who died about nine months apart, but we dont dwell there long. When the light rain stops, Linda asks if Im ready for a swim. This pool was my 50 th birthday present to myself, and I designed it, she explains proudly. Terra-cotta bricks surround the pool, with mauve and teal tiles around the edge. A vintage Florida stone table with a colorful mosaic top flanks the pool. Palm trees and ferns flourish around the outside of the screened enclosure like a tropical sanctu ary. Ive been a swimmer since I was a kid. Now its good exer cise, and it relaxes me after the stressful days at work. Pointing to panels along the roof, Linda says, A solar heating system warms the water year-round. Never been much of a swimmer because I sunburn so easily I admit. But I love the sunset at the beach--or by the pool! When I slip off my shift I reveal my bathing suit with shades from bright electric blue to dark green. I feel comfortable, even with pale skin and puckered cellulite on my thighs. As I ease into the warm water, Linda pulls out floating pool chairs. We talk as we effortlessly paddle and float. On the phone, you said you needed to talk, so tell me about your dissertation ideas and where you are now, Linda invites. I feel like its a join t project, but you do all the writing work and I get to talk about it. And you give me feedback after you read the stories, which I really appreciate! Ive decided that my dissertation uses co llaboration in action research and the empowering aspects of participatory action re search. I brought you an article to read later, but youll recogn ize the ideas. Some of the thi ngs you were so emphatic about
97 during our first meeting are basic to participat ory action research, so Im going to use the UCI project as an example in my dissertation. Action research is not just a method or technique, but more a way of framing rese arch, a philosophical way of working and learning (Stringer, 1999). Of course, there are lots of brands or types (Greenwood & Levin, 2000; Lincoln, 2001; Re inharz, 1992; Stringer, 1999). In general, we say AR as shorthand--or PAR (Kemmis & McTaggart 2000). Thats participatory action research, not the substance abuse program! We laugh at the shar ed understanding of acronyms that could have different m eanings in different contexts. I continue, AR is supposed to be dem ocratic, equitable, liberating and life enhancing (Stringer, 1999). Its a form of communicative inquiry, the way researchers and community members work together to co-construct meaning (Greenwood & Levin, 1998). Instead of talking about researchers and subjects or inside rs and outsiders, AR talks about collaboratively working together because everyday knowledge is important-like your knowledge of the kind of research you wanted and needed at CASA. Linda and I float down the length of th e lap pool, sometimes twisting, turning with languorous strokes. The wa ter gently ripples. She replie s, Yes, I like that! That language fits! In many ways, youre an insider now. Recognizing this as a compliment because CASA definitely makes a distinction between insiders and outsiders, Im also aware of the subtleties in this categorization. And youve become more research-oriented, so perhaps youre an academic insider now. We both chuckle, and I continue. The feminists and AR folks definitely challenge the notion of objectivity in favor of reflecting on our subjectivity, including it
98 in our research by observing ourselves, and being aware of the tensions during the process. I think we need to move away from either being an insider or being an outsider and acknowledge that we adopt different roles as needed for the project. Researchers talk about working the hyphen between self and other, that which separates and merges our identities (Fine, 1994; Fine, Weis, Weseen & Wong, 2000). The categories arent so clear now for me or for us because we share common goals. Good point. As an activist, Im us ed to looking at who supports us and understands our cause versus those who we are fighting against, Linda explains. I know what you mean, but AR is about practical knowledge a nd research that can be used to solve problems, make our wo rld a better place to liv e, and support social change in the broadest sense (Fals Borda, 2001; Reason & Bradbury, 2001). In many ways, its like how you process things at CASA. Everyone becomes a co-researcher to define the research questions, design, implemen tation, analysis, and reporting, as well as subsequent actions. People play various ro les, but the participatory worldview is the heart of the approach (Stoecker, 1999). As you talked, I could identify the ways you did that with the CASA project. Linda holds up her hand and counts off her ideas on each finger. At the first meeting, you all really listened to me, and we came up with a direction for the project, something I really wanted, but you helped me to see it. You asked me to be co-principal investigator, which was cool. I didnt know the protocol, but you made it easy fo r me. At the staff meeting, you asked them to give you their id eas for how you could learn. You wrote the stories, but staff really felt a sense of ow nership because you would share drafts of the
99 stories with us and ask for feedback. Its hard to define that sense of openness, but all the little things add up! I wish I had a tablet now to write all th is down, but I dont want to get out of the pool. The ideal is participatory equity, but there are always different roles, skills, and degrees of perceived power. People need to get the chance to participate at the level they can or want to be involved (Gatenby & Humphries, 2000). Linda swirls around and splashes water onto her shoulders. You know, another problem with researchers is they dont st ick around long. You and Deb committed to getting involved on a long-term basis. As I recall, we committed to one year, but it stretched out much longer. Linda smiles as I continue. Time is essential in AR and PAR. A collaborative, reflexive process takes time, and researchers need to develop relationships. You could say that PAR and feminist research are about communi cation and relationship building in order to develop community. Community doesnt fo rm overnight (Ceglowski, 2000; Fonow & Cook, 1991; Gatenby & Humphries, 2000; Linc oln, 2001; Milburn et al., 2002; Naples, 2003; Stanley & Wise, 1991). Just like femi nist research, PAR definitely challenges more traditional forms of research. Linda observes, When you were talking, it sounded like the 60s and 70s to me, so I think I can see where it all comes from. Sliding off her floating chair, she slowly treads water. I imitate the same move, wh ich feels good because I didnt realize how long Id been sitting in the webbed floating chai r. Linda continues, I consider myself a
100 feminist, and thats the impetus for the Battered Womens Movement. But not everyone at CASA wants to be identified as feminist. I nod, Yes, I know what you mean. I remember the 70s, the feminist movement, consciousness-raising groups, the natura l food cooperatives, Free Schools, campus activism. . I was thinking the other day about how even my library work has always included a strong, collaborativ e community element. Thats probably why Im so excited about my research now. My everyday knowledge informs my scholarship and vice versa. But in the feminist research literature, the au thors make a clear point that there is no one, monolithic feminism. They use the plural term, feminisms, stressing that there are many different philosophies and ways of seei ng and being in the world (Block, Engel, Naureckas, & Riordan, 1999; Collins, 1991; DeVault, 1999; Maguire, 2001; Reinharz, 1992; Skeggs, 2001). At the risk of simplifying, I think feminists have a commitment to social justice and fighting oppression to eff ect political, social, structural, and personal transformations (Maguire, 2001). Feminist research is much more than the study of womens lives. I wonder if my last comment sounds so obvious that it is condescending. Maybe thats how Linda feels when she explains domestic violence to me. Building a common information base is part of the relationship in which we learn each others language and culture, the academic and the DV worlds. Look! Linda holds up her hands. Im shriveling a bit from the water. How about you? Cant stay in the pool much longer. Examining my hands, I shrug and respond, Yes, Ive got raisin finge rs, too, but its so relaxing!
101 Linda continues. We can eat dinner anytime--soon. But first, go back to the PAR-feminist controversy you mentioned. Im r eally interested. Some days I still think about getting my doctorate, applying to th e Communication Department myself. We both move to the same side of the pool to hang on the wall and gently kick underwater. Im not sure who is leading or following. Its like we just move together. Her comments about returning to school are a compliment to our research process. She talks very differently about research, now that we introduced collaborative ac tion research in the UCI project. As I kick, I feel my body warming a bit. Ill give you the qu ick version of the feminist research issue that has informed AR with similarities in such areas as the critique of traditional resear ch, the analysis of power relations, social justice concerns, valuing diversity, an emphasis on local know ledge, and silenced voices (Greenwood & Levin, 1998). Feminist research and AR ar e not competing frameworks, but theres some controversy and different perspectives on that. One of the feminist AR trailblazers argues that AR without taking gender oppression into account is absurd because we should consider multiple identities and interloc king oppressions (Maguire, 1987, 2001). Theres agreement on common values between feminists and AR, but much of the AR and PAR work has been conducted without includi ng an analysis of gender (Gatenby & Humphries, 2000). Of course, not all feminist research is AR, either. So the call is for more AR or PAR that is feminist, which sounded great for my di ssertation and a CASA project on empowerment! Sorry I rambled on--it was really helpful for me to try to articulate all the things Ive been reading.
102 Linda stands up in the water and says Honestly, I enjoy this! Floating around the pool is just the right place for playing w ith new ideas. Are you ready for some spicy food? Over dinner, we can talk more a bout your dissertation. You know, I hope your dissertation becomes a book, the CASA book--our book! It would be the sequel to our booklet of stories. Cooking up Feminist Ideas Linda pulls a plush, white terrycloth r obe over her sleek, black bathing suit and hands me a similar, dark-green robe. Wa lking through the sliding glass doors to the kitchen, Linda says, Lets leave the doors open. The weather is finally cooling off, and my pool area is an extension of my living space. Opening the refrigerator to refill our orangeade, she continues, I dont cook much because Im so often at a luncheon or special event. But tonight Ive made beans and spicy chicken with lots of stuffing for a tortilla. Linda starts to chop vegetables. When I offer to help, she says, The kitchen is small. Just sit at the counter, and well talk while I throw this all together. Just let me know what you want me to ca rry to the table, or I can chop, too. She waves me to the counter. Did we finish the feminist research? It all seems to tie together, but not sure I could repeat it. Linda def tly peels and slices avocados, then chops onions and black olives. I just found some new articles with feminist threads on AR, PAR, and collaborative research projects specific to domestic violence organizations. Linda cocks
103 her head and nods as she shreds the cheese. I continue, Well, I had a few articles from when we began the UCI project, and then just yesterday I found six or eight more in a journal called Violence against Women (Block et al., 1999; Campbell, Dienemann, Kub, Wurmser, & Loy, 1999; Gilfus et al., 1999; Lennett & Colten, 1999; Levin, 1999, 2001; Nicholas & Feltey, 2003; Riger, 1999; Shapir o & Rinaldi, 2001; Urban & Bennett, 1999). Not much has been written on the research of the collaborative process and domestic violence, so these articles are a grea t start, but theyre not narratives. I think I used to subscribe to that journal, but it was a bit too academic for my needs. If you think those articles would be helpful, I could read a few--not 10--a few. And you can tell me about the others. Looking toward the ceiling, I try to remember the articl es. Many of the authors reiterate the feminist research and PAR ideas. Each is partly theo retical and also very much an exemplar. The main point is the collaborative process, which the authors approach reflexively. Several talk about what didnt work--at least as planned--like the collaboration with the welfare-to-work progr am and welfare workers (Levin, 2001). One study is a workplace project that the empl oyers, employees, and advocates feel was successful and meaningful; however, the res earchers express some frustrations with unforeseen events and differing goals and values among partners. They also discuss ways to be sure that communication flows in al l directions, finding effective ways to hear many voices in collaboration (Urban & Bennett, 1999). Another article is about feminists who interview survivors and the need to be open to multiple truths and perspectives, valuing the unique insights of survivors (Nicho las & Feltey, 2003). That was a hot one!
104 A timer bell dings. Speaking of hot ones, check to see if th e tortillas are hot enough, OK? Linda gestures with her spatul a, as she turns chicken in the skillet. I add a few minutes to the timer. Other collaboration articles, even on program evaluation, are very grounded in feminist rese arch issues, including tr ust, control, power, duration of time, different organizational cu ltures of university and domestic violence organizations, emotional aspects of domestic violence work, theory versus social action, terminology, changing expectations during the process, valuing lived experience, and all the multiple layers of collaborative project s (Campbell et al., 1999; Gilfus et al., 1999; Lennett & Colten, 1999; Levin, 1999; Riger, 1999 ; Shapiro & Rinaldi, 2001). Two major issues are the attention to group process and the blurring of ro les or spanning of boundaries, with the evolution from partneri ng to collaboration when roles blur and the work becomes more inclusive and multidimensional (Block et al., 1999). Linda affirms, In the past four years, weve addressed the major issues youve mentioned. Sometimes collaboration is so mu ch harder than people realize--or they find out when they try shortcuts. I need to be more patient with the process than I am. Look what happened with our projects! Linda pauses briefly and then says, OK, lets eat. Floating and treading water gave me an appetite! Linda hands me earthenware plates, silverware, and magenta-print napkins to set on the glass-top table in the corner of the porch near the kitchen.
105 Dissertation Dinner Darkness surrounds the porch, and only dim lights shimmer around the pool. The overhead fan lights our dinner table. The ne ighborhood is quiet, a nd the air feels like a soft, summer caress. We layer our tortillas with vegetables, beans, and chicken. This is delicious! I exclaim, as I finish chewing my first bite. Im famished from the swim, relaxed, and energized all at the same time. Thanks for letting me talk so much about my dissertation. Linda replies, I enjoy exchanging ideas and adding my thoughts. Like you said, we are in the process of bl urring our boundaries, as I learn more about research and you learn about domestic violence. I swallow and say, Let me try out a nother idea. All th e reading Ive done on engaged scholarship, AR, PAR, and feminist research pointed me in the direction of collaboration and empowerment. By resisting the idea of finding a problem, criticizing, and tearing down, I want to demonstrate the distinction between separate knowing (critical, adversarial) versus connected knowing (looking for the right) and collaborative knowing (Clinchy, 1996). As weve discussed, Im not positioning myself as a critical, outside expert. Linda interjects, Of course, you can be cri tical as insider or outsider! We both laugh. Right about that! I conti nue, You might be interested in something else based on affirmation rather than critical methods. Its called Appreciative Inquiry (AI), which starts by posing the unconditional positiv e question. Recently, I found material
106 connecting AI with AR, which is an exci ting combination (Cooperrider, Sorenson Jr., Whitney, & Yaeger, 2000) that builds on theo ries about vocabular ies of possibilities instead of a language of deficits. For inst ance, you dont ask, Why is morale low? but rather, What would it be like if people felt great about their jobs? You see what I mean? I look at Linda. You define yourself by what you talk about. Thats very much in tune with how we work and the practice of empowerment. Linda nods. I like it! In our communication classes, we ta lk about expanding the conversation and providing space for marginalized voices. The AI and AR combination is based on the ideas of one of my favorite th eorists, Kenneth Gergen, who identified five consequences of the critical stance, which he believes: (a) contains the conversation, (b) silences marginal voices and fragments relationships (c) erodes community, (d) creates social hierarchy, and (e) contributes to broad cu ltural, organizational enfeeblement (Ludema, Cooperrider, & Barrett, 2001, p. 190-191). Thes e five are my mental outline. In my dissertation, I want to engage in work with a collaborative, appreciative spirit that expands the conversation, provides space for ma ny voices, builds a web of inclusion, and encourages communities of learning. Linda takes another tortilla from the bask et lined with a purple napkin. Those all definitely resonate with the Battered Wome ns Movement, but with CASA staff, Im concerned about how we maintain our philos ophy on a day-to-day ba sis, especially as CASA grows. Staff recruitment and turnover ha ve been an issue. CASA operates on an empowerment model, not a clinical model, so that means we promote acceptance,
107 validation, interdependence, support, voice, a dvocacy, risk-taking, incremental steps, and conflict resolution (Parsons, 2001, p. 167-169). Some staff members want to help; they care, but they want to fix the women and families we serve. Without realizing it, they are buying into the concept of DV as an individual pathology, even victim blaming, rather than dealing with structures in society. We all bring individual frames to the work, based on our experiences. With this work, empowe rment is critical becau se its an issue of control, maybe even re-victimizing women who have been controlled by an abuser. We want to create an environment where women can learn that they are capable of solving their own problems, managing their own lives. I reply, Linda, you know Im willing to work with CASA in whatever way you need me. Maybe after my dissertation is finished, we can plan some staff retreats or brown-bag lunches to talk about these issues. Talk can be very powerful! Gergen says that as we describe and explai n, so do we fashion our future . and he also says that there is an unlimited number of descriptions or interpretations for every situation (2000). That idea is similar to the multiple interpre tations associated with feminist theories (Stanley & Wise, 1991). I remember when you addressed a question at CASA's volunteer training about self -esteem, and you described the women as courageous. That made a real impact on me, an example of language and perception. You turned the issue upside down--and reframed it in an incredibly empowering way! Taking a second helping of the spicy chicke n filling, I continue, I was drawn to CASA when I heard you talk about empowerme nt as a core value in your work. I thought about how I understand empowerment pe rsonally in my teaching and living. The
108 managers in my leadership sessions struggl e with the difference be tween the idea and the implementation--just like CASA staff. Linda elaborates on that point. Language is so important, just like the stories we tell. I was skeptical, but also hopeful when we first met and talked about a booklet of CASA stories. Now the staff really enjoys talking to you and having you write for them because they trust you. I trust you. She pauses to roll another tortilla and then asks, So your dissertation will be more stories, right? The emphasis on trust touches me, and I repl y, The dissertation will focus on the UCI booklet of stories, which was the catalys t for our relationships. You shared the stories as a way to help me understand DV and the daily practices of CASA. At the same time, people found new understandings themselv es. Its based on consciousness raising, co-creating a sense of reality through conversations and relationships, and collective dialogue as a way to re-con ceptualize ideas (Baldwin, 2001; Barrett, 2001; Naples, 2003; Reason & Bradbury, 2001). This is the right time for CASA to focus on our philosophy, really focus on it. In the Movement, there are many discussions of our founding values and what that means to current services, so your dissert ation will be timely. Weve se en lots of changes, from the grassroots movement to established, regulated service organizations with multiple funding sources. Personally, the idea of reflecting on empowerment has been thoughtprovoking for me since our earliest discussions. I know that I want to be empowering, but maybe I do or say things that staff member s dont see as empowering. I try to send the message that it is OK to make mistakes and learn. I try to model that with my
109 managers, but theres never enough time to coach the new ones. Weve talked about this before, and this year I have arranged works hops for my managers on supervision, human resources stuff. They love it! I forget that some have been managers for only a short time with little training. They tell me the workshop discussions have led to several new ideas for staff orientation and a completely new team approach to covering the night schedule. When I visited the Shelter, they mentioned those workshops several times. Sounds like just what they needed and wanted Empowerment can be such a struggle to understand and live. Im st ruggling with how to write stories that will show empowerment within our collaboration. Linda pauses. I want CASA to be seen as excellent. Weve come a long way in 10 years, but when I go out to get funding from other agencies, donors, grants, etc., CASAs credibility rests on our reputation for excellence. We take our last bites of the meal. L et me pose this to you: The staff may interpret your emphasis on organizational ex cellence differently than you do. Maybe your emphasis on excellence makes it harder for staff to take risks. I hear you talking about the organization. What if you talked a bout helping staff members grow and learn? Youve told me that the work is emotionally very demanding, which is another factor to consider. We have so many different funders a nd requirements, evaluations, and so on from each one. Our new, centralized client database should significantly improve our statistical reportage. Everyone is excited, but a bit resistant or worried at the same time.
110 Ive been to the Shelter near audit time, so I sort of know what you face. Youd still be moving toward becoming an excelle nt organization, but from a different perspective, maybe a more empowering one. Y ou can keep telling people what to do, or you can let them learn from both risks and mistakes. I hear you, but its hard. Linda sta nds and announces: Now its time for ice cream, if you have room. After we work toge ther to clear the table and stack dishes in the kitchen, Linda reaches into the open sh elves over the sink and pulls out two small, black bowls with shiny and matte designs. When I admire the distinct designs on each bowl, she tells me they are from her trip to Japan. As we savor our vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup, Linda asks, So how does a ll your reading and wr iting and thinking become a dissertation? Lots of hard work, lots of thinking. I need to create spaces to reflect on all the interviews and notes I have accumulated. And lots of flexibility, which is also the key to PAR because all of us--researchers, CASA staf f, and co-researchers--shape the project as we collaborate, modeling the practices that we discuss. Ill just keep writing and getting feedback from CASA, and from my professo rs, of course. Writing is a method of inquiry, so Ill learn what I thi nk as I write (Richardson, 2000). Sounds like you have a great start. Do you want more chocolate syrup? I do! Linda jumps up to grab the bottle from th e counter, and we devour our dessert. Our conversation winds down. I glance at my watch and see that its much later than I thought. It has been a comfortable visit, even t hough its the first time Ive been to Lindas home. Linda
111 dismisses my offer to help clean up and gives me directions back to Tampa. As Im easing my way out of the subdivision, I concentr ate on the directions, so I wont get lost. Once Im cruising along the interstate, I have an idea--the last one of the night. I can hardly wait to e-mail Linda. Messages of Friendship From: Elizabeth Curry To: Linda Osmundson Subject: Thanks--ideas Monday September 15, 2003 Linda, Thanks for the swim and dinner. It was such a relaxing time. The warm water and the warmth of your friendship were both great! Thanks for listening and connecting ideas. You inspired me! I' m writing a narrative-a story of our conversation about action research and ideas for the dissertation. I still have lots of work to do, but I'm energized now! From: Linda Osmundson To: 'Elizabeth Curry' Subject: RE: Thanks--ideas Elizabeth!
112 You are amazing. I had a lovely eveni ng and I am so glad you could come. I really enjoy our friendship. I love talk ing with you! You help me to think through issues and explore how to make thin gs better, too. After the dissertation is done I want to work together on f acilitating staff workshops related to Appreciative Inquiry and empowerment. From: Elizabeth Curry To: Linda Osmundson Subject: swimming story Monday, September 22, 2003 8:58 p.m. I finished our swimming narra tive. I even inserted our follow-up e-mail in the text. I took a little l iterary license, since I didnt tape record the whole evening ;-) but I think its basically wh at we talked about. And it demonstrates that action research is about a research relationship. I also just found an article on friendship as a method of research (Tillmann-Healy, 2003). There are examples of social action research projects that I think de finitely fit our CASA UCI project. The author was one of Carolyn's and Arts students who wrote a book about being a Midwest conservative woman who ended up close friends with members of a gay softball team when her husband was invited to participate. Shes an activist and professor now. Anyway, th e first draft of the swimming story is attached. As always, I'm interested in your reactions, revisions etc.
113 From: Linda Osmundson To: 'Elizabeth Curry' Subject: RE: swimming story Friday, October 03, 2003 1:52 a.m. Elizabeth: I finally finished your story and I love it. I think this process is very interesting, and I am delighted to partic ipate. Makes me feel impor tant. It is so different from most academic work, which is so de nse and virtually unreadable for anyone but another academic. This just flows a nd is almost lyrical. Of course, it is intrinsically interesting to read about oneself. I loved how you wove our dinner into your thinking about the research. One issue I think is important is that there is often not an acknowledgement that the ve ry fact of a researcher being in our environment will change the environment. While there was a po ssibility that the environment could have gotten worse with the UCI project, I think your approach made a very positive difference. Empowerment and collaboration do seem lik e very basic themes, but theres a lot involved. Empowerment is a concept th at even some staff members probably don't fully grasp, and I am hopeful that th ey will begin to und erstand the concept better. I think there is the inherent tens ion of needing to produce certain products or results that produc e statistics for our funders vs. the process of letting staff members grow and even make mistakes. Another tension that is probably
114 inherent in our work particularly is that we are dealing in an environment that could be high risk. Some mistakes we ca nnot afford to make that would result in injury to a woman from a batterer or even injury to women and children caused by another woman or child in the shelte r. After all, we don't know the people who walk in our door, and they could be potentially dangerous, as well as in danger. Thanks for coming into our CASA lives! From: Elizabeth Curry To: Linda Osmundson Subject: RE: swimming story Thanks for your feedback. Your point a bout changing the environment is great. We use the term recursive, meaning that as someone changes the environment, they are changed by the environment as well . reciprocal change. I just found an article on reciprocal empowerment a nd women that seems to be directed at us (Darlington & Mulvaney, 2002; Darlington et al., 2003). Ill share more about this with you the next time we meet! NCADV Empowering Conversations At the NCADV program sitting on the straight back chairs of the hotel meeting room, I fidget and think back to my convers ation and visit with Linda. Was I conducting a research interview with Linda, the executive director of CASA or having dinner with a friend? Maybe Linda was interviewing me because she is interested in how my
115 dissertation will represent CASA. I decide th at our time together was a highly interactive interview where the roles merged, and it didnt matter who is interviewing whom. We shared the power and the control in an empo wering relationship as part of a collaborative project. After the panelists finish the presentation on the grassroots project of Colorado and DVRAC, a discussion on getting feedback from participants ensued during the question-and-answer period. Several examples showed that people found it easier to discuss their reactions than to submit written feedback about the findings. This also has been the case at CASA, where staff members en joy the discussion, but only a few want to write comments on the pages I give them. The dialogue seems to bring out more ideas. I find the verbal exchanges to be richer. The interaction seems to spawn new ideas as people build on each others thoughts. People from the group linge r after the program to discuss community-based research, and I feel a sense of community with this group. Soon its time for me to meet Linda at the exhibit hall to decorate the pos ter about the UCI projec t and CASA booklets. As I leave, Barbara Paradiso waves to me and says, Well see you at the reception tonight!
116 Chapter Five Poetic Activism: Many Faces, Many Voices Sharing the CASA B ooklet of Stories The exhibit hall, or what NCADV calls the Vendor Marketplace, is quiet when Linda and I meet at the table designated for the display of the CASA UCI project. Linda asks brightly, How was your day? I sa w you at lunch, and it seemed like you were having a serious conversation. I di dnt recognize the woman with you. Replying with enthusiasm, I answer, I met Dr. Cara French at the discussion group on researcher relationships. Then sh e asked me about my dissertation, and I droned on for a couple of hours. Thinking out loud, talking through ideas helps me to organize my writing, so it was a wonderful opportunity. She actually seemed to be very interested. Barbara Paradisos session on community-based research was about action research, like we have discussed with UCI. You were right--she has an exceptional program! Later, maybe we could explore some ideas for how the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence could hold a state conference like this one with researchers and practitioners. Ideas tumble out in a rush of excitement. Linda thinks a few seconds, Maybe. We could see what the Board thinks. Not sure who has time to pull it together this year, but it makes sense. Lots of work, thats for sure, I say, but it could be the impetus for more research partnerships. We can put it on the list for next year or even the year after that.
117 The sessions I attended here today were defini tely relevant to my research and CASAs interests, especially research relationships and collaboration! I didnt meet anyone with a focus specifically on staff or life stories, but maybe tonight well meet someone at the reception. If not, that just means that Im researching something that needs to be done! How was your day? I ask. Linda replies, I saw some old friends a nd had one of those great conversations in the hallway that energizes me. I was telli ng someone about the Open Spaces experiment you did at the state conference (Owen, 1997). 8 I explained it as an organized way to have informal conversations. We both chuckle at the idea of organized informality. Linda hands me a business card. Could you send her some information? Open Spaces was a success because it pr ovided space and time for people to connect on common interests in their own way. I saw a couple of people with experience helping newcomers, as well as some animated exchanges among the seasoned veterans. Of course, I think lots of folks just liked meeting by the pool and in alternative spaces other than conference rooms or ballrooms. You know I vote for the poolside conversations! Linda re plies as she stuffs her tote bag behind the table and pulls boxes from underneath it. Here are more copies of the CASA booklet, our new poster, newsletters, and brochures. Hope we have lots of people at the reception tonight because I really cant carry any back home! 8 Developed 15 years ago, Open Space is a con cept and technique that has been developed for meetings, events, and organizations, in which participants create and manage their own agendas of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strate gic importance. For further information, see www.openspaceworld.org.
118 I brought some sheets with our project title, both partners and our goals, and a few illustrations from the booklet. What do you think? We could put these on the display board. I brought double-sided tape and a small stapler, too, I say, as I pull a file folder and baggie from my bag. You are organized! Linda says, and we decorate the three panels of the foamcore exhibit board. The sign reads, M any Faces, Many Voices Working Against Domestic Violence: The CASA Story of Storie s. The other table displays are modeled on academic poster sessions; they are more form al and sophisticated than I anticipated. I had expected a public relations, show-and-tell showcase. Wishing we had done more, but recognizing that Linda and I were both too busy, I accept our limitations. Reframing my dissatisfaction, I decide the si gns I brought will enhance the visual appeal and highlight the booklets. Our exhibit is the only one with such a comprehensive booklet to distribute. The booklet contains the information we are trying to communicate. It is our research! Many of the displays have professional -looking graphics and summaries for their handouts. I wonder if Im worried that narr atives arent as good as other types of research, but I remind myself that this confer ence values qualitative research. Within seconds, I have framed and then reframed my outlook. Linda suggests, We can have appetizers a nd fruit at the recep tion; then see how we feel about dinner. We dont need to be at the exhibit all the time. We can take turns circulating, be flexible, OK? I agree, Sure, lets go to the bu ffet before it gets too crowded.
119 The Marketplace quickly fills with peopl e, energy, and conversations. Our display is by the front door and the food tabl e, so the area is pack ed. Already, many of the booklets we had on display are gone. Linda moves around the area chatting. She seems to know everyone. Standing by the poster e xhibit is my way to meet new people at the reception. A woman with long braids and a quilted ve st approaches the display and says, I already took one of your booklets, and Id like to get several copies for my coworkers. Your project was grant-funded, right? I hand her three more copies of the booklet Yes, the University of South Florida awarded us a modest grant to stimulate a co llaborative project. We studied people who work against domestic violence, both staff and volunteers, by becoming part of the organization and developing relationships. The booklet is one of our products from that grant. We want to use stories to help peopl e understand domestic vi olence a little better. Thats a fairly unique approach. The focus on staff I mean, not the stories. Stories have been so important to the Ba ttered Womens Movement. Many of us are survivors with personal stories to tell. We have our own Speak-outs at conferences, but I havent seen many storie s written about staff. I answer, We decided that the first section of the bookl et should be from staff members who had experienced abuse and survived. Its a testament to the grassroots nature of the movement. Other sections of the booklet include stories about working at the Shelter, outreach services, and yout h advocacy. Ive read one book about the Hubbard House in Jacksonville, Florida that focuses on the history of that organization
120 and how services evolved (Warren, 1998). There are books about victims and survivors that sometimes give me insight into the wo rk (Goetting, 1999; Lawless, 2001). Reading memoirs, life stories, and fiction also can help people understand abuse. A good book of short stories is Women in the Trees (Koppelman, 1996). Have you read I Closed My Eyes (Weldon, 1999) or The Warmest December (McFadden, 2001)? She takes out a tablet and writes down several titles. She thanks me again for the CASA booklets, as she moves down the aisle. A very tall, attractive, African-American ma n with a bald head, wearing a suit like it was meant for him, comes to the table. Hi, Im Tony Porter, he says as we shake hands. I introduce myself and offer him a c opy of the booklet with a brief explanation. Im regressing to my days as a marketing manager and exhibit coordinator. As Tony flips through the booklet, he stop s at the portrait of a man. When I notice, I say, The illustrations in the booklet were done by one of CASAs staff members. He also shares his life story in the booklet. The man nods and says in a rich, deep voice, A story is such a good teaching tool, a powerful way to get people to dig deep into their beliefs and question their assumptions. When I tell my story, I see men in the audience who have been there, too. Suddenly, I remember his voice. You were at the Coalition conference in Florida. I heard you speak about the responsib ilities of well-meani ng men and the role of men in the Movement, and I bought your CD. I hope I get to atte nd your session here, too.
121 He looks at me, smiles, and says, I hope to see you there. Ive brought some new video footage of mens groups Ive been doing. Linda comes over and greets us. She and Tony exchange hugs and begin to chat I excuse myself to circulate among the other exhibits. I stop at several poster exhibits. Ending Domestic Violence in the South Asian Community describes participatory resear ch, an empowering process linking personal experience to the politics of family violence. Sheltering the GLBT Community from Intimate Partner Violence brings together experiences of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered victims. Spirituality for Survivors Coping with Partner Abuse is a qualitative analysis with implications for in tegrating spirituality into service delivery. The Study of Children Who Experien ced Domestic Violence Homicide informs public policy and creates training for mental health workers. As I wander through the posters, I am struck by the diversity of the research on domestic violence and the many potential connections to the communication field. The ethical issues in the study about children and homicide disturb me, however. A flier at the poster for The Study of Children Who Experienced Domestic Violence Homicide and a quarter-page announcement in the conference program offer victims $150 for two taped interviews. At fi rst glance, I am deeply offended that the researchers are buying the stories, perhaps ex ploiting the victims. I cant believe that NCADV allowed this! As I consider the issue from different angles, I see more of the gray areas and remember conversations with Linda. Researchers gain tenure and professional advancement from their work with interviews, so it might be more equitable for the participants to also gain something. This method of recruitment also allows
122 victims to make contact in a safe, s upportive environment like NCADV. I buy pizza lunches at CASA when I conduct interactive focus groups, ostensibly to express my appreciation for their time and create a rela xed atmosphere conducive to conversation. Initially, there seemed to be a difference between paying $150 and buying pizza, but Im not sure the difference is significant. Regard less of university or or ganizational rules that stipulate nominal amounts of compensation, th e most important consideration is how we honor and respect the stories we hear. Wandering to the cash bar for cranberry juice with lime, and then piling a small plate with cheese and crackers, I walk a few st eps back to the CASA exhibit. A heavyset woman wearing glasses with dark-purple frames approaches. She shakes her head when I offer her a booklet. Thanks, but I took one earlier. I teach sociology and a class on family violence. I want to hear about your method of researching staff and collecting stories, using first-person narratives. Shes not wearing a nametag and her manner seems abrupt, almost confrontational. I feel like Im back in class and search my thoughts for an answer, I think that the stories we tell shape our reality. DV advocates and activists engage in poetic activism as they advocate for victims in courts, community presentations, and even with the victims themselves. My research is also a form of poetic activism, writing stories as a way of shaping the perceptions about working against domestic violence. Poetic activism falls under generative theory, which focuse s on the power of language to create alternatives, open possibilities, and offer diffe rent ways of percei ving and understanding the world (Gergen, 1994, 2000, 2001). In gene rative theory, action and discourse are
123 integrally linked. Talk is how we can most effectively create change (McNamee & Gergen, 1999, p. 169). We use discourse as a way of relating and creating meanings that guide our actions. The professor with the glasses replies, I agree that language can be powerful, even the words domestic violence, instead of the words battered women, wife abuse, spouse abuse, abused woman. Now, Im trying to change my language to say woman who has experienced abuse because that means the woman is more than just her abuse. Words count. We have long struggled to redefine the meanings that are produced, maintained, and often reproduced within tr aditional organizationa l structures. Our concern for communication empowerment star ts by looking at how women are silenced (Luthra, 2003). The feminist ways of knowi ng feature stories and giving voice to those stories. Our conversation seems to be finding co mmon ground, and her tone is warmer. I continue, Poetic activism moves us from defi cit discourse to a language of possibilities and empowerment. One example of poetic act ivism is the strength-based approach to social services, which is relevant to my res earch. Im not sure how shell react to the strength-based concept, which some activists tell me is still clinical. The DV workers strongly resist any language that represents victims as people who are sick and need treatment. In a sense this blames the victim I keep talking. Some social workers see clients as people with deficits, so the wo rkers responded by assuming paternalistic roles as benefactors, liberators, or expert heal ers. With the empowerment model, social workers relate to clients strengths by res ponding as nurturers of se lf esteem, facilitators,
124 and mobilizers (Blundo, 2001; Graybeal, 2001; Si mon, 1994). The move from deficits and a critical stance to a st rengths-based view is the essence of empowerment. She comments, The movement has always centered on strengths and empowerment, but now there are new mean ings being used. Social workers are developing a system out of the strengths perspective, but sometimes it still seems almost clinical (Blundo, 2001; Cohen, 1999; Cox, 2001; Graybeal, 2001; Malekoff, 2001; O'Brien, 2001; Washington & Moxley, 2001; Werner-Wilson, Zimmerman, & Whalen, 2000). Even the word client bothers me. But I can see that you use narratives as activism. One of our goals, I say, was to produce a tool that could be used for social change, a booklet of stories. In the process, we also found that the act of sharing stories made a difference to the staff. The booklet ca n be a training tool for different audiences. I might be able to use it with my class, she responds with the first hint of a smile. Ill think about that as I read th e stories. Tell me a little bit about how you developed them. We spent several years observing, in terviewing, and volunteering before we completed the booklet. Youll see that I focu sed on paid staff and my colleague focused on volunteers. I have over a hundred hours of tapes and many notebooks of transcripts. From those experiences I create d the stories. Its a way of reporting the data. Some stories are life stories of indi vidual staff. Some are vigne ttes linked together. Some are stories of one night; others span many years. One story in the booklet, Small Talk with a Big Voice, is a composite from focus groups and interviews.
125 Well, I have the booklet, but I havent re ad the stories yet. Im assuming I can make copies for my class, but I notice th e copyright for each story, she says in a questioning, almost challenging voice. I am momentarily surprised again by her a ssertiveness, and I feel defensive about responding. Feel free to use the stories for your class, but pl ease cite us. We copyrighted the stories to protect the intellectual property, bu t we want people to use the stories, especially in an edu cational setting. I think about how we tried to talk about copyright during our planning meetings. Most people didnt seem to care at that point, but I remember one person who didnt. She was concerned about copyrighting the stories of the workers. I was worried that I might not be able to use what I wrote in the booklet for my dissertation. Now I wonder how I coul d have presumed to copyright stories that others shared with me, even if I did the cr eative work to interpret their experiences and compose those experiences into stories. Whose stories are those in the booklet? Thankfully, the woman with the glas ses doesnt pursue the topic. As she moves to the next exhibit, I th ink back to how the CASA staff responded to the first composite story I wrote and shared with them, Small Talk with a Big Voice After several focus groups, informal observati ons, and individual interactive interviews, I had so much information that I decided to fictionalize the framework of a story to incorporate various examples. My goal was to see how the CASA staff reacted to my interpretation of their work and introduce them to a social science method of storytelling that blends art and science (Banks & Banks, 1998).
126 Composite of Experiences The pizza boxes are lined up on the counter. Weve separated the meat-lovers' special from the veggie-lovers' specials and the plain extra-cheese pizzas, all of which serve as a metaphor for the CASA staffs dive rsity. As we settle into eating our lunch, Clarissa says, Lets thank Elizabeth for the pizza. People clap and mumble their thanks with their mouths full of pizza. She came t oday to get our reactions to the story about being an advocate, Small Talk with a Big Voice so Ill turn our lunch meeting over to her. Im not going to talk too much because I came to listen, I begin. Thanks for sharing your experiences and opinions that have taught me a lot in the past months. A couple of you told me, This work changes you. You start to s ee DV everywhere, and you wonder why you didnt before. Now I unde rstand that its almost like being in a club that is a secret unless you are a me mber and you understand without judging or blaming. People tell me intimate details of their lives and abuse once they know Im associated with CASA. The first time we me t, I told you about the disclosures from two of my old friends. Since that time, my cla ssmates have told me about their daughters and sisters and aunts. I sip my green tea a nd continue, My plumber asked me what he could do to help his neighbor. Almost all of my mothers caregivers have revealed previous experiences with abusive relationships Yesterday morning, I got a call from the Healthcare service saying that Moms regular daytime caregiver, Fran, was sick. Not long after that, Fran called to tell me that she was at th e hospital with her pregnant
127 daughter, who had been the victim of abuse. Fran was ashamed to tell her boss, but she said she knew that I would understand. I remi nded her that CASA could help, but I dont know if shell call. Silence permeates the room, and I pause before continuing. Now I realize more than ever before th at domestic violence is pervasive and the CASA booklet of stories could be an important agent of change. I sent you a copy of story I wrote. Everyone received a copy, right Clarissa? I inquire, and she nods. Several people have a copy of the story with them, but others look nervous, like they havent done their homework. I suggest, W ould you like me to read the story to you while you eat lunch? Then you could give me your feedback. The group agrees. Anyone else want to help read? I ask. Their silence clearly indicates that they want me to present the story to them. A Composite Story: Small Talk with a Big Voice Maggie is driving her 10-year -old, silver-blue Honda Civic along the interstate. Shes on her way to the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Sun-Fest Community Center and a photo exhibit, Focusing the Lens: Portraits of Our Community Heritage. Her mind wanders as she weaves in and out of traffic. What a day! I am so drained! she thinks. Where am I going to get the energy to press the flesh tonight? Well, the photos could be interesting, and I might meet some potential donors there. Maggie sighs, and then remembers her stress-reduction breathing. Why did I get into that awful discussion with Kathy this afte rnoon? Me and my big voice! People tell me I have a big voice, and thats not necessarily a compliment.
128 Not everyone likes it. I need to have a big voice in the type of work I do. People dont always want to hear it, but the message is important. I give voice to the women who otherwise dont get heard. Maggie stops at a light and thinks, Oh, th at conference this morning was intense. There we were, talking about careers and leadership roles for women, but abuse is still an issue. An engineer and a marketing manager were on one side of me, and an accountant was on the other side. While the marketing manager was presenting her segment of the panel discussion, the accountant was whispering in my ear about how she finally left her abuser. It was in front of an audience of 200 people, and shes whispering in my ear. I tried to pay attention to what was going on, and I was thinking about my speech. The womans story of abuse was a powerful one. I wanted to listen to it, but perhaps this wasnt the best setting, in front of so many people. Of course, those stories dont happen in perfect settings. It was weird that she felt it was okay to tell it to me in the middle of this panel of presentations, where were talk ing about how we got our jobs or how we got into the leadership roles. She was sitting there telling me how her boyfriend broke two ribs when he punched and kicked her. Sh e knew Id listen and understand, and wouldnt judge her. Maggie pulls into the parking lot. Ahh, here we are, the Sun-Fest Community Center. Lets see if I can find a parking space. Here we go. Not too far, the short walk and the early evening air might clear my h ead a bit. Maggie flips down the visor, applies light lipstick, and fluffs her short, dark, naturally styled hair. She rummages in her purse. Yes, Ive got my invitation, good.
129 Stepping into the entranceway, she hands her invitation to the greeter, who gestures down the hallway tiled in burgundy, teal, and gray designs. A statuesque woman in an expensive-looking navy busine ss suit greets Maggie. She extends her hand and pulls back her lips in a practiced sm ile, Welcome. Im Janet Fenworth with TopKnot. She is one of the lead sponsors, Maggie remembers from the invitation. Im Maggie Pace, nice to meet you. Your company has certainly demonstrated a commitment to community building with this project. Yes, we are very pleased with the center and our opening exhibit, Janet replies. I was the coordinator for the project. A nd who are you with? She leans forward to look at Maggies nametag. Her eyes have the vacant look of someone trying to recall a name. I work at CASA, a domestic violence organization. Oh. She pauses. That s interesting. Janets re sponse is perfunctory. So you have a shelter for women who dont have anywhere to go? The shelter serves any woman who needs a safe, conf idential residence. They can escape the immediate abuse and develop their safety plan. Its also open to men, but the majority of reported abuse and our residents are female. Oh, I see. Janet nods several times but doesnt pursue the conversation. Maggie elaborates, The shelter is only one of our programs. CASA's mission is to advocate for social change by providing co mmunity education, outr each support, crisis intervention, and safe environments for su rvivors of domestic violence and their
130 children. Maggie recites the message easily and with fervor. Her instinct tells her that Janet is not interested, but Maggie is an optim ist. Any organization could be a potential donor. Janet scans the crowd and smiles. Well, be sure and enjoy the photos and the refreshments. I must greet some new arrivals. Maggie walks toward the crowded room and clusters of people talking and munching. I dont see very many familiar faces, she thinks. Ill get a cup of punch, so I can clutch it as I mingle. Maggie wanders toward a table elaborately draped in metallic-gold cloth with a large ice sculpture of a Sun, surrounded by fruit, cheese, dips, and vegetables. Two women are standing near the table, discu ssing the photographs. As Maggie approaches, they look up and smile. After exchanging comments on the spicy dip, they introduce themselves. Jennifer is dressed in black w ith heavy silver jewelry. She has a trendy outfit and a serious demeanor. Ann Marie is dressed in a brightly colored jumper accented by flowing scarves. Jennifer dabs her mouth with a cocktail napkin and says, We both work for the Open Technologies Group; we just moved the offices to this area. Where do you work? Im an advocate for people who are abused by an intimate partner. I work at the CASA shelter. Jennifer looks concerned. That must be very depressing work. Isnt it? Actually, this is probably the most exciti ng work that Ive ever done in my life. I watch people make fantastic changes in a very short period of time. They take incredible
131 risks. You watch light bulbs go off every day. We help them by acknowledging the impact on them and their children, by shari ng information on how they can be safe. We show them that theyre not alone. Generally, they just need to hear from somebody who believes in them. Its about empoweri ng women. Maggie is impassioned about empowerment. Before Maggie can ask about Open Technologies, Jennifer immediately responds, But really, doesnt it get to you on some days ? Maggie hesitates, sips her cold fruit punch, and continues in a calm voice, Well, yes, Ive been moved to tears by the brutality Ive seen. Ive cursed the court system that puts the abuser back on the street 24 hours after he breaks his wifes arm, or that takes children away from the mother because shes been abused. Jennifer sighs, How do you cope with it all? In the end, I guess I get my energy from knowing we can make a difference for individual women and our society. This wo rk changes you, changes your life. Its not just a job for me. Maggie sips her cold fruit punch and takes a breath. Ann Marie is twisting the end of her fu chsia and purple scarf around her finger. She shakes her head sadly, I really feel sorry for women w ith such low self-esteem. It must be awful to endure such abuse. Actually, we see them as courageous wome n. They may be victims of domestic violence, but they are courageous women. So metimes their courage is in staying in the relationship because of the danger. You worry that he will find you and then hurt you, or he might take your children. Sometimes c ourage means staying until you have a plan to
132 leave thats safe enough. The most dangerous tim e is when the abuser thinks he is losing control of you and that you are l eaving. You cant imagine the strength it takes to leave and make a whole new life. Of course, the effect of the abuse can be debilitating. Its like torture; it can wear a person down. Wome n resist by surviving. Maggie wonders to herself, Maybe Ive gone too far now for the social scene. The image of torture makes people uncomfortable. Oh well. Ann Marie, Jennifer, and Maggie pause; th en Ann Marie opens her eyes wide and says, Well what about your safety? Arent you afraid that one of the violent men is going to find out where the shelter is? No, Im not really afraid, but were also very, very careful to make sure that they dont. I guess I just deal with it. You can t live your life being af raid. The world has gotten to the point where we could be afraid of everything. We could be afraid to go to the mall or anywhere. This is just anot her place to be careful because there is a heightened danger in this kind of work. I believe that we must act as a community to eliminate the violence. If other women arent safe, then am I really safe? Maggie chats with Jennifer and Ann Ma rie for a while, and then they wander apart to look at the photos. Maggie stops to reflect on a large photograph of a group of women who were from the first class at the Dant Secretarial School of Business. They are dressed in long skirts with cinched waists, and their hair styles are pulled tightly off their faces. The next photograph shows a v acation beach scene with women and men in modest suits covering their knees. A young coupl e approaches the picture. Michelle and her partner Ed joke about the differences in the amount of material in contemporary
133 bathing suits. They turn to Maggie and introduce themselves as members of the neighborhood group that fought for three years to get the community center built. As Maggie finishes her introduction, sa ying, I work for CASA, a domestic violence shelter, she hears a deep voice in the background comment, Oh, shes one of those! Maggie turns to see a heavy, bald man in a dark-charcoal-gray suit nodding in her direction and talking to another man huddled near him, with his arm casually slung over his shoulder. The second man looks over his shoulder and replies, Who? What do you mean? The bald man almost sneers, You know, the feminist, man-hating type! Michelle and Ed look a bit startled at the comment they overheard. Michelle asks Maggie in a whisper, Did you hear them? What does that mean? Ed looks uncomfortable and shrugs. Maggie feels anger building in her stomach a nd struggles to control the sensation. Well, theres a misconception that women who do this kind of work are man-haters or home-wreckers. Weve been called lesbians, dyk es, feminists, femi-nazis, and thats only the polite name-calling. There are all kinds of stereotypes and misconceptions out there. Some are ignorant, and some are really ugly. In truth, Ive met the most diverse, tolerant, and dedicated women working at CASA. Do you think they feel thre atened? Michelle wonders. Abusers blame us when their wife, girlfrie nd, or partner changes. Its all our fault at CASA; we put those ideas into he r head. Youre brainwashing my wife! We
134 hear that all the time. Some people think our main goal is to break up marriages. Some have religious beliefs about the sanctity of marriage, obeying your husband, and so on. Some people just seem to think domestic viol ence is different, since its violence in the privacy of the home. Historically, a woman was considered to be her husbands property, so I guess weve made some progress. Maggi e mentally shivers and glances back to discover the bald man and his crony ha ve disappeared into the crowd. Ed runs his hands through his sandy brown hair that just touches the top of his collar. You know, theres one thing I just dont understand Maybe you can explain it to me. . Why doesnt the woman ju st leave if the guy keeps hitting her? Maggie can see the real sense of confusion. Its so complex, so hard to explain in a sound-bite setting, she thinks, as she begins her answer. You know, a lot of people ask that question, but Id like you to think in terms of a diffe rent question. Why does the abuser repeatedly belittle, curse, isolate, humiliate, and injure the woman? He wants power and control, total control. Why do we as a society tolerate this violence? We call it domestic violence, so we sanitize it and ma ke it somehow more distant--its a crime! Ed furrows his brow, I can see your point, but it just doesnt make sense. Any sane person fights back or runs away from pain. It seems kind of dumb to stay in a bad scene. Maggie firmly responds, It is a very co mplex issue. When we ask why she doesnt leave, we are blaming the victim. Some women leave. So me stay. Some are killed. A few kill their abusers. What the woman wants is for the abuse to stop. She stays for a variety of reasons, and she leaves for a variety of reasons. Theres fear and
135 shame for starters, severe economic limitations no job, no childcare, isolation from family and friends, slow legal response. She s often afraid shell lose her children. Theres the social, spiritual, and family pressure to keep the marriage together, not to fail. Some women feel that they need to help their partners thr ough their depression, addictions, anger, or whatever. Abused wo men try to make excuses for the behavior because it doesnt make sense. You must remember that the women love or loved their husbands, boyfriends, or whatever. Their abusers also profess l ove and express their affection. Youre right, domestic violence doesnt make sense. You may think its confusing, but the women are confused, too. It isnt rational for someone to say he loves you and then beat you! Michelles eyes are open wide, and shes biting the edge of her lower lip. Maggie realizes that she had been talking louder and mo re intensely. Sorry, this really is intense for a social setting, but its important that people understand the complexity. I guess Im on my soapbox pretty much 24 hours a day. Domestic violence is a huge social problem with incredible effects on children and the family. Its a health issue. Its even a workforce development and economic issue. Michelle and Ed exchange looks. Ive never thought about all that. Maybe you could speak to our community group so metime, Michelle suggests. Ed nods. We meet every month and try to focus on a wide variety of community issues and projects. They exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses before Maggie moves on.
136 Maggie checks her watch, calculating when she can slip out without seeming too rude. She checks her reception program and notes that the formal dedication ceremony will begin soon. She decides to get a quick bite at the dessert table, where she encounters Carl, a slender man in a tweed sports jacket and khaki pants. His red hair and goatee set off his open face. Carl glances at Maggies nametag. Oh, I see you are from CASA! Thats a great organization. Thank you, thats so nice to hear. She smiles, pauses, and looks at Carl, inviting him to continue his comments. Well, my sister was a resident at your sh elter a few times. It was a horrible couple of years. I was so shocked at first, but CASA helped her to rebuild her life. Id say you saved her life. Maggie feels some of the days tension being released from her body as she talks to Carl. So shes safe now? Yes, shes safe, but she had to move to a different city and find a new job. She still lives with the fear that her husband will fi nd her new address. He threatened to teach her a lesson by taking the kids and disappear ing. Her three children, my niece and nephews, are still struggling to make sense of th e things that happened. I try to spend as much time with them as I can. Some other family members still blame her for everything, so we have lots of family healing to do. Maggie smiles, Carl, its been a very long day, and I cant tell you how much your story means to me. Im energized by every survivors accomplishments. Thanks again.
137 Youll have to excuse me. I want to go to the ladies room before the ribbon-cutting ceremony begins. Carl chuckles, Yes, I feel certain there will be some long speeches! Nice to meet you. You know, if you ever need any free lega l work for a woman from the shelter, call me. Heres my card. Fantastic. Heres my card. Ill e-ma il you about our volunteer training, and put your name on our mailing list. Maybe we can meet for lunch some day. Maggie walks briskly down the hall into the womens restroom. Standing at the tall vanity mirror, she washes her hands, a pplies fresh lipstick, and combs her hair with her fingers. A slender woman in a simple black dress with her blonde hair in an upswept twist approaches her. She comes to the vanity, washes her hands, and briefly looks at Maggie in the mirror, then turns to face her. As she wrings her hands with a paper towel she says, I heard you say earlier that you are fr om the shelter. Well, I was wondering if I could ask you a question? You see, Ive only been married for two years, and hes a little older than me, and hes much more s ophisticated. Anyway, Robert has lost his temper a few times. Its not really like abuse, but Im not sure what to do. Hes under a lot of stress with his new company, and he cant help it. Hes always really sorry afterwards, really, really sorry. Ive tried to be a good wife but sometimes I feel like such a failure. I cant seem to do the right things. I make him mad. She discards the wadded paper towel and grips the counter, arms locked against her body. Maggie marvels to herself. The stories are of ten so similar, but the pain is so fresh each time. She looks directly at the woman a nd gently assures her, The most important
138 thing I can tell you is that no one deserves to be hit or threatened. No one deserves to be physically, verbally, or emotionally abused. NO ONE. And its important not to blame yourself for what he does. Its not your fa ult. Its all about his need for power and control. Let me give you this card with our hotline numbers. Call anytime you need to talk, ask any questions, get information, or fi nd safe shelter--24 hours a day. Put the card where he wont find it. Maggie knows that domestic violence is a complex social issue, but the first steps are to help the victim unde rstand the options and focus on ways to stay safe. Tears are crowding in the corners of the womans eyes, but she is trying to smile, an embarrassed smile. Are you going to be okay? Maggie almost whispers. The blonde woman nods with a determined jaw, turns to the mirror, and dabs her mascara expertly. She picks up her purse and slips the card into her make-up case. Her heels click on the tile as she turns and walks out the door Maggie hesitates a minute before she follows. She cringes at the familiar voice she hears when she opens the door. She stops. Where have you been? Its almost time to start the ceremony! The slender, blonde woman is met by the heavy-set, bald man. Youre always late. Are you trying to embarrass me, for Gods sake? His voice is hard as he hisses at he r. He grabs her arm and hustles her down the hall. Maggie leans against the cool tile wall for a few more seconds, and then she leaves the restroom and walks slowly to the auditorium. An usher hands her a program, and Maggie drops into a seat on the back row. Ill slip out as soon as the speeches are over, she thinks. Maggie h ears the microphone booming, Welcome to the new Sun-Fest
139 Community Center. Its my honor to introdu ce the man who made it all possible, Robert Chadwick. Maggie becomes numb when she lo oks at the stage and sees the bald man in the dark-charcoal-gray suit shaking hands with the man at the microphone. Maggie doesnt hear the next words. The voices and the applause fade into the background of her consciousness. She picks up her purse a nd leaves the auditorium swiftly, without wondering if anyone notices. Maggie slides into the car, kicks off her shoes, and locks the door all in one fluid move. She sighs as she starts the engine. He r mind is racing, and her body begins to feel deflated. I hope Mrs. Chadwick is okay. I hope he doesnt find th e hotline card. If only people had any idea what some of these community leaders did at home! The sad thing is that people know. How can they ignore it? Well, I guess the reception wasnt too bad overall. Did I seem too argumentative? Was I too serious? I wonder if other people were watching or listening. At least I didnt get too angry, but I feel like Im always giving a lecture. Im not sure it makes a ny difference at events like this reception. Everyone thinks he is an expert when it comes to family. Why doesnt she leave? Ahh, I remember when I thought we could educate the wo rld. . If people just knew the facts, we could stop the violence. Information w ould set us free. If people knew that women were abused, battered, and tortured, we coul d stop it. I guess its easier to blame one woman than to look at how we might change the way we think about the society we have created. Watching the speed limit as she turns off the interstate highway, Maggie is still thinking about the event. Dont they r ealize that when they are talking about those
140 women, they are talking about us? If they th ink battered women are stupid, weak women who lack self-esteem, what do th ey really think of the shelter workers? Im glad I didnt tell them that I was a victim of abuse myself --a survivor. Not tonight I couldnt take it tonight, too much explaining and too much pain. Maybe I should have told Mrs. Chadwick that I was a survivor, but the moment was so brief. Funny how the womens restroom becomes a sanctuary for sn atches of illicit conversations! We have to speak out! I want to give voice to the horror of it all. Sometimes its just too personal and comes with so much ba ggage. Sometimes being a victim doesnt fit their image of me being a prof essional woman. Unless, of course, they think Im not conforming to the feminine role. Yeah, your big voice is so feminine, the mouthy feminist. Im just so weary. I know what will help. I need a hot bath with lavender salts. Later, at home, as the hot, steamy bath water, diffuse candle light, and calming lavender scent of aromatherapy begin to cal m Maggies spirits and refresh her body, she reminds herself of the starfish parable that guides those who work at the shelter: You cant save every starfish that washes up on the beach, but you make a big difference to each one of the starfish that you can throw back into the water. Whose Story Is It? There is spontaneous applause around the CASA lunch table. I see smiling faces when I put down my papers. Thank you! Thank you! I say. I guess you liked it.
141 We all laugh. Did the story seem accura te? What would you change? Did you like certain parts? Just give me your reactions to anything in the story. Becky starts, I really liked it, especially the part about the womens room. But I couldnt figure out whose story it was. I guess Maggie is a fake name. Is she Linda? Sometimes Linda talks about having a big voice as an advocate. Judy jumps in before I answer, I know weve talked about how community leaders, wealthy business people--the big shot s--are often abusers. People dont think you can be an abuser if you dress well or have money! This story shows it. So much of the story rings true, like presentations Ive done. Almost always, a couple of people ask for help at any event where I speak. But I dont remember the event in this story. Clarissa interjects, Thats the truth! They always ask the why doesnt she just leave question. They blame the victim. Bonnie interjects, That part about feminists, lesbians, and home-wreckers is such a misconception, too! Thats not who we are, but we hear it all the time. Weve been called much worse! Becky adds, I still dont know whose story this is. I explain. This is a co mposite technique. I create d a story that is based on everything I learned during indi vidual interviews, our pizza lunch discussions, observing at the Shelter, and volunteer training. Remember when I asked you if your work was depressing and how you explained how it wasnt? You told me what people say to you. So this story is like a patchwork quilt, or a stained-glass window, because the pieces form the overall picture. This is everyones story.
142 Clarissa commends, Great job and starts the applause again. Then she says, You really get it! This is what its like to do this work. I particularly like the way you showed the advocate was a survivor. Sometimes we reveal that and sometimes we dont. People talk about survivors as if they are very different, but they are all around. Most people just dont know. Becky concludes, You made the point that violence can happen to anyone. Thats a major point to understand. Judy challenges me, I have one important question. She pauses and everyone looks at her, What grade did you get? You promised to tell us. Everyone laughs. I havent turned in my paper yet, I reply. But I promise I will let you know. Judy smiles and says, Tell your professor we gave you A-plus. And we want this story to be in our CASA booklet of stories. Remembering the CASA staff members reactions to Small Talk with a Big Voice makes me smile because it was the first compos ite story I wrote as research. Narratives that I had written for other qua litative projects usually had one or two characters based on interviews. The composite technique allowed me to incorporate information from many different interviews and observations into one story. The feedback from the CASA staff members encouraged me to pursue a narrative approach to communicating what it is like to be an advocate against domestic violence and abuse. If people understand the work maybe they will develop a deeper understanding the issues.
143 NCADV Poster Session Closes The reception is almost over, and the crowd has thinned out at the exhibits and the Vendor Marketplace. The noise level is quieter; the aisles are clear, and the pace is slower. Linda leads me to a booth with tur quoise jewelry from Colorado. As a memory of the conference, I purchase white, dangling earrings with black lines running in all directions, crisscrossing throughout the stone, just like our relationships as stories. Linda buys an exquisite blue turquoise necklace to add to her collection. As we leave the exhibit hall, we decide to walk down the block together for a light dinner because tomorrow morning there is an early plenary session. I feel full of ideas from only one day at the conference, yet Im also hungry for more.
144 Chapter Six Life Stories: Moments Of Meaning NCADV Plenary of Stories The next morning starts w ith stories and the stories continue throughout the day. Before attending the plenary session, Linda and I check the exhibits and replenish the supply of CASA booklets. Linda exclaims, Im so glad people are taking the booklets! I heard great responses last night. People w ho have been reading the stories think the booklet really represents our work! I reply, I remember when you said that you wanted CASAs own Women in the Trees (Koppelman, 1996), which was your vision the first time we met. This conference has brought back lots of memories about my work with CASA. I didnt really know how our collabora tion would turn out, but stories are a critical way to promote our work, which make s the booklet so powerful. We need to be the ones who tell our stories! Linda repl ies as we walk into the ballroom. Im feeling a bit more comfortable with the space and the conference during this second day. The NCADV conference is di fferent, but also similar to the library conferences and communication conferences Ive attended. Ive even seen several people
145 whom Id met previously at the state confer ence, which makes me feel like I belong to this community. The crowd quiets as the NCADV direct or walks to the podium, greets everyone, and then opens the session. This morning we have three parts to our plenary session: First, well present awards to our sponsors; second, well he ar our keynote speaker on the rape culture, particularly the prison-industrial complex; and finally, well memorialize the Colorado victims of DV with a song by country -western performer, Rachel Proctor. The audience claps with the energy of people ready for another day. The Wireless Foundation and the Body Shop are two of our long-time supporters, and today we have special awards fo r them. She calls representatives to the stage to accept sculpted, glass statues. Th e representative from the Wireless Foundation offers a heartfelt acceptance of the award and shares impressive figures about the number of phones and the amount of funds raised. I connect CASAs cell phone program with this national effort. Im glad Debs stor y about volunteering to sort cell phones, The Cell Phone Girl (Walker, 2002), is in the CASA book let because it means readers might donate their phones. Next, the Body Shop representative steps to the microphone and tells stories of how the company has partne red with customers to increase awareness, contribute products, and raise funds to aid vi ctims of domestic violence. We had a campaign to buy gift bags specifically to bene fit organizations working to stem domestic violence. A man bought 200 bags. He said if people had cared more, maybe his sisters abuser wouldnt have killed her. A 16-y ear-old boy donated $100 and said he would never forget how his dad beat and beli ttled his mom. During a Mothers Day
146 promotional campaign, a woman purchased $293 of merchandise, but when the Body Shop clerk asked the customer if she wanted to make a contribution to stop domestic violence, she donated her entire purchase. Th e customer said that she realized other women needed the products more than she did. I am moved by these stories and I see, hear and feel the ripples of impact that undulate across the rows of the audience. Ther e is some sadness, but also a sense of hope in working together to change things. The applause for the sponsors is more than polite; it is strong, loud, sustained, and heartfelt. The NCADV staff member returns to the podium to introduce the keynote speaker. Alissa Bierria is an experienced activist and grassroots organizer, who is currently Executive Director of Communities Against Rape (CARA) and on the steering committee of Incite! Women of Color Against Domestic Violence, an organization that works to end all forms of violence against women of color and in our communities. Today, she will discuss the culture of violence against women in our society, our prisons, and the military. Alissa Bierria begins with a strong, l oud voice that captures ou r attention. She has a PowerPoint presentation on two large scr eens. I want to talk about oppression, specifically 1.) Objectification, 2.) Dehum anization, 3.) Disempowerment, and 4.) Isolation. Much of this di scussion is based on a book entitled Transforming a Rape Culture(Buchwald, Fletcher, & Roth, 1993). Bierra tells stories of a society that accepts sexual violence against women on many differ ent levels, as evinced in the media, entertainment, music, advertisements, the wo rkplace, and even educational institutions.
147 Some of her examples remind me of how violen ce can become so pervasive that we dont recognize the assault on our reality. As the CASA staff warned me, you see it everywhere once you open your eyes. The sp eaker challenges us, We must transform attitudes of sexism, racism, ableism, and clas sism. The rape culture is incredibly broad and perpetuated in so many ways. We must as k: What are our values as a society when our president is trying to marry off welfare moms as a solution to domestic violence and jobs? The audience applauds spontaneously. The speaker continues, The rape culture extends to prisons and military. The world is shocked by the photos from Iraqi prisons, but women around world are abused, tortured, raped, and killed by their partners and families every day. The audience applauds again and again throughout the presentation. The speaker lowers her voice, I want to conclude with a call for all of us to embrace values that liberate, such as peace, humanization, self-determination, connection, empowerment, and community. We must examine our own organizations and look at policies that objectif y or dehumanize women. We must work together to let the world know and to change the rape cu lture with its sexist language, pornography, sexual harassment, date rape, and battering intim ate partners. Society tolerates, if not encourages, male aggression and accepts violence against women. This conference is our chance to talk about what we are going to do. People in the audi ence are on their feet, clapping. When the applause stops, the NCADV sta ff member thanks the speaker and says, Now we do have time for questions and co mments. I ask you to go to the microphones in the aisles so we can hear you. While we encourage people to identify themselves, I
148 want you to know there is a repor ter here this morning, so you may choose not to identify yourself for reasons that we all understa nd and honor. At CASA, I learned that confidentiality is very important to DV work. Abusers often stalk their victims, even after separation or divorce, which can be the most lethal period of time. As women line up in the aisles to speak, I wonder about my role as researcher. At first, I was taking notes just because I am a scribbler; it is how I listen. But soon I find Im taking field notes about people and my feelings, not just facts. I wonder if I am part of the movement? Am I one of them, so its OK? Other researchers are in the audience; I wonder if any of them plan to write about the conference. Is this my story or their story? Is this an ethical issue? I conti nue to scribble, but Im careful not to be too specific in reporting on those who speak at th e microphones. Just like the DV workers, I want to adhere to the highest level of confidentiality. Many of the speakers do not identify themselves. One woman says that her daughter is a U.S. soldier defending our country and tells the story of how her daught er has been raped by other soldiers. The woman sobs as she recounts the traumas of the militarys failure to protect her daughter from this abuse. I feel overwhelmed and start to feel a ngry and frustrated. Then it is time for the last segment of the plenary session. The NCADV staff member says, Now we want to end our se ssion by remembering the victims who have died as the result of domestic violence here in Colorado. As the names of the murdered victims are read, women march down the aisles carrying large signs on poles, each with a black silhouette. They fill the front of the room. The room is very quiet.
149 When all the names have been read, the singer, Rachel Procter, comes on stage. She is a young woman with long, blonde hair, tight jeans, and a flowing, strapless, floral blouse. She says, Here is my song about how violence can affect women and children. Its called Me and Emily. Im contributing copies of my CD to all the organizations working to stop this violence and pain in families throughout America. After the applause, her keyboardist and gui tar player begin a country-wes tern beat. She sings with a delicate soprano voice: Floorboard's filled with baby toys, An empty coke bottles an coffee cups. Drivin through the rain with no radio, Tryin not to wake her up. Cell phone says low battery, God, what if I break down? I'm just lookin for an exit with a lotta lights, A safe little interstate town. Just a cheap hotel, With a single bed, And cable TV Is good enough for me an Emily. Some day, when she's old enough, Shes gonna start askin questions about him. Some kid at school brings his Dad for show an tell,
150 An gets her little mind a-wonderin Where's my Daddy? Do I have one? Does he not love me like you do? Oh, maybe I'll find someone to love the both of us, An I'll tell her when shes old enough to know the truth. Will it break her heart? Will she understand, That I had to leave? Thats what was best for me an Emily. That house was never clean enough His dinner never warm enough. Nothing I did was ever good enough to make him happy. So, I guess, he gave me what he thought I deserved, But it would kill me if he ever raised his hand to her. Big rigs are throwin rain on my windshield, An I feel like theyre laughin at me. Finlly the storm is lettin up, An the mornin is breakin free. Its a brand new day, Its a second chance. Yesterday is just a memory, For me an Emily.
151 Floorboard is filled with baby toys, An empty coke bottles an coffee cups. Least there's one good thing that he gave me, An she's startin to wake up. (Proctor & Tompkins, 2004) 9 As Rachel concludes her song, the audience applauds and the singer bows and gestures to her fellow musicians. The song rings true to me. I dont know if this song is autobiographical, biographical, or fictional and perhaps it doesnt matter. This young singer is sharing a story in her music just as the sponsors, keynote speakers, and audience members told their stories earlier in the session. The stories spark understanding and meanings that are remembered and retold. In the same way, CASA staff members share their stories in the booklet we created for the UCI project. Thinking back to the day we finalized the stories and dr awings for the CASA booklet, I remember the chaos, camaraderie, nurturance, and mix of emotions in my life, and in the lives of the staff and those they serve. Telling Stories Its Elizabeth, I say into the buzzer by the front door, which unlocks immediately. I note that I id entify myself using only my first name, and I dont say who Im meeting or for what purpose. In the past year, I have become a regular at the Shelter, not just a special visitor. The line between insider and outsider continues to become fuzzier. 9 2004 Castle Street Music, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
152 Hi! Judy, Bonnie. I see other staff on phones, but I dont interrupt them. I brought some goodies for you to give to the Sh elter residents, I announce casually, as I pile my bags on the large, round communal worktable. Bonnie swivels her chair from her desk ove r to the table and looks in the bags. Wow! Two cartons of cigarettes! We can use these! No one ever brings us cigarettes. There was one man who used to bring cigarettes but we havent seen him in a long time. This is great! Bonnie hugs me. Thanks, E lizabeth. Bonnies face is as animated as her voice. She rummages in the second bag, Oh, bubble bath, and this stationary is gorgeous. Its just what we need! Judy looks in another bag, Whats this? Whitmans Chocolates. Wow! And my favorite--mints! Judy knows the mints and c hocolate are for the staff because bringing them has become a ritual each time I visit. The Whitmans chocolate sampler is from my mother. She said I had to tell you it was her gift to the staff. She likes to hear about my work at CASA and what I write, so she feels like she knows you. I feel so pleas ed that they are enthusiastic about my donation. It is one way I express my admiration for the staff members emotionally demanding work. In a small way, I hope these donations make their work a bit easier and let them know they are valued and appreciated I overheard two residents the other day talking about sharing a pack of cigarettes. I say. Nicotin e withdrawal at the same time you are facing potentially life-changing decisions would be awful! Bonnie, the stationary cards are for you because the last time I vis ited, you were writing notes of encouragement and acknowledgement to the residents for extra c hores they did. It made me think of the
153 cards that I receive from my friends and the cards mom used to send to me. A card can brighten my whole day! My aunts, Moms si sters, send her a get-well card every day. Every day! This started about a year ago. Those cards have been like a lifeline, since Mom is homebound. When a card comes, you know somebody cares about you. You arent forgotten. Bonnie, the House Manager, is sorting the piles. You got that right! And at the Shelter a card can say, I think you are a pers on worth the attention. Sometimes if Im too busy to write a card, Ill tell the woman who is helping with extra house chores, I appreciate you. That might be the first time theyve heard gratitude in a long time. My job at the Shelter is a little different fro m the Womens Advocates or Youth Advocates, but I still care about the families. I organi ze all the supplies, toiletries, donations, food, cleaning, and repairs. I keep the whole pl ace working, from plumbing to pantry, from blinds to windows, from the garage to the playground--and more! Everyday, I put on my roller skates, and sometimes I add a superwoman cape just so I can keep up. Bonnie laughs, but she has a serious look on her face. My main job isnt the counseling, but I try to make myself stop and remember what our real purpose is here. Theres something wrong if I cant find a few moments to speak to a resident or offer encouragement. The advocates help the women develop safety plans and sometimes restructure their whole lives. I try to get beyond the everyday task s to bring them some happiness and maybe a few moments of tranquility. They need balanc e between the stuff they have to do and the things they also need to heal their spirits. Having to go out and find a place to live, get birth certificates, maybe change your name, having to do so much, and every day youve
154 got to be achieving something. Well, I tell the residents do something for yourself. In order for you to do well tomorrow, you need to take care of yourself today. Soak in a bubble bath, listen to some music, read a book, eat a snack. I cant function in a crisis environment if I dont find some time for me, so they probably cant either. I nod eagerly; glad to hear Bonnie talk about her work because shes been too busy for an extensive individual interview ye t. Its a simple gesture that means so much! So just let me know when you need more cards, okay? The phone rings, and Judy answers it effi ciently. Im surprised when she says, Elizabeth, call for you. Immediately assu ming that theres an emergency with my Mom, my heart starts beating faster, and my face flushes from the stress. Then Judy says, Its Homer. A deep voice with a slight lis p says, Sorry, Miss Elizabet h. Ive got a problem at Transitional Housing, an emergency job, so I cant come to the Shelter this morning. I ask, Can you come later today? I must leave by two oclock. Stress begins to foment into frustration, as my stomach c hurns and my jaw tightens. Moms caregiver only stays until three oclock and my schedule is overloaded. Anger spouts and I think, Why didnt he call me before I drove all the way out here? Then I remind myself that CASA functions in a crisis-oriented environm ent, which means flexibility is critical. Homer is illustrating the CA SA booklet, in addition to all his regular work as Maintenance Technician. His reading difficulti es contribute to his uncertainty about this process and my expectations. Im worried about my academic deadlines, but the booklet
155 is really for them, it is our project, not my project. Automatically reframing with positive statements, Moms influence clings to me. When I get off the phone, Judy and Bonnie look up. Clarissa walks into room and I explain, I was supposed to meet Homer this morning to go over ideas for drawings in the booklet. But hes got a crisis... Oh yes, Clarissa interrupts me. L ooks like an abuser broke a window at Transitional Housing. We ha d to call the police last night, or I guess it was early this morning. Judy peers over her glasses as she sets aside her notebook and files, We have an extremely lethal situation here today. Clarissa, I got the church to donate four bus tickets for Pamela and her kids. Becky has called the Shelter in Fort Lauderdale; we have to get Pamela out of town as soon as possible. Judy turns to me. We have a full house today and some very serious safety issues. I nod, but before I can reply, we hear a screaming child in the hall. Becky comes into the office holding an infant, and says, Dont worry! Kristin is taking care of Justin, but we have another mom in crisis. Two phone lines ring. I reach for the baby. I cant answer the cr isis line, but I can baby-sit. Zach is a chubby baby swaddled in a washed-out blue sleeper. He still has his baby pimples on his face. Staring into his black eyes I watch hi s fat, little tongue slid e in and out of his mouth. I cuddle him on my shoulder and walk around with a slight bounce in my step. Zach feels warm against my body as he slobbers, chewing on my shoulder.
156 In the midst of all this, a group of volunteer s and donors want to tour the Shelter. Two staff members from another Shelter come to observe, and the plumbing contractors want to check the work needed before providing a cost estimate. The atmosphere doesnt calm down until around noon. Homer ca lls to tell me that he is on his way. His harried voice matches the tone of the day. At lunch, everyone is excited about Homers drawings and the booklet. Becky says, I didnt know what to expect when you kept talking about a booklet, but I really like the story, Someone Stole My Paper Plates (Curry, 2002). Thats my story isnt it? I nod as I take some cheese and crackers fr om a communal plate. Becky, a former resident, is now a CASA advocate, and she knows that anger can be one phase of healing. Residents sometimes direct their resentment at the staff or other residents when their anger really is about their abuser or their s ituation. Once residents feel safe and powerful at the Shelter, their pain and anger might erupt. It can be a complicated, emotional environment for staff, as well as Shelter residents. Clarissa says, I picked the drawing I like for my story. I told Homer what I wanted. Hes so talented! Surprised becau se I havent seen any drawings yet, I nod. Staff members received copies of the stories to review, but the final layout with the drawings hasnt been done yet. My assumpti on has been that I would select the drawings today, which now seems naive and controlling. I picked mine, too, adds Judy. I cant believe you wrote such a wonderful story from the hours that I rambled on and on! I want my daughter to read it.
157 Wait til you see how Homer drew me in a superwoman outfit on skates! But he has to change my head now that Im shaved. Now we have a bald superwoman! Looking at Bonnies beautiful smile and the co lorful head scarf, I think back to the months of pain she experienced with her skin condition and her agonizing decision to shave her head. She told me of her illness during an interview, but stipulated it was confidential information, which I respected fo r months until she decided to reveal her baldness. Later, we all celebrated on the day she first came to work without her wig. Another staff member says, You didnt ge t everyones story in the book. Are you done, or will you do a second booklet? He r question makes me feel uncomfortable and defensive. I reply, Youre right. I didnt get to interview everyone individually for your life stories, but I did invite everyone to group in terviews about working at CASA. Im not sure yet about future projects. Weve got to fi nish this one first for the grant. Hopefully, everyone will remember that these stories represent the big picture, CASA, other Shelters, and those everywhere who do this wo rk. In addition to being personal stories, these have broader meaning, too. No one contradicts me, but Im not sure they agree. Homer arrives with a Big Mac hamburger in his hand. His bulky frame and nervous laughter fill the room, as he sits with us and quickly finishes his burger. He pulls out his drawings for the booklet, which are not what I expected, based on samples of his previous stylized work. The illustrations for the stories have more detail, and Homer has drawn full scenes, trying to show the whol e story. I dont agree with all the staff members choices, but decide to honor them. Trying to fo cus on the positive aspects of
158 the unexpected as Homer and I negotiate the project, I pencil a rough sketch to show a possible close-up of one illustration. My inte rest in detail excites Homer. We find a bond in discussing his art and his expertise, especially when I tell him I wanted to be an art teacher, but I didnt have th e talent or drawing skills. As we finish and decide on a date for the final sketches, Homer says, You know, I have a story, too, but its bad. I thought it was too bad to tell, but then when I read Clarissas story, I thought it might be okay to tell my story. I thought you might write my story. Ive been ashamed of my missing t ooth from my gang days, but then Miss Bonnie was brave enough to show her bald head, so I dont worry about what people at CASA think. Mr. Homer, I would be glad to includ e your story, since you are working so hard on the drawings. So be sure to do a self-por trait, too. Well record your story when we meet next time, if you want. Well talk, a nd then Ill write something for you to read. Youll approve it before we print anything. Adding Homers story will create many hours of extra work for me to avoid a delay wi th final layout and printing, but this is my gift to him, since he is doing so much for the booklet, and because he trusts me with his story. I dont mention the time to Homer. Homer looks hesitant, but says, I want to tell my story, just like Clarissa, Bonnie, Judy, Becky, Ellie, and the others. When I return home, I begin work on placing the drawings into the stories. I feel honored by their trust. They shared their vulnerabili ties with me in their stories, and they
159 showed how people could be survivors. The following stories were adapted from the stories in the CASA booklet. Clarissas Story: Mother Couldnt Braid My Hair: Remembering and Breaking the Cycle I was born in abuse. My Mother was a victim of domestic violence. My Father was the abuser. The only thing I ever saw wa s abuse. So I knew nothing but abuse. To me that was normal. I never knew what was normal. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family and learned how to be comfortable with walking on eggshells. You never knew from one minute to the next when the violen ce was going to break out. My Father, early on, taught me about mental, verbal, and emotional abuse, as well as physical. He was an alcoholic. And Im not saying this to justify th is behavior because it didnt. Today, in my position with CASA, I teach issues a bout both substance abuse and domestic violence. But theres no justification for abuse--none at all. There were eight children in my family, a nd I was the fourth. Out of eight of us, there were four siblings w ith dark skin--like my complexion. Four had lighter complexions. We grew up with prejudice in my family, where the favorites were those with light skin. The message was, I l ook better, lighter, but youre nothing, youre black.
160 While growing up we were very isolated. We didnt have a lot of family or many friends. Other families didnt come around. My Father was about 6 and weighed 250 pounds. My Mother was about 5 and was a very small woman. It was pretty sad because I had to watch him beat her continuous ly for whatever. She got beat because she wanted to work; she got beat because she was there. I would never forget that, and now I really understand how survivors from other states can be very isolated. Well, my Mother left Florida with my Father to go to Chica go near his family. The abuse got very bad there because she had no family support. Even with all my very traumatic experiences, I will never forget the beating my Mother got when I was three years old. My Fa ther beat my Mother with a baseball bat-literally beat her with a bat. She was bloc king the bat from hitting her in the head, when he split her fingers. She had to get stitche s. I remember this so clearly because she couldnt braid my long hair, and she had to get the babysitter to do the braids. I was three, but I still remember that time. Another traumatic experience was during the heat of my Fathers madness in Chicago. We stayed in a high-rise on the 16th floor. I will never forget that my Father took my brother and dangled him out there to get my Mother to do something. He told her, If you dont do it, Im going to drop him. I remember that because I witnessed it. My Mother and Father came back to Florid a. We traveled a lot because he was in the military, and this abuse was still going on within the home while he was in the service. We were just people who he comma nded to do stuff. It was like he was a sergeant within his house and whatever he said he meant us to do. If you didnt do it,
161 then there were repercussions. I was the middle child. I was the caretaker. I wanted to make everybody happy, and I wanted to be this super-achiever. I wanted to do everything perfectly. In my family, if you didnt do it perfectly, there were big repercussions. There were consequences. In my home, it was unacceptable to spill milk and then clean it up. If you spilled or wast ed anything in my house, it was devastating because you knew you were going to get harshl y disciplined. A common mistake wasnt tolerated. So I grew up thinking I had to be perfect, and I couldnt make a mistake. My Mother worked, and she took care of us. When she was 34, her oldest child was 13 and the youngest was a year old. At th at time, coming from a rural area, a lot of the women of color that I grew up around worked on farms. They either worked as maids in hotels or as farm workers. I looked at my Mom, and I said, I will never, ever do this. But what was she going to do? Where was she going to go? Who was going to marry her to take care of eight kids plus herself? Years and years and years ago, we didnt know about shelters. We really didnt know there was a place to go. I truly feel that if my Mother had known of a place to go, she probably would have gone. Thirty-five ye ars ago, my mother didnt have a shelter and services like CASA. I was determined to go to school and get an education because I did not want to work on a farm or be anyones maid. I watc hed my Mother work hard and be abused almost every day. I was determined to do be tter. Ill never forget when I was in high school, I was walking past this hallway, and I saw this class with nothing but white people in the room. I asked one of I was determined to go to school and get an education
162 because I did not want to work on a farm or be anyones maid. I watched my Mother work hard and be abused almost every day. I was determined to do better. Ill never forget when I was in high school, I was walkin g past this my classmates, Whats that? None of us are in there. And they said, Oh, that class is too hard, its short hand. That was a challenge for me. Nothing is ever too hard for me. So I took that class with my friend because I needed support, so we could do homework toge ther. We proved that we could learn. I came out with honors in that class. And as a result, it paved the way for me to be able to break the cycle within my fam ily structure. I was going to be a secretary. I took every class that I needed to have a decent job. B ack then, years and years ago, a secretary was a prestigious kind of job. Out of eight of us, I was the first one to graduate high school and go to college because I was determined to be the one to make a difference within my family. But my life took some hard twists and turn s that I never expect ed. I ended up in several abusive relationships. I couldnt believe it was happening to me, but I lived a life of fear and pain. Along the way, I develope d a substance abuse problem. I drank. I always said that I would never let alcohol or anything destructive in my life because I was going to be somebody. Well, it took a l ong time for me to truly break the cycle. I found a place with a substa nce abuse program that help ed me change my life. Eventually I started working there because they saved my life, and I wanted to thank them. I wanted to give back something that somebody gave me, which is my life. This place gave me back hope, it gave me back my self-esteem, and it gave me back my self-
163 worth. Someone to love me until I was able to love myself because I didnt love me, I hated me. I worked for that organization for many years. I was secretary for the administrative assistant and then was promot ed to become a drug counselor, which I was for 12 years. And as a result, it paved my way to the work I do now. I started working for CASA as a substa nce abuse advocate. I would just do whatever I needed to do, educate the staff, a nd just share whatever about me that I had to give. As a result, I think about a year ago, I was promoted to th e Shelter Coordinator, where I supervise the everyday operation of an emergency shelter. And just recently, my position changed again to Resi dential Operations Coordinato r. Im now responsible for the shelter and transitional housing. Ive always wanted to help others becaus e Im a caretaker. I try to help people like me. I dont have a problem sharing my stor y of abuse because it is over. As a result of reaching out to women, I gained love and support. I never had that before. When I grew up, culturally, a woman was not your best friend--she was your enemy. So, I never had a lot of women friends. I had a lot of me n as friends. Today, there is power in the womens friendships in my life. Judys Story: He Pulled the Strings: My Job Was to Protect Her I grew up in the forties and fifties. I would say that I didnt grow up in a home with domestic violence, but I re ally did. It wasnt my ho me, but it might as well have been. I witnessed lots of domestic violence because I spent probably half of my life with
164 my Aunt. My Mother shared me because my Aunt could not have children. Family lore says that the day I was born, my Aunt was in the hospital with my Mother, and she looked at me and exclaimed, Shes mine--not yours! I was raised to make life better for my Aunt. If youre there, shes less apt to be hurt. He doesnt pick on her so much whenever youre there. You have to help her. They didnt use the word abuse back then, but said, Hes mean to her. As a small child, I was told, Do not come out of your bedroom after you go to bed. Lock the door and dont come out. At my Aunts house, you locked all the bedroom doors, but at my house you didnt. A locked door never stoppe d my Uncle anyway; he kicked it in. Although he never came after me, its very scar y for a child to hear someone they care about screaming for help, crashing, and ba nging. You dont know what youre going to find. When you do go out, you may find blood, splintered doors, unconscious people. Once I found my Aunt unconscious in the hall. Another night, she very quietly tapped on my bedroom door after he had stopped beating he r and had gone to bed. I had to go get tweezers to pick embedded glass out of her foot. Hed thrown a glass at her as she was running. She did not consult the doctor becaus e he knew my Uncle. If she had sought medical help, she would have gotten a nother beating even more severe. I traveled with my Aunt and Uncle ever y summer from the time I was five. I traveled around the world with them and got an education from that life that I never got in school. My Aunt and Uncle were wealthy, so they offered me certain advantages. A kid likes those things, so I wasnt exactly fo rced to go, but I learned to take all the baggage that went with the situation. I le arned to be independent because many, many
165 times on trips after he would beat her up, he would disappear for two or three days. He disappeared for three days when we were in Pa ris. He had all of our passports, he had all the money, and there we were stranded in a hotel. I was 15 and had learned to cope with all of it. I never actually had a safety plan because back then they didnt talk about plans like we do now. You learn to make safety pl ans in your head. He left, and I thought he might not return because that always was in th e back of my mind. I decided that I would wait as long as possible, then find the Amer ican Consulate, call home, and they would wire some money. I was socialized to be a helper, a protector, from the beginning. I grew up like a lot of children of domes tic violence, thinking that this was how families act. I also grew up around alcoholism--my Aunt was an alcoholic, my Uncle was an alcoholic. Everybody in my family but my Mother was an alcoholic. My Father would be labeled an alcoholic, but we had years and years and years when he didnt drink. Then hed have a couple of binges, a nd then he wouldnt drink again. But on both sides of the family, I had a history of alcoholism. Why I grew up still able to trust some people--I dont know. Children from homes w ith domestic violence and alcoholic homes usually dont trust ot hers very easily. There were no shelters. Many, many people knew that my Aunt was being abused, but no one ever stepped forward and of fered to help. Had she chosen to leave, my Aunt had nowhere to go. There wasnt anybody that would help her. She had psychiatrists, but they didnt know anything ab out domestic violence in those days. They didnt deal with it, and she wouldnt have told them he was beating her up because he might know the doctor or say something. A typical abuser, my Uncle had her declared
166 incompetent and thrown in the psychiatric wa rd a couple of times, which then enabled him to legally take back the house in his name and take all of her assets he had given her for forgiveness after beating her. Years late r, her sisters would beg her to leave and live with them. But she would say, Hes got so much money that he will find me. Hell destroy the family and hell fire everybody that works for him. Im doing it for my family. These were some of her excuses. The only difference in their dynamic that I can see is that he allowed her to have he r family around her on a daily basis. Most abusers dont do that. When they isolate, they isolate completely. She could not have friends, only family. She wanted to join the garden club because she loved gardening, but he said, Absolutely not! My aunt liked the wealthy lifestyle that she chose for herself and was willing to take the abuse that went along with it. So when she had scars, we went to plastic surgeons and got them fixed. When her ey eball got stomped on by th e heel of his shoe, we got an eye doctor out in th e middle of the night to take care of it--one who was not going to go call the police. And if abusers were killing a lot of wo men in those days, you didnt know about it. It wasnt all over the media; it wasnt all over the newspaper. My Aunt did not die from the abuse. She died of cancer. But while she was in the hospital dying for a month, he visited dutifully every even ing after dinner. He would walk into her room, take his gun out of hi s pocket, lay it on the nightstand, and sit down and chat. Then he would go out with the girl friend he had at the time. People in this town thought he was a wonderful person. He did do good things for people, but a lot of abusers do. There were a lot of people w ho knew he wasnt very nice. It was still
167 something you didnt talk about. People with money and position have power, and they can cause problems for you. He was an abuser who needed power and control in every aspect of life. He was a cruel man. I took psychology in college and learned a few things, but when I went to CASA they started teaching me the philosophy and dyna mics of domestic violence. Then it all fell into place. It was like a light bulb went on and Im thinking, Oh my God, she was so typical and he was the classic abuser. Wh en I was growing up, I guess I did blame the victim at times because I didnt know a thi ng about all this. I lived it, but didnt understand it. Id think, If my Aunt would just go to bed now, wed be OK. Hell forget it. He wont hit her. But deep inside I knew that he didnt really need a reason. In the very beginning, I didnt think too much one way or the other about CASA because I was working with litt le kids. It was just a job taking care of kids like my previous job in a daycare center. But as soon as I began working at CASA, I knew it felt right. When we would get into arguments, sometimes my husband would say, Well, you sure have changed since you started working at that CASA place. And I would reply, Yes I have, for the better I think. I bega n standing up for myself after I came to CASA. For a long, long time I was sensitive, maybe too sensitive about everyone else. But I have learned from being here to be more a ssertive with my opinions. It doesnt always get me anywhere, but I feel better because Ive at least said what I believe. But I didnt used to be that way so much because, in my growing up, my Uncle did not allow me to have any opinions. They had to be the same as his. He was right no matter what. I knew
168 how far I could push him with arguing about anything because when I reached a point where he was going to blow, he took it out on my Aunt. I dont live in fear anymore. In 1998, I was interviewed for a newspaper story on feminists. I guess I am part of the womens movement in many ways, but I dont like the label feminist. I am glad that my daughters grew up in a time when women have more options. I feel strongly about my work at CASA because I will never forget the humiliation my Aunt experienced and the humiliati on I went through. I see women every day who experience that same humiliation, but they can come to CASA for help. Homers Story: Finding My Voice: Drawing from My Pain I stopped talking when I was six years old. I became speechless. There was so much abuse in my family, so much pain, that I just couldnt talk. When I stopped talking, I put a lot of my anger into my drawings. For a long time, I didnt talk to anyone about the abuse, but I overcame it. I would never want to see that happen to anybody, not my kids or anybodys kids. I would never want to see them go through what I went through. I always had the artistic ability to draw my anger. I could express myself in my artwork. When Id get mad at somebody, I woul d draw. So in a way, my pain inspired me to develop my creative abilities that I us e today. Some things I wouldnt show you now. The pictures are too awful, violent. One day, when I was a kid, I was showing some real graphic stuff to my friends, and somebody said, Whats going on? Why are you doing that?
169 I said, This is what I am; this is what I draw. They couldnt see what was going on, even though it was right on the paper. Th ey couldnt see what was happening to me. All the things I went through, especially with my alcohol and drug use, have made me stronger and thankful for my life, my wife my children, and my job. I know that I could have been dead a long time ago. I just thank God that Im aliv e. I started drinking when I was nine years old. I used to mimic my Father when he would drink. My Father was an alcoholic. After my Mom and Daddy ha d parties at the house, my brother and me would go around and turn the bottles over and dr ain everything out of them. We could eventually get a good shot and get drunk that way. Back in those days, my older brothers were also drug users. I grew up with dri nking and drugs in my fa mily. My Fathers children from another woman moved in with us. The oldest boy tried to dominate me because I was the oldest son on my mothers side It was real, real, real hard dealing with that. It was just more abuse; I never felt safe. That was probably one of the hardest times in my life. I got stronger--physically, so it wouldnt happen to me again. I got into weight lifting real early in my high school days. I played football and wres tled in high school. They called me Stump because I wasnt tall, bu t I was big. I wanted to protect myself. That was, in my thinking, you know, that I wa snt going to get hurt any more. My drug use started when I was about 16 or 17. I st arted smoking pot in high school and doing all kind of drugs that got me high in the late 1970 s. I had problems in school. A lot of times I would read backwards, and thats been a problem for me ever since. I was really
170 punished a lot because I couldnt read. I was embarrassed a lot by teachers. But I learned how to deal with that, and I knew th at my art was really blue-ribbon, high quality. You know, the beatings that my Mom was getting made things very hard. So many times we just had to get away. We were in and out of schools when Mom would leave my Dad. We were basically running all the time, just trying to get away. We would go to other towns, but she would eventu ally go back. And that was the part that really upset me about my Mom. There were tim es when I really, really hated the fact that she was going back. He would call, and he woul d want to talk to us, and then we would say, Daddy, why? Why did you do this to Mom? Hed say, Daddy was drinking, and he would always blame the drinking. But now that Ive been working in the domestic vi olence field, I know th at drinking is not the problem. Drinking wasnt the problem; it was just something he did. Its not the alcohol; its just total control of the person and getting that person to do whatever you want that person to do. I think those men are cowards. Theyre very insecure about themselves, and I think that theyre not real men at all. When I went to the training for CASA, I could see things from my life. I know what it feels like in a family when your Mom and the kids have to get away. I know how the kids feel the fear. Im a survivor. Ive been through it. I could relate. One time, my Dad was trying to kill my Mom, and he got the ax and was chopping down a room door. He was beating her, and then he went after my brother with the ax. Another time, there was beating and fighting so my Mom got the gun and chased my Dad in the house. He picked me up and put me in front of the gun. One time my Mom stabbed him, and he fell
171 on the ground in a puddle of blood. He tried to drive his car, and he passed out close by the next street. The ambulance came, and the doctor explained th at the knife was two inches from his heart. He almost died, but he kept hurting my Mom for years, kept hurting us all. My Father doesnt hurt us now. He died last year, and the abuse was something in the past. I think my substance abuse progr am helped me deal with the pain and the memories. I was able to express a lot of feelings I was able to cry about it. I was able to give that pain away by telling somebody else and not holding on to it anymore. My drinking and the drugs were to get ri d of the pain. I would say it helped me forget a lot of my past. At least I thought it did at the time. I started drinking more, and then I became like my Father; I was real violent. Like one time on 22 nd Street I was in a brawl, and I ended up in the hospital for 21 days --7 days in intensive care. I got stabbed twice and got shot once--all in the same night But that didnt stop me. I was working for a drug dealer, being a bodyguard, selling ev erything in my home. I ended up getting arrested. It was like an awakening, where a higher power came in and showed me life. I was strung out, hallucinating and real sick. I saw my life and death. I was in a casket, buried, and I was able to see the crease of my Dads pants and the colored little dresses and the flowers and all. I was tired of drugs; I was tired of being in th e streets. I was just totally tired. All of the strength I had put into drug use became the strength I needed to help myself. I tried to reverse that strength. As the arresting officer began to read me my rights, a feeling came over me like I was bein g enriched with the Lord--like I was being
172 washed off. And I cried and I cried. Then he said to me, Im going to try to get you some help. And I kept telling him, I said, Im not a bad person. I just need to get off the drugs, and I just need help. He said, Well, Im going to do this: Wh en you have your court date, Im going to write to the judge that you wa nt to get help with your life and change your life. I got help, and I changed my life. I did an AA program. I went through some parts of GED. I went to church every Sunda y in jail. A counselor from PARs substance abuse program helped me turn it around. I was 38, and I was finally able to find out who I really was. I learned to understand anger and feelings of rejection. I learned tools that were the life skills, like classe s in childcare and parenting. I had the opportunity to work with crack cocaine babies and to take care of that baby and to see the struggles that baby goes through just to suck a bottle or to see the babys eyes not moving properly like a normal babys eyes do. I was also able to become a role model, speaking to groups and helping others. I have four kids: three b oys and a seven-year-old girl. My oldest is dating a schoolteacher, and hes doing great things. I took him to some AA meetings, and hes heard me tell my stories. Id be crying, and he would be crying. He said, Dad, I didnt know you was like that--Im so sorry. I wa nted him to understand what I went through and what drugs can do to you. Fatherhood is very important to me. Its real important to have values, listening, friendship, and quality time with my kids because my Dad didnt give us that.
173 Im the only man that works at CASA, and I feel a sense of respect there. We have partnership and teamwork. I feel like they really enjoy having me working for CASA, and its a good feeling that people want you to be around and show that they care. They give a lot of compliments--a lot of smiles and thank-yous, and hugs and stuff like that. Today, I dont have any shame or emba rrassment about telling people what I went through. Im no longer a small, terrified, speechless little boy. Im a proud man with a voice. NCADV Interlude on Life Stories The NCADV session concludes as I wrap up my memories, thinking of the CASA stories and how much I learned from them, how our lives recursively inform our work. I relate to Clarissas need to be perfec t for her father, never good enough and always striving. I understand her bold determination, and I see it in her work at CASA. Admiration for Judy unfolds when I consider how she was taught to keep up appearances, guard secrets, and silence her opinions. Judy has the gentle heart of a caretaker behind her matter-of-fact exterior. Sometimes she seems brusque, but Judys honest and perceptive explanations taught me about CASA. Bonnie is an asset to CASA because she sees herself in others as she nurtures a nd values people. Organizing in a crisis environment means shes a superwoman on roll er skates. Homer maintains his sense of hard-won pride and expresses himself creativel y, but still worries about being judged or blamed. Something that isnt in these stories is their sense of humor, which comes from a deep appreciation of life.
174 I started my work at CASA thinking that I was different, believing that I didnt have a connection to domestic violence. Eventually I realized it was all around me. Rather than seeing myself as different fr om victims of domestic violence and the workers, I began to see our similarities a nd to truly believe that DV could happen to anyone. The NCADV conference has been more thought-provoking than I anticipated, with the memorials both days, the keynote pr esentations, and programs. I am struck by all the stories today, from the sponsors, the audience examples, the poetry, the song. It all ties back to the CASA booklet and my dissertation, both about narrative communication. As we file out of the plenary session, Linda says, Im going to the caucus for formerly battered women. Its a closed m eeting, only for those who self-identify. But lets meet at the session on de -politicization and feminist em powerment. The facilitator is one of my favorites. Shes got skills like yours. No problem, I remember the closed meetings from FCADV. I think Ill go back to the room. I brought some wo rk with me, and Im feeling in spired to make some notes for my dissertation. Meet you later. Back in the hotel room, I kick off my shoes and begin pulling files from my briefcase. Sitting near the window, looking out over the mountains, I scribble ideas on a tablet balanced on my knees. Im not trying to outline, organize, or formulate answers, instead allowing myself to be open to the peripheral vision that Mary Catherine Bateson described: The process of spirali ng through memory to weave connection out of
175 incident is basic to learning (1994, p. 11). Thats what Ive been doing with my experiences and relationships at CASA, and now NCADV has become a sense-making event, a place to reflect and see ideas comi ng together. Making time for reflection is difficult personally, and in CASAs crisis-oriented environment, it is particularly problematic for staff. The UCI project di scussions and stories provided an opportunity for us all to discover some of our own peripheral visions. As I scribble my notes, I remember reading the book Nickel and Dimed and sharing a powerful epiphany with the author a female journalist who tries unsuccessfully to live on minimum-wage jobs (Ehrenreich, 2001). She is faced with a demeaning and confusing dilemma when a supervisor unfairl y accuses a coworker of stealing ketchup packets. Ehrenreich feels powerless, yet ashamed, as she accepts this situation for fear of being fired. Recognizing that she has morphed from a confid ent, assertive, articulate journalist into a fearful, powerless worker she wrote her story of how poverty and abusive environments can affect anyone. Ehre nreichs descriptions contributed to my understanding of many of the obstacles that the women served by CASA face. My work at CASA, conversations, and reading all have spawned moments of meaning for me, such as those Denzin descri bes, in major everyday activities, cumulative experiences, minor events, and reliving sim ilar moments. These moments of meaning not only mark our lives. They alter the f undamental meaning structures in a persons life (Denzin, 1989, p. 70). Making notes, I find myself drawing circles around ideas and lines to connect the circles. This mind map of meaningful moments will eventually
176 become my dissertation, a web of relationships in stories shared and more meanings created. Sitting in the hotel room, I pull out a power bar, so I wont chew on my pen anymore because it looks disgusting with a mutilated end. Munching on the granola bar and staring out the window, I contemplate my in terpretation of the web of CASA stories. In some ways, Ive been preparing for this project for most of my lifeas a reader, teacher of literature, librarian, trainer, consul tant, and now researcher. As an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction works about life and lives, my own life has been shaped in both small and significant ways by what I have read. The challenge for me now becomes how to structure the writing and presentation of CASA stories. Some lives are written as short stories in edited collections w ith varying degrees of analysis but yet are still very moving and evocative (Bateson, 1989, 2000; Chase, 1995; Ellis & Bochner, 1996; Goetting, 1999; Koppelman, 1996; Lawless, 2001; La wrence-Lightfoot, 1995, 2000). Some are written in longer-life versions, with more ev ents covered and in ve ry different styles (Bateson, 1994; Duneier, 1999; Ellis, 1995; Frank, 2000; Fremont, 1999; Hamper, 1986; Knapp, 1996; Lamott, 1993; Pitts Jr., 1999; Slater, 1998; Tillmann-Healy, 2001; Weldon, 1999; Wink, 1996). Life stories might be short or in-depth, comprehensive or situational. They can be topical, naturalistic, reflexive, introspective, oral histor ies, layered accounts, or experimental, to name just a few categ ories (Plummer, 2001). Forms blend and blur, with over 52 terms or genres catalogued (Smith & Watson, 2001, p. 183-207). Im looking for how I will communicate my interpre tation of the CASA stories and what kind of labels will apply to my work.
177 Tearing a page off my tablet I write life story method--immersion rather than dissection and stare at the words (Cole & Knowles, 2001, p. 101). That makes sense for how Ive approached the UCI project, the CASA stories, and my dissertation. Rolling around the idea in my mind like the first sip of a glass of wine, I savor it. Suddenly, I hear a knock at the door, and the door opens as a woman loudly announces: Housekeeping. I am surprised and glance at my watch. Thats fine. Come in. Come in. It is time for the next program. I had gotten into the flow of work, but now Im going to be late meeting Linda. I grab my tote bag and hurry out the door, wondering how long it will take to find the next meeting room.
178 Chapter Seven Beckys Story: An Advocate Needs Shelter and Sanctuary Empowerment Is Personal and Political Im a few minutes late for the program, wh ich I really hate. Maybe its not such a big deal. Ill just slide into the back, I think to myself. Winded, I open the door to find the largest room and biggest crowd Ive seen for any NCADV program thus far, except the plenary sessions. A huge semi-circle of chairs lines the pe rimeter of this double meeting room. Another semicircle of people are sitting on the floor in front of those in chairs, facing the facilitator and the flip charts in the front of the r oom. I carefully tip-toe to the inside of the semicircle and squ eeze into a small space on the floor, not too far from Linda. This audience seems younger than those at the other pr ograms Ive attended thus far at NCADV, perhaps due to the topic, Depoliticization of the Domestic Violence Movement and the Reformation of Feminist Politics. A young woman speaks, I think we have become too concerned with intervention, and weve lost sight of the political struggles of our Movement. Another young woman with short, cropped hair offers, What I wonder is, how can we be a social service agency in our community, taking money from United Way and the city and the legislature, while at the same time, we must advocate against their policies, which are harmful to victims or just dont make sense in the DV context?
179 Comments continue, as I twist and turn to settle into a comfortable position. Being at NCADV is like my time at CASA: It is not always comfortable, but it challenges my assumptions, stimulates my emotions, and engages me in forming new perspectives. I think that we have lost sight of our struggle for social justice because we spend so much time focusing on shelters, visitati on centers, policies, staffing, and funding, says a participant. I wonder if the Battered Womens Mo vement has become more about our organizations than the cause, muses another participant. I turn when I hear Linda explain, In the early days, the shelters were a true collective of women helping women. I have some concerns about losing our focus on social justice and feminist politics, but I al so think we must remember that providing shelter to women experiencing abuse is a politic al act as well. Shelters were radical at the time the Battered Womens Movement began. Its clear that depoliticization is a very real problem, but lets not lose sight of our grassroots tradition and ideals. An older woman lifts her hand to get a nod fr om the facilitator a nd says, Its still also a question of funding. If I had to do it over again, maybe I would put less emphasis on the shelter. Weve grown into organizations providing more than just crisis shelters. Linda jumps in, I wasnt arguing agains t the need to rethink our emphasis on shelters. Ive visited other countries where they are looking at solutions to violence in intimate relationships very differently. They have the benefit of seeing our development. At CASA, the shelter is only one service. We have already expanded our outreach
180 program and educational activities significantly, which is part of our social justice efforts to change the way people see domestic violence. A woman on the floor interjects, Our state coalition is our vehicle for political action. We work through the coalition to lobby for legislation a nd funding, as well as state-wide awareness. That is a partnershi p between practitioners and lobbyists. Many of our programs use community members to speak out. These people may not see themselves as part of the movement, but they are reshaping acceptable norms. They are a political force, too. Another woman replies in a gentle, but firm, voice, Perhaps its a question of individuals in pain and in lethal situations. At the same time, the whole society needs to change the way it sees violence against women. Do we look at the stars instead of the sky or can we separate them? I think we must we see them both! The moderator moves to the flip chart, So let me summarize briefly. The 70s were a time of radical, grassroots work when we developed shelters. In the 80s, funding became more of an issue, and it converged with our push for credibility and professionalism. In many cases, this pushed out survivors, who were no longer hired as staff. In the 90s, we were confronted w ith welfare reform, mens rights, backlash, immigration reform, and VOCA [Victims of Crime Act]. So now we have 2000 and beyond to shape. Two key questions are entw ined. First, can a publicly funded program of service be effective in a highly political environment? Second, how are the political issues acted upon in direct serv ice--our shelters, crisis lin es, visitation centers, support groups, youth programs, legal advocacy, transitional housing, and outreach?
181 Another woman comments, I think all our programs are political because we create a new standard for what is considered normal, with our training, our support groups, our work with victims. As the woman talks, I am reminded of the term poetic activism, which sums up the process of cr eating new ways of understanding the world (Gergen, 2000). The group is quiet for a moment, and then a woman says, Weve been talking about empowerment since 70s, but Im not sure we are clear on what it means. I thought it was about honoring womens choices. Now I h ear people say things like, we want to help women make better choices. Better by w hose standards? Have we become another agency that constructs images of women as problems? Are we trying to fix them? Empowerment might be about individual choices, but it is also the structure of society, power, the distribution of resources, and pove rty. Empowerment is how each one of us chooses to make a difference in society. The facilitator reminds the group, Empowerment is political and personal. The battered womens movement is personal and pol itical. This has been the essence of our feminist movement for years. My butt has lost all feeling and my back aches. Im leaning sideways on my arm on the hard floor. Squirming, I shift positions to cross my legs. Balancing my portfolio to write notes, I realize that I dont see anyone else taking notes and wonder if they notice me writing. Im glad we discuss the conn ection between how personal experiences test and shape our political beliefs, as I continue to struggle with the recursive relationship
182 between the personal and the politi cal. This is a relational, nonlinear process of linking ideas. As the NCADV discussion continues, I th ink back to how shocking and confusing it was for me and the CASA staff to confront the personal and the political when a staff member became a victim of attempted murder by her estranged husband. This CASA advocate was then a resident of the Shelter where she had previously been a staff member. A confusion of roles, the questioning of procedures, and deep emotions were the result. During my research at CASA, I experienced and observed many different emotions. My field notes show that on many days the workers and I experience a list of emotions including: empathy, compassion, sy mpathy, sadness, frustration, anger, fear, appreciation, pride, joy, passion, and humo r. I challenged myself to probe my assumptions and understanding of the workpl ace feelings at CASA. When I began discussing emotions with the CASA staff, they responded in their typically articulate and self-aware manner. The complexity of the topic emerged and questions spiraled when Becky was attacked. After that time, I develo ped a heightened sense of the way that the staff at CASA managed the ambiguities of emotions and complex relationships. Emotions are key factors in forming mutual understanding by cueing empathy, gaining insights into expectations, building shared interpreta tions, and understanding life histories (Putnam & Mumby, 1993, p. 51). CASA workers are confronted with the ambiguities of working in an environment th at is highly emotional, where they must strive to understand their own emotions a nd the emotions of coworkers and Shelter
183 residents. When one of their coworkers a nd one of my co-researchers became a resident, the emotions were deeply disturbing. We experienced ambivalent emotions and faced the disjunction between our political philo sophies and personal emotions. Unexpected and Emotional Violence at CASA Its me, Elizabeth. Im ju st dropping off copies of th e last story I wrote. A brief silence, an atypical hesitation, make s me wonder if I inte rrupted a meeting or something. The CASA staff has told me th at I dont need to make an appointment any more to come to the Shelter. I usually call, but Ive become increasingly comfortable just hanging out, observing, chatting, and learning. Once in awhile, Ill clean out the kitchen pantry or something, but my main job seems to be writing stories about the staff and their work. Judy and Clarissa are absorbed in paperwork when I come into the office. The environment seems unusually subdued. Clarissa looks up and asks somewhat absently, Elizabeth, are you doing an interview today? Clarissa and Judy glance meaningfully at each other briefly, but I dont know what that glance means yet. I reply, No, Im just bringing you copies of the latest story for the staff to read. I know its busy around monthly report time, so I m not staying long. Class tonight starts at five oclock, so Ive got to get over th e bridge before traffic gets clogged. Judy says in clipped sentences, Well, can you wait a minute? I want to talk to you. Well have a cigarette break on the porch. Wait right here. She and Clarissa leave for a few minutes. When Judy returns, she gestures toward the back door.
184 We sit on the bench, and Judy offers me a cigarette. I shake my head no. She lights up and then says brusquely, We had a crisis. Beckys husband tried to kill her. . Judy pauses then explains in a gentle tone, S hes a resident here now, with us. Silence hangs around us like the vines from the hanging planters on the porch, which are twisted and entwined around the posts, like the way my relationships with CASA workers have grown and become intertwined. I stare at Judys face and then tap a cigare tte from her pack without asking. I light it, inhale deeply, and ask in a low voice, W hat happened? I feel my eyes filling with tears before she answers, but I struggle to keep the tears from spilling out. He broke into her place while she was sleeping on the couch, and hit her over the head with a pipe, choked her, smashed her arm. Ellie went to the emergency room that night to help Becky. Things have been in turm oil. Clarissa and I had to ask her if it was okay to tell you because of our confiden tiality policy. Judys words pour out. I murmur, My God. Oh my God. Im co ld and feel like a part of me has left my body, as I try to process this information. I shrink inward and away from this horror. Then I think of the whole shelter, all the staff, Becky, and the residents. I come back into my body to speak. I guess this has been really hard for everyone. Judy nods and exhales. I did the intake into Shelter. It wa s chilling. Beckys hair was still matted with blood. Ellie was worried about me. I said, No, Im fine. Im concerned for Becky and her feelings. Becky is a former resident of the CASA shelter, and I remember when she left her abuser eight or nine years ago. Then later she came to work at CASA as a Youth Advocate. Weve been coworkers for the past few years. So
185 when I interviewed her for intake into the Shelter this time I felt like I was invading her privacy by asking her the questions that we always ask women coming into Shelter. Funny that we dont look upon the questions as i nvasive with the strange rs we interview. Becky was very forthcoming with her answers and descriptions. I think she was still in shock. Sometimes she was laughing, trying to make a joke of some of it. I dont know what medications they gave her. Sh e was really hyper in a strange way. Flooded with adrenaline, I guess, I comm ent and take another long drag of my cigarette. Judy continues, When I went to bed afte r hearing Beckys story, I kept waking up with quick starts all night. My firs t thought was, Is that how you wake up when somebody hits you in the head with a piece of iron? Becky was so graphic during the intake. Ive heard stories like this from other women, and it hasnt affected me the same way. This seems more real somehow. For days, I would wake-up with a start and my first thought was being hit in the head. I got over that. I mean, I realized it wasnt happening to me at my home. Im still not over it; we are all struggling with it. We thought you should know. Thank you for trusting me. Im shocked, not sure how to react. Tell Becky Ill come visit soon, and Ill bring her cigarettes and chocolate. Tell her to call if she needs anything. I want to help Becky, to do some thing, but I feel at a loss. Judy and I both know that as a volunteer, Im not supposed to bring anything for just one individual resident. I can bring things for all the women to share or to be added to the supply cabinet in case a resident needs something. As a colleague and researcher, I can bring
186 goodies to the staff. If Im a friend of a resi dent I can provide things to help her, but I cant come into the Shelter. The policies, rules, and my identity arent clear now. Both Judy and I pause, drawing inward. We crush our cigarettes in the ashtray and walk back inside. Take care of yourself , Judy says, as she holds the screen door open for me. While I gather my canvas bag to leave, Clarissa cautions, We have serious safety concerns because Beckys husband knows where the Shelter is located. His bond was set pretty high, but hes out now. As soon as I get into my car, I lock the door and tears star t dribbling out the corners of my eyes and down my cheek into th e corners of my mouth. I taste the salt. Driving to the university from the Shelter, I sob as I cross the bridge and gaze at the endless, blue horizon of water and sky. I f eel alone, yet Im surrounded by other cars. The horror invades me and seems both real a nd unreal, incomprehensible. Concentrating on traffic is difficult. Once I park on campus I blow my nose several times, wipe my eyes, and compose myself, until I get to Carolyns office. Sobbing again, I cant talk because Im crying so intensely. Im usually the one with the long fuse and the even keel. Carolyn, looking confused, asks me gently, Did your mom die? I shake my head no and gasp, I went to CASA. . . Carolyn waits as I sob and talk, sharing what little I know of Beckys story with her. Handing me the Kleenex box, Carolyn asks a few questions and lets me s it quietly, dabbing my eyes and blowing my nose. I feel empty. Its just so brutal, I whisper. Domestic violence is becoming more real to me. Later, I will w onder if I broke confidentiality by telling Carolyn. She is
187 involved in the project with CASA, but perhaps this is a different leve l of confidentiality. Judy and Clarissa specifically asked Becky if they could tell me she was a resident. At CASA, confidentiality is a way of life and Im still learning. This is an intense lesson. The next day, I make arrangements to vi sit Becky. We go ou t onto the deck along the side of the Shelter, next to the pla yground. Becky has a cast on her right arm and a splint on her left wrist, and her hair is shaved where they put in the staples. We hug, but very carefully. I give her a floral gift bag with four packs of cigarettes, several bags of chocolate kisses, and a small pewter angel medallion inscribed with the word healing. Becky smiles when she opens her surprises a nd says, Im going to share the cigarettes and chocolate with the residents. They will appreciate these. But Im not going to share my medal. She holds it in her hand and rubs it like a worry stone. Did you know that I collect angels? No, but I figured you could use an angel about now. I smile at her. This might be a dumb question, but how are you? Becky sighs, takes a drag off her cigarette, and says, It was indescribable the first day when I came in, and horrible the first w eek. I was pretty messed-up looking, and I felt waves and waves of emotions. It is bizarre being here as a resident. Uncomfortable as I am here, I dont think I would want to be anywhere else because CASAs the best. Im glad that Im here with my co-workers. They are like my family, better than my family. My sisters husband is abusive, a nd she wont admit it or do anything about it. My mother just cant face it because shes not strong. Im surprised at the anger the staff
188 has for Steve. I guess they want to protect me. CASA is full of special people, and I dont think I would have been comfortable anywhere else. I am very touched that you let them tell me, I say softly. You know, we always say that it could happen to anyone, but this is unbelievable. Becky clenches her jaw. I just didnt think he would do something like this. How many times have I heard that from victim s! At first I felt like an idiot. It was so embarrassing! I know thats victim blaming. I know its not my fault, but I wonder if I should have seen it coming. She lowers her voice. Ten years ago he had some violent outbursts, mainly when he was drinking. But we got counseling, and there hasnt been anything for the past eight years. When we separated, he still helped with the kids, and things were friendly. He was drinking again sometimes. He would pressure me for sex, but I thought I could handle him. I should have realized that he feared losing control when I told him I wanted a divorce. I don t know what to say, and it seems like Becky needs to talk, so I nod, and sip my bottled water. Becky continues, I was worried about my job. How can I advise, counsel, and advocate for women if I cant control my own life? There I am blaming myself again. This was a shocker for the residents. One day Im their advocate; the next day Im a resident. She smiles, They have been very nurturing to me. This helped a few of them see what can happen. Now they are ready to take out injunctions. Becky vacillates between a soft, tired voice and an assertive, take-charge tone. I don t know how to talk about her abuse, but I can talk about health, injuries You need time to heal. Does your arm hurt? Did you get a concussion?
189 Yeah, theres lots of pain now. I cant sleep very well. The experience at the emergency room was like watching a horror movie in slow motion, except that I was in the movie. The doctor or intern, a man, asked me what I did to make my husband so mad. Normally, Id be really angry if I heard a comment lik e that, but I really wondered if I heard him say it. I felt so thankful when a female nurse told him, There is no reason for this. All the EMTs [emergency medical technicians] were men and the police officers were all men. When they got to my house, one guy said the place was a mess, and another commented that I was very calm. I was in shock; so weak I couldnt stand, sitting in my t-shirt and panties with bl ood pouring out of my head. There was blood everywhere. Before the police arrived, I had to keep Steve calm or he might finish the job and kill me. In the face of death, you can get very calm. If I was screaming or something he would have panicked. Bec ky is chain-smoking, lighting one cigarette from another. Im not smoking today, but my body craves the nicotine as I catch whiffs of Beckys cigarettes. How are your kids? I ask, recalling th e photos of her three children she passed around during one of our lunch meetings. Becky replies, Oh, thankf ully, they werent home when the attack happened. They were at an overnight church camp out. Theyre here with me now, but they want to go home. She stares out to the playground. My own kids didnt believe me when I told them what their father had done. That s actually a common response that Ive seen many times. This time its personal and hurtf ul, but we are working through things. The youth advocates are fantastic! She stares at the playground again, and I just wait and
190 listen. I think Steve is following the bus from school. The kids say they saw him. I was supposed to be notified when he got out of jail, but I wasnt. Her tone gets an angry, hard edge. Its hard to prove that hes vi olating the injunction to stay away from the Shelter, me, and the kids because he knows the limits of the law. He might drive by here to scare me, but hes gone before I can ca ll the police. Im documenting absolutely everything for when we go to court, even though hell deny it all. Hampered by the cast and splints on her arms, Becky awkwardly pulls a large wad of folded sheets of paper from her pocke t. I brought this for you. It is the description of that night, the en tire intake report that I did. She hands me the pages and looks at my surprised face. You might want to write about my story. I want this case prosecuted to the fullest, with a charge of a ttempted murder. The States Attorney will want to plea down, go for aggravated battery, but thats not right. Steve planned this, and he almost killed me. It was attempted murder, and I want him to be responsible for his actions. My story might help other people understand. I feel unsure about writing her story. It feels invasive, ghoulish, to think of writing in the midst of tragedy. Then I realize that giving voice to Beckys life would probably help her. It would give her some control and the sense of being a helper. I reply gently, I would be glad to visit a nd interview you. We could document your story together, but you need to let me know what you are ready to discuss, when. Its your story, and I dont want to push you. I want to tell this story, Becky reite rates firmly, and I nod, listening. You should probably talk to Ellie and the staff b ecause they are having lo ts of trouble dealing
191 with it. Sometimes none of us can believe it is real. Beckys voice sounds deflated and her earlier bravado has weakened. I am surprised at her suggestion, but wh en she goes upstairs to rest, I slip into Ellies office. She readily agrees to an interview. We are all trying to process this, talk about it. . . Ellie shrugs wearily. I thi nk of how this interruption of the on-going flow brings an emotional response to sensemaki ng (Weick, 1995) and the ambivalent emotions that are a disjunction between the expected and the experienced (Lane-Timmerman, 1999). Ellie continues, Let me start at the be ginning. I knew Becky was a survivor, but she convinced me that she could do the job, a nd she has been a terrif ic advocate. I also knew that she was having trouble with Steve recently. She even told me that she had called two other shelters, just in case she need ed to escape. Becky said they wouldnt take her because she was an advocate at anot her shelter, but we dont really know what happened during their screeni ng process. Becky might not have pushed hard enough or maybe the other shelters didnt understand the s ituation. Linda is going to talk with the directors of the other shelters because this has created real controversy. Becky told me that she had a safety plan, but it seems like she waited too long or underestimated Steves volatility. I dont mean to say I blame her; things just erupted. When Becky called me at four oclock in the morning, I was shocked, but not completely surprised. Ellie pauses and then says, I wa s not prepared for what I saw at the hospital, and Ive been to ER with victims plenty of times. The blood was pumping out of her head, covering her face, her shoulder, her body. Her arms were limp and she looked so
192 drained and pasty grey. Linda came to the emergency room, too, and shes Christian Scientist, you know. Becky started to explain, but Linda understood. One of the first things Linda said was, Dont worry, youll st ill have a job. Linda knew that Becky would wonder if we blamed her. Vulnerable in so many ways, Becky didnt even have any clothes because everything was taken fo r evidence. I brought her one of my nightgowns, which wasnt a perfect fit. We both chuckle wryly because Becky is so petite and Ellie is tall and full-figured. I say, Becky told me that her mother was sick, in another hospital, and she couldnt count on her sister. You are like a mo ther figure to her. Now Becky seems like she really wants to tell her story. This ma y be her way of gaining control over a horrible incident, a weird turnabout from advocate to victim-resident with an uncertain future. She asked me to take notes on her stor y and come back again next week. Telling the story can be a powerful heali ng tool. Becky trusts you. We all trust you. I have been worried about Becky because she has so little support from her family. At CASA, we stress that people need to have a life and support outside their work at the shelter. One sign I didnt take seriousl y enough was Beckys reliance on us to be her family. We develop close bonds because we work in such emotional surroundings, and people who dont work in domestic violence have difficulty understanding this world. I think about how this situation demons trates emotions as collaborative social performances (Fine & Buzzanell, 2000; Me yerson, 2000), which are essential to the process that workers use to negot iate their shared r ealities, especially in professions that
193 involve caring for others. Beckys attack pushes the boundaries of sensemaking and challenges the bonds of work and friendship. Ellie continues, But we need outside interests and lives to stay healthy. Compassion fatigue is one of the biggest hazards in this type of job. Weve talked about this before, but theres a difference between understanding the concep ts and living them. CASA was the only place Becky felt accepted, comp etent, and in control. I have to be careful not to blame myself either. It seems like the attack on Becky and he r becoming a resident here have been very hard on all the staff, from what Ive he ard. I pause and invite Ellie to continue. Ellie nods slowly. When or if you write about this, I know you will be respectful. Staff members ar e angry, confused, frustrated, sad, and scared, and are experiencing all kinds of other emotions. Beckys situation challenges everything we believe. Our staff meeting was very difficult for Clarissa; in fact, she asked Linda to come and help. Some staff members were very honest. They started to blame Becky. Then they realized what they were saying and got frustrated. The staff members understand that victims react in different ways. We dont try to proscribe a way of coming to grips with the violence, even if we see similar patterns. As Ellie pauses, squinting in thought, she puts her hand on her chin. Beckys reactions puzzled some staff. They believe in empowerment and pr actice it everyday. We respect the choices women make, even if we disagree sometimes. Recently, Becky went back to her house, even though her abuser now lives with his pa rents a few blocks away. She said she had to get the mementoes she saved from her baby, who died years ago. On one hand, we can
194 relate to her emotional needs, yet she put herself in great danger. This upset her coworkers who care about her. Ellie wipes a tear from the corner of her eye. In the past I had wondered if CASAs philosophy had an element of emotional labor as defined by Hochschilds (1983) book on the managed heart because there is so much discussion on how to manage compassi on fatigue. Talking to Ellie, I come to understand that as an organization, CASA supports individual staff engaging in work feelings that are co-constructed, relational feelings, which acknowle dge the ambiguity of emotions. 10 Elli continues, A few staff members think that it is unethical for us to have Becky here because the combination of professional and personal relationships could create tensions and perhaps inadequate care. They compare it to a doctor operating on a family member. On the other hand, when st aff found out that two other shelters wouldnt take Becky before the attack, they were insistent that she shouldnt go to one of those now, even if they would take her. They we re concentrating on her emotional well being, but physically, she would be safer somewhere el se, in a secret location. Some shelters espouse a much less empowering philosophy and a more medical, clinical approach, which would be much worse for Becky. El lie sighs, There are no clear choices. We are just trying to process it all. 10 Work feelings are those emo tions that emerge from human interaction, rather than being imposed by instrumental bureaucratic rationality (Mumby & Putnam, 1992). Human interaction in this case is concerned with developing mutual understanding through messages that emerge from the co-construction of meaning. That is, work feelings aid in negotiating meanings about roles and relationships rather than conforming to predetermined display rules or to prescribed norms. So in opposition to overt or covert control over emotional displays, work feelings are emergent . (Putnam & Mumby, 1993, p. 49-50).
195 Ellies comments lead me to think of how ambivalent feelings (Pratt & Doucet, 2000), dialectical tensions, and conflicting emotions (Montgomery & Baxter, 1998) are shaped by individual differences, and/or environmental conditions. Ambiguity, contradiction, and paradox exist in gende red organizations, but ambiguity is more concerned with interpersonal meaning, contradiction with social structure, and paradox with social process (Hearn, 1998, p. 3). CA SA staff members deal routinely with the ambiguities of domestic violence on an interper sonal, political, or social level, and now they face the ambiguities of DV internally with one of their own. Research on alternative ways to language the work of emotions and to acknowledge it as real work that requires competency applies to CASA (Meyerson, 2000). Accessing and joining our emotions, rather than controlling or managing them, we can re-conceptualize emotional work from a relational perspective (Fletcher, 1995, 1998) Feminist ways of knowing are often at odds with the rationalistic approach because ra ther than looking to authority, we look to experience and emotions to guide our de velopment of knowledge (Fine & Buzzanell, 2000). I agree and empathize with Ellie. There are no easy or clear-cut answers to this one. As you sometimes say about the Shelter, t onight the house is in crisis. Only this time, it is the staff in crisis more than the residents. Right, and actually, the residents are being very supportive. It confirms for them that abuse could happen to anyone. Beckys comments are helping us examine some of our rules from a fresh viewpoint. Communal liv ing is tough for some people, so we have to establish boundaries, but th ere are ways we can improve. As a resident, Becky sees
196 the effects of some of our prac tices, routines, and even things like the height of the wall phone in the hall, which is a pr oblem for people who are injured. We finish talking, and I stand up. Bec ky says she wants me to tell her story and the stories of her co-workers. I guess Ill just come visit each week and interview folks. Of course, Ill bring chocolate. We smile gr imly, Ellie gives me a hug, and I head down the stairs. After Becky leaves the Shelter and ta kes disability leave from CASA, we routinely meet at the pancake house for brunc h, my treat. Becky likes recording our conversations with my new omni-directional microphone and doesnt care if the waitress gives us funny looks. Becky updates me on her health, her family, and the legal case against her husband. She alternates between being angry, sad, afraid, frustrated, and happy at her small steps toward recovery. We share our lives during very emotional times. While she is dealing with the issues of abuse, her mother is also seriously ill. At one point, her mother moved into a house with Becky and her children. My mother is in and out of the hospital several times, and Hospic e is called to help prepare for her death. Becky and I often talk about our mothers a nd how we both see ourselves as the strong helpers in our families. Our brunches become a time of friendship and sharing, as much as an interview. I dont come with a prepared set of questions, but I am ready to record her observations about the events of her life. When Beckys disability leave ends, she returns to work at CASA, but the splint on her arm is an on-going reminder of her em otional and physical inju ries. We continue our taped conversations at th e Shelter occasionally. Becky describes how her estranged
197 husband stalks her, vandalizes her car, and even smashes the windows of her house. He rides by the house drunk and throws beer cans in the yard. Becky requests police surveillance, but they cant catch him in the act, so Becky moves several times and worries about the effects on her children. B eckys health, finances, and emotions are in shambles, but she is determined to have Steve held accountable for his attempted murder. Struggling with lawyers and the courts fo r many months, the know ledge of the legal system that Becky gained working at CASA bolsters her determination and effectiveness in advocating for the full penalty. Eventu ally, her husband is convicted of attempted murder and sent to prison. I take Becky out to dinner to celebrate at her favorite restaurant, Red Lobster, but it is a sad celeb ration because while hes in prison, Steve wants visitation with the children. So the emotional turmoil for Becky and her family continues. When Becky initially returns to work at CASA, she is happy to be once again helping other women, but recapturing her form er life proves difficult, even after Steve is convicted. She is wired and edgy, as well as tired and dull from lack of sleep. Her appearance becomes disheveled and her weight plummets. I cant sleep in the bedroom, so I lay on the couch in the living room to watch television, Becky confides at lunch. But I cant sleep on the couch either because I get so scared Then I get angry and all churned up! One part of my brain knows hes in jail, but the other part of my brain thinks hes going to sneak into my place at night and hit me again. I hate this! Any suggestions about sleep that come in to my mind, like warm milk, hot cocoa, reading, or a hot bubble bath, seem like usel ess platitudes, so I dont offer any advice to
198 Becky. I simply say, Im so sorry. I cant imagine how awful that must be. Ill pray that your guardian angel watches over you, a nd Ill ask my Mom to pray because I think her prayers are closer to God than mine. Becky barely smiles. I continue, You collect angels so maybe they will be there for you. And now maybe this will make you feel better. I brought some chocolate for dessert. I hand her a box of candy, but I feel impotent. The only way I can help Becky is to let her know I care. The next week, while shopping at a discount store, I see a huge, three-feet-tall stuffed bunny in pink and lavender crushed velvet fabric. I know that I must buy it for Becky. It will be her good dream bunny, lik e the story I wrote for the CASA booklet of stories before Beckys attack, based on her interview about hopes, dreams and empowerment. Good Dream Bunny He never behaves this way at home, really he doesnt, Jean, a Shelter resident, explains to Becky, the Youth Advocate, in a plaintive tone. Jean turns to the boy and sternly says, Eric! Eric, didnt I tell you to st ay in bed? I dont wa nt to tell you again. Get under those covers and go to sleep. It is way past bedtime fo r a five-year-old big boy! Its very, very late! Eric wrinkles his forehead, as he shrieks, No! No sleep! I dont want to sleep! I wont sleep here! I want my Batman sheets, and my toys. I want to go home! He is crying and his body is rigid with fear. Eric s lides off the bed defiantly, sits on the floor, and clenches his fists across hi s tiny chest. Jeans shoulders slump in defeat. Her eyes
199 plead with Becky Please help me! I just cant take anymore. Jean hangs her head and rubs her forehead to hide the tears that are forming in her eyes. Becky sits down on the floor near Eric and waits. Erics breathing slows, and his eyes are furtively moving from his mother to B ecky. He sniffles from the tears and wipes his nose on his t-shirt. Becky l ooks at Eric. Very softy she says, It can be scary to be in a strange place. But you are sa fe here. Thats why your mom brought you to the Shelter. You know, I think you could sleep better if you had a good dream bunny. My daughter loves her good dream bunny. Did you ever have one before? Eric shakes his head no. Becky waits. Eric asks in a small, tentative voice, Whats a good dream bunny? A good dream bunny is very special. He will give you good dreams so you can sleep. Ill start off by whispering two good dreams in the bunnys ear. Then hell make up dreams for you. In fact, every night, you get a different good dream! I have a good dream bunny downstairs that Ill let you take to bed. He can be your very own bunny to sleep with every night. Do you want him? Erics large, brown eyes are open wide. He sees his mother smile, and he nods as he stands up, leans on the bed, and grabs the blanket tightly. In the morning, you can tell me the good dreams you get tonight. We can go outside on the playground, too. But first you need to sleep. Can you try to think of a name for your good dream bunny? Becky asks as she stands up. Eric replies, Im going to call him Wiggle the Bunny. Mom says Im a wiggle boy sometimes.
200 Ill be right back with your good dream bunny. Your mom will help you get into bed, and by the time youve kissed her goodni ght, the bunny will be in your bed with you, OK? Eric stands up, hugs his Moms legs, and nods. Jean gently touches his shoulder. So are you ready, big boy? After Eric is snuggled in bed, Jean turn s to Becky. Thanks. I just dont know what has gotten into him tonight. Usually bedtime is no problem. Really, hes a good boy. I believe you, Becky answers. This behavior, or something like it, is common for most of the kids who come to the Shelter. He is acting out now because he feels safe enough to react. It is normal to be nervous or afraid of a new environment, especially after what he has been through and what you have been through. I imagine at home he might be afraid to have a tantrum around his father. Jean nods and gazes down, as tears slide down her cheeks. Well talk more tomorrow in the suppor t group. Tonight, why dont you take a nice long shower and get some rest, OK? Ill be here to help you figure out your safety plans in the morning. Heres your bag of to iletries with a nightgown and more blankets, in case you get cold tonight. Tr y to snuggle into bed and rest. Youre safe here. Well get you some clothes tomorrow, too, Becky encourages Jean. Jean looks into Beckys eyes. Thanks again. I do feel safe here for tonight. She hesitates, smiles, and says, I just wish they had good dream bunnies for grown-ups.
201 The next morning, as the advocates on the morning shift start their day, Judy reviews the logbook where Becky has noted the previous even ings events. Judy saw the good dream bunny mentioned. She smiles and says So, Becky, tell me more about the good dream bunny. How cute! I didnt know we had those! Becky chuckles, Actually, I got the id ea years ago, when I invented a gooddream blanket for my daughter. I guess it help s kids to have someone tell them that things can be better, less scary. They need to believe in good dreams. Dont we all! Judy rep lies. You know, we need good dream bunnies for the women who become residents at the shelter. Maybe we are their good dream bunnies, Becky wonders aloud. Our job is to help them believe in themselves, to dream of a better life. They both chuckle and shake their heads, Yeah thats what we are, good dream bunnies. I can hardly wait to tell Ellie th at! Shell need a good laugh by lunch time. I see the good dream bunny as a meta phor for how CASA advocates try to empower the victims who need a vi sion of possibilities for change. Becky Needs Her Own Good Dream Bunny When I give Becky her three-feet-tall, pink and lavender bunny, tears form in her eyes. I dont have to tell her why I bought it for her. When she opens the bag, she exclaims, You got me a good dream bunny! The co lors are perfect, and it is so soft! She hugs the stuffed bunny tightly and buries her head in it quietly for a few seconds. Becky composes herself and adds, Maybe this will do the trick. Im going to sleep with bunny tonight. My kids will want it, but Im not going to share. We laugh and Becky
202 hugs me along with her bunny. The crisis li ne rings and Becky sits down in her chair with the bunny in her lap to answer the call. When Becky was off work on disability, we met frequently, but when she returned to work, our schedules didnt match very well. Several months later, I am surprised, but not shocked that Becky decides to leave CASA. She says, It is just time for me to move on to other th ings. I still think CASA is the greatest organization around, and always will be. Feeling guilty that I ha vent talked with her more, knowing that she has been struggling, I regret the distance I feel between us. Becky finds it difficult to get and keep jobs, especially with her on-going medical problems, arms in splints, and physical therapy. Eventually, she conf ides in me that her painkillers have been affecting her life, but she finally finds NA (Narcotics Anonymous). On-line, she joins a community of people w ho participate in NA discussions. NA offers her a renewed sense of purpose. When we meet in a new place for brunch, Becky is animated as we talk about her new friends on-line, people who understand her, people who see her as a strong helper and seek her ad vice. She feels like a strong advocate with these new NA friends. In the following months, we still talk on the phone and e-mail occasionally. Each time she moves, I wait for her to give me her new phone number or to e-mail me when she changes her Internet provider. We find different brunch places, and Becky begins to talk about writing her own life story. She always assures me that she wants me to write this chapter of her life first. I tell her that Ill help her write her life story. Late one
203 evening, Becky calls to tell me she is moving to Texas with new friends to live on a farm. Our call ends with her promise to send me her new address, but she doesnt. When my e-mail messages to her previ ous address bounce back to me, I wonder whether our story has ended. Then one night, about a year later, Becky surprises me with a call to say that she is back in town, working as a live-in caregiver. Just as we start to chat, her employer needs her, so Becky says in a rushed tone, Ill call you back later. Gotta go now because Mrs. Hadley needs me. I remember the many times I said something similar when I was caring for my Mom. Becky doesnt call me back that night, or the next. As I write this story and my dissertation, Im still waiting for Beckys call. I hope she calls again, and I wonder about her. I question my ethics in describing Bec kys attack because she has not read the story. Others at CASA have given me thei r feedback, and in many ways, this is their story as much as Beckys. Someday Id like to write a more complete story of Beckys life and work together with her to create it. NCADV Helping Hands The NCADV session on depoliticization conc ludes, and people are mingling. As I stretch and prepare to stand up, it feels li ke thousands of pinpoint s poking my legs. I roll to my side and get to my knees, but Im wondering how stable I ll be if I stand. A woman holds out her hand and steadies me. My legs are asleep, I say lamely and grimace, as the feeling returns to my legs. Linda waves and beckons to me. She chats
204 with the facilitator. When I approach, she introduces me to Nancy Meyer and we shake hands. Nancy greets me and says warmly, Linda tells me you wrote the stories of CASA workers. I look forward to reading the CASA booklet. Thanks. I really enjoyed the discussion you facilitated today, except for the hard floor, of course. We chuckle. Its fun to facilitate a gr oup of such passionate and articulate people. Of course, it keeps me hopping to record and summarize it all, she replies. What points meant the most to you? I loved the comment about the stars and the sky. Then I was reflecting on the connection of the political and personal, which led me to thinking about emotions, cognition, and rationality. I wonder what shell think of my comment. Yes! Interesting ideas! In our mo vement, we face the anger, passion, and ferocious advocacy at the same time we em brace diversity, compassion, and empathy. Emotions are a big issue. Its time for the next session, Linda says, as we help Nancy pack up. Its Ellens session on Visitation Centers. Nancy replies, That should be an inte nse group. Lots of debate there. I think about how Linda describes the bi g voice of activists. The program lists sessions on ferocious advocates who work w ith bureaucrats, as well as sessions on spirituality, art therapy, and compassion fa tigue. The plenary sessions and memorial sessions have been full of emotions like anger, sadness, frustration, outrage, and
205 compassion. The juxtaposition of being an adversary and a compassionate, empowering advocate intrigues me. Suddenly, I see that the underlying value is that emotionality is accepted and honored.
206 Chapter Eight Advocating for Kids: Empoweri ng and Compassionate Framing Issues Knotted and Tangled When we leave the discussion on depolitici zation and feminist politics, my head feels like Coca Cola poured into a tall glass too fast, bubbling, overflowing with ideas. At a brisk pace, Linda and I walk to the ne xt session on visitation centers. We turn a corner, look down the hallway, and find the Colorado Room, where the chairs are arranged in a loose half-circle, as theyve been in the other meetings Ive attended so far. A room with neat, straight rows of chairs evenly placed at measured intervals would be too impersonal and hierarchical for NCA DV participants. The circular seating symbolizes their philosophy of equality, openness to diversity, and commitment to making space for all voices. The room is a strong statement that everyones voice is honored. Flip-chart pages covered with colo rful print from the morning session on this topic are taped on the walls and windows around the room. Gazing absently at the ideas listed, I hear Linda ask, Did you get some work done this morning? Oh, yes. I wish I hadnt been late for the last meeting, but it was worth it. The ideas are coming together like harmonic c onvergence or something, I laugh. Maybe this trip has set me free in a way. Its certainly given me some introspective time, so I
207 can see the dissertation taking shape. Im feeling good about my writing, passionate and focused. Pausing, I ask Linda, How was the caucus meeting? Linda becomes animated, It was great! We drafted a position paper. I really enjoyed watching some of the new younger members shape their concerns into a statement. Giving them space to express themselves makes me feel like a mentor, cultivating new leaders in the movement. Theyre excited about presenting their statement to the membership. Here, we already had copies made. She hands me The Battered and Formerly Battered Womans Caucus, Statem ent for NCADV Conference 2004. Thanks, sounds like a productive meeting. Isnt it amazing how sometimes the most powerful or empowering thing we can do is to hold back, not take center stage, and listen instead? I scan the two pages and see some interesting points that seem to sum up the conference and the collaborative research theme. I read aloud, As a movement, it is in our best interest to consider survivors wealth of knowledge and resources, as well as those who have been silenced. . We will not be defined as having a psychological malady that caused, created or attracted abus e to us and to our lives. . Stop using clinical language, and mental health/social work models . revictimizing, stigmatizing, disrespecting and demeaning Ba ttered Women. It has also inadvertently aided batterers to persecute Battered Women, in areas such as child custody hearings (Garrity & Payne, 2004). Slipping the pages into my portfolio fo r later, I turn toward Linda and say, You know, I think mentoring and co aching are all about how we empower the next wave of
208 leaders, entrust them with the future, let them try new ideas, and even make mistakes as they learn. It isnt easy to make room for the new leaders sometimes. Linda replies, Yes, mentoring within the Movement is a lot like empowering those we serve. We need to make space fo r their voices, offer validation, and provide resources or support. Opening the conference program, I comment to Linda, At first, I was surprised you were coming to this program on visitati on centers, because it sounds like a practical topic, more about direct service and less a bout political issues. Now, after the last session, I see how the philosophy is deeply embedded in the services. Seems obvious, but its like my proverbial light bulb! Linda explains, There are lots of controve rsial issues related to this service. Women are often re-victimized by their a busers, who manipulate them through their children and court-ordered visitation. The ch ildren also can be victimized. There are very difficult and emotional issues involved. Ive met the CASA visitation staff, but Ive never been to the visitation center. This will be a good introduction for me, I comment. Linda elaborates, The facilitator, Elle n Pence, is one of the mothers of the Movement. You remember, I told you about her work on developing the power and control mode. These days, I dont always agr ee with her, but shes been an important leader. Ellen arrives and greets Linda. She walk s to a chair in the front of the circle, welcomes the participants, and summarizes th e earlier session. Ellen conveys a strong
209 presence in her voice, but at the same time, she opens space for dialogue. So now in part two of this topic, we have more time for discussion. Lets take a straw poll of your opinions. Should children from families that have experienced domestic violence get to see their fathers, the abusers? People hes itate, and Ellen continue s, Yes, I know some abusers are women, but Im dealing with gene ralities now, and most abusers are men. Dont hesitate to ra ise your hand and voice your opinion. This is just to start the discussion. After Ellen has gone through the process of getting us to respond, we see that opinions are about half in favor and ha lf opposed. Ellen invites comments from the group. A woman starts the discussion by commenting, I strongly feel that children should not see dads who demonstrate violence. Those men are negative models, teaching children violent, criminal ways of dealing with anger. A woman sitting in the opposite corner comments, Children suffer if they dont see their dads. They know that they have a father, even if they also understand that he did bad things. Lets acknowledge that there ends up being contact anyway, another woman counters. I just want that contact to be in a safe place. Without visitation centers, women may be re-victimized by abusers when they must interact with them. The visitation center can be much safer for children, too. Linda jumps into the discussion, CASA s visitation center st arted because a cop was the abuser, and the woman was afraid to ha ve contact with him. Yet, she faced court sanctions if she was uncooperative. When we started supervised visits at CASA, he
210 stopped coming because he wasnt really interest ed in his children. He was using them to hurt her. We see this all the time! Visi tation centers weed out the manipulators looking for more contact and control versus the da ds who really want to see the children. A participant adds, I ag ree. Courts continue to order visitation and uphold fathers parental rights--even if he has been abusive. I know of a case where the court ordered visitation between a father and a 13-year -old girl. The father had raped this girl when she was five-years-old, but when he got out of prison, the court ordered visitation. The room becomes quiet. Im incredulous, and then angry when I think of this example. I can almost feel the fear and anger the young girl must have experienced. Then the participant continues, Thi s young girl came to our visi tation center, put on her headphones, and listened to music during the entire visit. She felt safe because she was at the visitation center. I feel some hope in this example, but I imagine the story doesnt end there. Then Ellen summarizes, This is a very complex issue, as we explored in the earlier session. Lets not forget that some of the visitors at our centers are women. In some states, the domestic situation results in a woman being accused of battery as well. She may shove, grab, or slap her abuser. If she loses custody of her children temporarily for any reason, the visitation center is essential for her and the children. The discussion continues, Ive seen cas es where the mother leaves the abuser, but is then accused of child abandonment if he reports her. Abusers work the system. One service at our center is that we offer pa renting classes that are often court-ordered for the moms.
211 Children dont just witness battering; they experience it as they see it. It hurts emotionally, developmentally, and even academically. Participants share more stories about kids and I feel the emo tionality of this session linked with the analytical issues. Sometimes sorting through these issues is li ke trying to untie knotted and tangled yarn. Just when you start to make progress, you fi nd another knot. You pull one strand, and it yanks the knot that you just opened. It remi nds me of the complexity of relationships. Linda announces, Now we face the failure -to-protect laws in Florida. Weve convinced the courts that abuse hurts child ren as well as moms. How does the court respond? They want to take children away from moms who get abused. It is ridiculous! He hits me, so I lose my kids because I have nowhere to go, no money, and no job! How can we get people to stop blaming and punishing women? As the discussion of this issue intens ifies, I think once again about how the personal is the political and th e political is the personal. At times, I wonder about whether my work is action-oriented enough. Will my research make a difference? How do I balance the personal and the political? I think back to my time observing the CASA Youth Center and Youth Advocates. I found my self challenged to align my beliefs and actions. By reflecting on my framing and refr aming, I recognize Hochschilds pinch, a discrepancy between the emotions I experien ced, what I wanted to feel, and what I thought I should feel (Hochschild, 1979, p. 56). I found that engaging in empathy and reflexivity opened me to more positive framing (Brehony, 1999). Empathy builds on self awareness, the more open we are to our own emotions, the more skilled we will be in reading feelings (Goleman, 1995, p. 96). I embrace an empathetic stance in my
212 research. Often researchers use this term to describe a dialogic relationship with the knower and the known, researcher and subj ect, or researchers and co-researchers. Empathy becomes an attitude of attention to th e real world based in an effort to connect ourselves to it rather than to distance ourselves from it (Josselson, 1995, p. 31). These connections allow for more empowering a ttitudes. The following story shows the complexities of an empathetic stance, the emotional pinch, and how I came to understand the empowerment philosophy while work ing at CASA as a youth advocate. The CASA Youth Center and Youth Advocates Opening the gate to the playground at the new CASA Youth Center, I notice the colorful slide, swings, and climbing poles. A young woman with very short, brown hair and five hoops in each ear answers the hea vy steel door, after I push the buzzer several times. Youre the one who wrote the booklet of CASA stories, she exclaims with a big smile and an upbeat aura after I introduce myse lf. Im Robyn, the Youth Coordinator. I just started working at CASA, and reading the stories helped me get oriented. I love the story about the Good Dream Bunny ! (Curry, 2002). Thinking back to how Beckys smile brightened her haggard face when I gave her the good dream bunny, a wave of sadness washes over me. There have been a lot of changes at CASA since I started volunteering. Robyn came to work at CASA af ter Becky left, and Im not sure if she has heard about the attack on Becky. The Good Dream Bunny story holds different meanings for each of us.
213 I also feel a surge of pride that comes from making a difference in a meaningful way. Thanks for telling me your reactions. Our goal for the project is to serve lots of different audiences, so Im glad that the booklet is useful to new CASA staff members like you. Scanning the long room of the new Youth Center, I notice the fresh, white paint on the brick walls, tall book shelves with leopard-print chairs in a reading corner, art supplies, an old piano, a huge doll house on the front stage, and a row of computers along the wall. It looks like you have really created a special space for the kids! I observe, as I munch an oatmeal cookie from the reception table full of goodies. Not too many people have arrived yet for this Open House reception. Each time someone enters, we hear the security buzzer at the back door. Robyn smiles, We open next week. I guess you remember when this building was the CASA Thrift Store. We worked with volunteers like the Girl Scouts, who helped us to paint and clean up. Th e girls put up such cute borders in the bathrooms! They donated lots of games and books. We got the couch and TV from the Thrift Store, and some cribs, too. Let me show you the infant-toddler room. She heads off to the room with the divided doors. As I follow, Robyn says over her shoulder, Then Ill show you the teen room The infant cribs, playpens, changing tabl e, rocking chairs, and colorful murals are bright and hopeful. Robyn says, Look at thes e murals that Homer painted. Arent they awesome? I reply, He has a special talent. I th ink his drawings made the CASA booklet come alive. Everyone comments on the illustrations! We cross through the middle
214 room, called the activity room, to the teen room with the pool table, Fooz Ball, and pingpong table. I ask Robyn, Where did you work before you came to CASA? Im curious about how people come to domestic violence work. I worked at CASA as an intern from Eckerd College. I just graduated, Robyn replies. Im an Eckerd College alumni too. As the words jump from my mouth, I realize that I graduated before she was born. Its a strange, surreal sense of age, but I chuckle, It was a long time ago, in the 60s. After I graduated, I worked with the Sunflower School, an alternative Free School, wher e lots of the professors sent their kids. I taught visual arts and language arts. That was before I became a librarian and then a Communication student. I feel like Im telling her more than she wants to know. A broad smile lights up Robyns face, Really ? I didnt know that! Ive heard of Sunflower School. She asks brightly, Can you he lp us with arts and crafts for the kids? We need volunteers, and youve already done CASAs volunteer training. Im good with outdoor games, support groups, and other stuff, but not as much with crafts. We could really use someone like you. Its an unexpected request, but Im surpri sed I didnt think of it. Volunteering at the Youth Center, not just observing, but also working closely with CASA staff members, would enhance my participant observation rese arch methodology. It feels like the right time for me to volunteer. My Mom has pa ssed away, and Im settled in a new house, with new routines.
215 Robyn, you asked me at just the right time, I respond. I think Id enjoy working with you and the other youth advocates. Im finished with my coursework, so my evenings are open. Thursdays and Friday s I usually travel for my consulting work. When do you need help? Tell me about the schedule, so we can see what we can work out. Robyn explains: The Youth Center is designed to help families in CASA Transitional Housing, sometimes Shelter kids, too. Once families get to Transitional Housing, they are on the way to self-sufficiency. You know, the moms are in school or job training and get subsidized housing for two years. I nod. Ive heard this explanation before, when I attended the ribbon-cutting cerem ony of the new units. However, I want to hear Robyns description and give her a ch ance to explain her new job. She continues, Our kids are special and need lots of atte ntion. Theyve experienced intense traumatic violence, but they are survivors. Here they feel safe. After school, we meet the bus and the kids come to the center for snacks, homewo rk, tutoring, and activities. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while the moms are in support gr oups until eight oclock, we have groups with the kids and feed them dinner. As people arrive and circulate at the recep tion, especially around the food table, I realize that only staff members are at the reception. When they invited me, I assumed that it was an event for volunteers, donors, board members, and community supporters, but that reception will be later. Staff invite d me to this preview party, and no one seems to think it is strange. In the last three year s, my insider-outsider role has continued to
216 evolve. They still see me as a researcher, but also as a participant, a volunteer, a helper, and someone who has a history with the organization. Becoming a Youth Volunteer The first few weeks of volunt eering to work with youth advocates is challenging, like any new job, as I explain to my sister Peggy, during a late ni ght phone call. Im just too old! Im exhausted, sighing as I si nk into the familiar folds of my green leather couch. My feet hurt, my whole body aches. Volunteering at the Youth Center is harder than teaching one of my all-da y leadership seminars when Im constantly on my feet! Peggy replies, Well, you are there almost five hours. Thats a full day, and kids have much more energy than middle managers. She laughs. I laugh with her and reply, The good thing is that now Im sure Im not in shape to be a foster mother. Peggy doesnt say anyt hing, so I pause before continuing. Every once in awhile I still have that fantasy because I always thought Id have kids. I used to say that I wanted six kids! We all thought you would be the one with kids. I guess God has a different plan. Maybe you were supposed to help others, li ke taking care of Mom all those years or maybe being at CASA. Dont forget that you are my counselor, too! You know Mom always said you were the Big Girl, she laughs. How did I get to be Big Girl when I was only 12 months older? How convenient! In my Family Communication cl ass, we looked at how we create roles in
217 families by how we act talk and the stories we tell (Yerby, Buerkel-Rothfuss, & Bochner, 1998). You were poor little Peggy and I wa s Mommys Big Girl. We both laugh. I know, that social constr uction thing. Frankly, I dont see how Mom did it with three kids under three! I guess you were the helper, so we could all survive. So how many kids are at the Youth Center on Tuesdays? Peggy asks, changing the subject back to CASA. It varies from about 12 to 25 big and sma ll bodies, from babies to teenagers. It seems chaotic at times. Thats typical for kids but we have all ages, lots of kids and not enough staff. Many of the children have difficult y with the art projects I plan. I need to simplify and reorganize my activities. For some of them, the problem is age, for others, its a lack of experience or confidence. They find it very difficult to concentrate. Children exposed to violence may experience a long list of documented effects, like difficulties with problem solving, low self-e steem, shyness, self-blame, low empathy, anger, anxiety, and delayed learning (Barnett et al., 1997). The staff told me that many of the children are about two years behind in school, too! All Peggy can say is, Its not their fault; they cant help it, but they blame themselves. Then it just gets worse if they arent doing well in school. Makes me want to just hug them all! These kids have known violence and fear, I say, but they often crave personal attention. Some hug you the first day, and others take months to trust you. Three of the girls--Zena, Shani, and Laura--are really artistic, and they will sit all evening with me to do arts and crafts. Other kids are done with the art activity in 10 minutes. Ive seen a
218 few kids who take art supplies and pocket thi ngs or stash them in their storage cubby. The same thing happens with food. Ive come to realize that this behavi or is part of their survival mentality. It is something that has been good for them. These kids have experienced hunger and deprivation, living in an uncertain, chaotic world. It doesnt mean that they shouldnt learn new behaviors; but you have to understand their worldview to be an effectiv e staff member or volunteer. Peggy replies, Short attention span, follo wing directions, and sharing with others are always issues for kids. I guess the CASA kids have incredible obstacles to overcome, and so its even tougher for them. Yes, it seems difficult for these kids to focus. I saw one tutor who was being so stern with a little guy who was having trouble wr iting his letters. She kept telling him to stay on the lines. I really didnt like her approach. I could see him getting frustrated. But Im just another volunteer, and at leas t shes willing to come and help. One boy, Malik, was so wiggly while doing his homework. Hes smart, but cant stand or sit still very long. Malik looked at me with a seriou s face and said, I think I could concentrate better if I could sit in your lap. He just melted my heart like a chocolate bar on the dashboard of a car in the middle of summer. Peggy laughs, You are a gone r! I hear it in your voi ce! Remember how Mom would set up homework or crafts at the di ning room table every afternoon until Dad came home? She had as much fun as we did! Tears come to the corners of my eyes a nd I reply, Yeah, we knew shed be there to help us. And remember our on-the-bed su rprises? We would be so excited when we
219 came home from school and there would be l ittle goodies waiting for us every day. I guess we were lucky! Peggy agrees, Maybe it was just Moms tric ky way of getting us to run into our bedrooms to drop all our stuff! Then Peggy inquires, So how can you make time every week to go to CASA? Its part of my dissertation. This is how I observe staff and learn what it is like to work there. Besides, they desperately need volunteers. Ofte n there are only two fulltime staff and one part-time person, who leaves at six oclock. The babies and toddlers need one persons attention and the other sta ff person is cooking dinner! We really need volunteers late in the evening, but most them leave after dinner, too! After dinner, it gets really crazy, and Im not sure why--too mu ch stimulation, or not enough to do, not enough staff, or not enough staff planning. Th e rooms are large, maybe too long; theres lots of space. Its hard to keep track of all the kids, and I think its a little too wild, even for them, sometimes. They get wound up and start chasing each other through the rooms, sometimes running in circles through doorways. The chases often seem to end up in fights. Some of the kids have trouble shari ng and taking turns, so ga mes work better if an adult is involved. What about staff supervision? Rules? Peggy asks. We could use more staff, more volunteers, more supervision. These kids need so much special attention. Ive seen a couple of staff members yell, and then the kids would quiet down for a while. In my opinion their ye lling shames the kids and yelling at them to behave doesnt work. Im not sure the ki ds see what they are supposed to do. They
220 just know they made someone angry. A nyway, those staff members dont last long, which is for the best all around. Sometimes a staff member still threatens to take the kids to Miss Bonnie, the boss, or to the support group in front of all the moms. Its hard for me to watch. But then I find myself yelling and threatening, too, when I just dont know what else to do! I understand the need for flexible rules, but maybe the standards of behavior should be more consistent. The Youth Center is relatively new, so we are in the process of figuring out routines I talked to a supervisor who reminded me that there are cultural issues to consider. Yelling in some communities keeps children safe. Peg replies, Youre always saying we cha nge the world one day, and one project, at a time. Ive been thinking about planning activ ities with food if the CASA staff approves. Kids always love to cook or just do food projects. Many of these kids probably remember times when they didnt have enough to eat, too. During cooking activities, they can learn skills like coopera tion, sequencing, problem solving, and selfesteem, but in a fun way. My students at Sunflower School used to love cooking, and I remember Adam was thrilled to make macaroni and cheese when he was little! We laugh at memories of my nephews weekend visits with me. Later, in bed, I find it hard to sleep, w ith images and ideas swirling in my head from the Youth Center. I wonder if I can c ontinue volunteering at th e Center because of the chaos. Realizing that Im becoming a policewoman some nights, guilt makes me toss and turn. Im often focusing on the negative with the kids, Dont do this, dont do that, stop running, stop arguing over co mputers. I find myself b ecoming negative about staff
221 members, too. This negativity doesnt fix the situation; rather, it festers like an infected wound. I know we should tell the children what they can do, rather than always focusing on what they cant do. Twenty years ago, I directed an after-sc hool program, and my mind drifts back to memories of that time, as I think of ways to reorganize the CASA program. Then I remind myself that Im just a vol unteer with a limited amount of time. Im not in control. Im not in charge. Work from within, lead fr om within, I often tell participants in my leadership seminars. Can I take my own advice ? To make a contribution, I need to pick one thing that might help. My decision is th at Ill bring one or tw o activities each week and spend time with kids, giving them attention in an environment that feels safe for them and not chaotic. Recognizing the staffs dedication, respecting their efforts, and acknowledging their constraints, I ll be part of the team. By volunteering to work with the advocates, Ill learn more about the realit ies of their challenges. The issues keep swirling, and all night I dream of untangling kno ts of yarn jumbled in a pile with strands of bright primary colors: yellow, green, blue, and red. Collaboratively Cooking Worms in Dirt Several months later, Im feeling much more comfortable at the Youth Center. The work is still challenging, but my efforts are directed in a more positive way. Driving to the CASA Youth Center along the inters tate, I think about meeting a new volunteer last week, Miss Julie, a retired teacher. I m used to good children, who at least listen
222 when you tell them to do something. I dont know if I can work with these kids, Miss Julie whispered while we were volunteering together last week. At first I was shocked, then angry at her words. I replied slowly in a low, controlled voice, Sure, I get frustr ated sometimes, too, but these are good kids. They have been through traumatic experiences we can t even imagine. That trauma affects their actions every day, and Im trying to le arn what helps them the most. Miss Julie acknowledged my point, but we didnt have much time to talk because we needed to help serve a dinner of hot dogs, chips, and fruit punch. With good intentions, the desire to help, and willingness to commit her time, I th ink Miss Julie just needs assistance to see kids in an encouraging way, to understand their behavior and work in an empowering way. Thinking about her leads me to di scover my own goal of developing a more affirmative viewpoint, too. As I lock my car and carry my box of supplies across the play yard at the Youth Center, I am determined to notice positive behaviors tonight, with the staff, the volunteers, and the children. Snack, Homework, Reading--15 minutes, announces the list on the bulletin board above the storage cubbies. The sta ff is trying to organize a new schedule. Volunteering only one day a week means I need to check for any changes each time I come to the center. Several teen volunteers are here to help with reading and homework, so all the younger children get individual attention today. Ze na is packing her completed work into her backpack. Seth is sitting in the leopard print chair re ading. Along the back wall, two very young boys, Hector, and Jay are si tting in a gray, molded plastic chair at the computer. They are engrossed in the co mputer game on screen, and their thin legs
223 barely reach the floor. Technically, accordi ng to the Youth Center rules, these boys are too young to be on the computer without adult supervision, bu t Ive learned that the rules are not enforced consistently. The kids have learned this, too. In stead of chastising the boys, I walk over and say, Hector and Jay, Im so proud of you two for sharing the computer station. I see you cooperating instead of fighting. You are acting like the older boys, so you can continue to use the computer without an adult helper. Jay looks up and smiles with a grin that shows his missing tooth. Im not sure if this is the right way to handle the situation, but I f eel good and the boys seem happy. Its time for what we call cooking, which is really just creative food fixing, since there is no stove--only a microwave oven. Were making Worms in Dirt today. I ask Miss Julie, if shell help me with the group. She looks surprised and worried when she sees all the ingredients and utensils that Im unpacking. I say, When we first started these groups, the kids would grab things. Now they are beginning to trust that there will be enough for everyone. They know Ill make su re that each person gets a turn. I stress they must cooperate or we cant make our goodies! As the group assembles, I remind the kids, Time to wash your hands. Please walk, dont run. We will wait for everyone! The children scurry to the sinks, then hurry back and eagerly stick their hands in my face. They screech, Miss Elizabeth, Smell my hands! Smell my hands! Smell my hands! Miss Julie steps back a little and watches with a somewhat skeptical look on her face. I reward the children by saying very dram atically, Oh! Mmmmmm! I love the smell of soap! Yes, that soap smells so good and clean! We all giggle. It is our ritual,
224 which works better than yelling at them because they have dirty hands or they didnt use soap in their rush to get finished quickly. Today I ask Seth, an older boy who has not participated in previous groups with me, to be my helper, Because I have a difficult recipe today, I need an older assistant to organize, count, and divide our worms. He l ooks uncertain, but he jo ins the outskirts of the group. I explain the project to Seth, who organizes the number of cups needed and divides four packages of candy gummy worm s evenly. After much checking and doublechecking, Seth announces, We have enough for each person to get three worms. He grins with accomplishment. The group listens to me describe our recipe. Some can read better than others. We organize into pairs for the first step of making pudding. I ask Miss Julie to help one pair of children and Miss Robyn, the lead CASA Youth Advocate, supervises while helping another pair. Since Im only at the Ce nter once a week, I feel that it is important to have a staff member work with me. Soon, Im glad to see a new volunteer, who introduces herself as Miss Delene, join the gr oup. She floats effortlessly and helps where she is needed. It is hectic making sure everyone has the supplies they need, opens the pudding boxes carefully, measures the milk fa irly accurately, and stirs without spilling too much. Dont forget to take turns and shar e. Hold the cups and bowls for each other. Youre a team, I gently remind them. Th ere is chaos, happy and creative chaos, all around. The kids are concentrating. No one shoves, throws anything, punches a partner, gets frustrated, or storms away from the ta ble. No one is cryi ng or stubbornly holding
225 something without sharing. Arent they doing a great job? They are super cooks! I say to Miss Julie, Miss Robyn, and Miss Delene, loud enough for all the children to hear. I see lots of cooperation, says Miss Delene. Miss Robyn looks pleased, Looks delicious. Youre great cooks! Miss Julie is smiling. She looks surprised, but still a bit nervous. The kids seem amazed when I explain the next step. We are going to make our dirt by pounding the vanilla wafers and chocolate cookies into pi eces. Then I ask, What will happen if we dont seal the Ziploc bags carefully? They answer at the same time, with their voices blending: Big messes! The cookies will fl y out! The table will get dirty! The floor will get dirty! I suggest we help each other by checking each others bags. When I give the -2-3 go signal, the pounding is a cacophony of little fists, so loud that other children come to see whats ha ppening. I worry a bout the tables dura bility and how Ill get the group to stop. Waiting, the group eventually stops when they have pulverized the cookies. Im wondering if I have made a mistake, when I catch Miss Delenes eye, Great kinesthetic activity! she says with a smile. I ask the group to decide where we shoul d put the worms, on the bottom, middle, or top of our pudding cups. We listen to lo ts of opinions. Someone says, Let each person decide for themselves. Miss Delene comments to me in an aside, Offering controlled choices for the kids is so good because it lets them make decisions for themselves, gives them a sense of control within boundaries. Controlled choi ces, the phrase flits through my mind like a butterfly moving from flower to flower. C ontrolled choices means that while I enhance
226 their awareness of the resources or the possi bilities, they make the decision. This reminds me of how CASAs advo cates help the families in an empowering way. I realize that Miss Delene has been encouraging and coaching me, as Ive been doing the same with the children. Connections form in my mind, just as there are connections among all these relationships. Clean up is hectic and haphazard. Severa l children pitch in without being asked, and I praise and thank them for their extra efforts. I think perhaps we should ask the kids to take turns doing clean up, vol unteering or being assigned chor es. I decide that lesson can wait for another time. As I walk to the sink, I see the two little boys back at the computer. Hector looks at me and says, L ook at us, Miss Elizabeth. Look at us! We are still sharing and helping each other. I smile and say, Yes you are, and Im so proud of your behavior, and you are having fun! By the way, dinner will be very soon, so look for a good place to stop the game. Now its time to set up for dinner. By recruiting several helpers, we make this an activity for the children. One child counts the plates, one folds the paper towel napkins, and another lays a fork on top of the napki n. Two kids cooperate to pour the orange drink from the large, plastic pitcher. When Deb Walker, my research colleague, arrives with dinner they proudly announce, I helped get ready! After she unloads the large foil pans of barbeque chicken and rice from her car, she listens to each child explain their role in preparing for dinner. Since Deb has volunt eered to bring dinner every Tuesday, staff members have more time with the children, and the routines go smoothly. We enjoy dinner and our Worms in Dirt pudding dish for dessert. Pulling worms covered in
227 chocolate pudding from the cups the children revel in the messy experience. They scrape their plastic spoons along the sides and bottoms of the cups so that they dont miss a drop of pudding. A few even use their fingers to get one last mouthful. Staff members and volunteers liberally distribute napkins and pr aise the cooks, who all have smiles on their faces! The children, staff, and volunt eers share a sense of accomplishment. After dinner, Miss Robyn takes some of th e children outside to the playground, so they can work off some of their bottled-up energy. I marvel at her gentle, but firm rapport with the kids. Her posi tive attitude is infectious, too. I set up an art project for those inside the building; lots of paint, colored paper, pa per plates, glue, and string are involved in making paper-plate puppets with wide mouths and long tongues. My samples, the snake-man and teddy bear puppe ts, cause giggles. Three tables fill up with eager children. One table has several young children who need lots help because they cant cut or glue without help. Miss Dele ne is taking care of the infants, and the other volunteers have all left for the evening. I wish I could clone myself, or magically create a volunteer to help with the art projec t. Another pair of hands would make things so much less chaotic and help the children f eel more successful. I take a deep breath. Tired and thirsty, with thr obbing feet and an aching back, I havent had time to go to the bathroom for hours. I observe one tabl e of older children working together without any arguments or grabbing. Leaning over the table of these older children, I compliment them, Thank you for sharing the materials and demonstrating directions to each other. You are doing such a good job. It really ma kes a difference, so I can sit and help the
228 younger kids now. Let me know if you need an ything and be sure to show me your crazy creatures when youre done! As I turn to go to the table of younger ch ildren, Zena touches my arm and says, Miss Elizabeth, can I tell you something? I stop my rushing and find a calm space inside, so I can give her my attention. Zena looks right into my eyes and says, Thank you for noticing. All the child ren at the table smile, and so do I. My feet dont seem so sore, and my spirits flutter gently like one of the purple butterflies Zena likes to draw. About an hour later, when all the moms have picked up their children and I sign out of the volunteer logbook, Miss Robyn sa ys, I really cant thank you enough for bringing the worms tonight. We all had so much fun, and I can see the kids learning. It was a great night! Everyonestaff, voluntee rs and kidsall worked together! I wasnt sure if the ta ble was going to survive the pounding, I joke, but it did get their attention. We laugh together at the memory of the little fists pounding cookie crumbs. Driving home, I feel bette r about working with the kids, more optimistic. Small steps, small successes will lead to a greater sense of empow erment and confidence for the kids. For instance, Seth finally participat ed in the cooking group by being in charge of the worms. Chuckling to myself at the idea of being in charge of worms, I sense the positive change in the kids and in myself. We are all feeling capable, appreciated, and motivated, even Miss Julie. I think about how my Mom would always see and stress the positives. She would have loved Worms in Dirt night!
229 Helping or Harping at the Volunteer Meeting Six months later, I feel like an old timer at the Youth Center. In that time, Ive shadowed staff members, worked with staff, learned how the Youth Center operated, met several volunteers, facilitated activities, a nd also come to understand the challenges. When I receive an e-mail message inviting me to the formation of a new Youth Advisory Committee, Im optimistic. However, there is also disturbing news. Just when things have become more organized, they deci de to change the staff working at the Youth Center. The new schedule rotate s staff from the Shelter and Youth Center for continuity between the Shelter and Transitional Housing. That seems disruptive to me but I remind myself to give the idea a chance, and to resp ect the staffs effort to integrate the Youth Center with the Shelter. I realize that Iv e been with CASA almost four years, which means Ive been here long enough to see many changes evolve. CASA has moved into new buildings. Staff members have come a nd gone. Some staff members have changed positions at least once and some have change d responsibilities or locations two or three times. Im an old timer now. Waiting for volunteers to arrive for the first Youth Advisory Committee meeting, I join Robyn at the conference table. We want to finish our meeting before the kids return from school, so the volunteers can go to the Youth Center. Robyn is reviewing her list and the agenda. I comment, I hope this meeting doesnt become a time when we all start telling staff what needs to be fixed. Ive seen that happen, and it just makes more work for staff,
230 rather than offering to help. Sometimes mobilizing volunteers to action and making them part of the team can be tough. Robyn confides, One volunteer sent a ve ry discouraging memo to the volunteer office. It criticized just about everything we do. Im trying to be open to hearing ideas from volunteers. One of our biggest problems is that we need volunteers to help, but we also need to get better prepared to train vol unteers. Here, Ive pulled together an outline of some basics to help volunteers. She hands me two pages. I read over the list of operational rules, some I didnt know before. This is a good start, I offer. It will be good to clarif y expectations. Thinking of all the years I coordinated volunteers for librari es and non-profits, I remind myself to offer help, but not take over. Soon the group is assembled, and intr oductions are made around the table. One retired teacher begins talking about her conc ern that the children do not behave because there isnt enough structure. I agree with her in some ways, but she is so negative that I pull back. Another person is more constructiv e, suggesting that the children need activity stations, like in school. I understand, but I doubt it will work because the children look for interaction and even vie for personal attention. One idea sounds possible, using headphones and listening centers for books on tape, but I know that the kids will need adult help to successfully use the equipment. I feel defensive and try to remind myself that these women are relating to what they know about their classrooms or work. They care enough to volunteer, even if they dont comp letely understand the kids at CASA. I wonder if I need to be more open.
231 Miss Delene introduces he rself to the group as the new intern from Eckerd College. She has long, brown hair, a full figure, and an earnest face of an age older than Robyn and younger than me. Miss Delene identi fies herself as both a child who grew up in the foster system and a mother who takes ca re of foster children in her own family. She works with kids who have been abused Miss Delene offers her ideas, Research shows kids need choices--controlled choices. Especially kids who have experienced family trauma need a sense of stability and structure. She emphasizes, they need to feel that they have some control. This le ads to responsibility. Elizabeths cooking group is a good example! Ill be volunteering this semester, and Im willing to assist in any way, but I do have experience training pare nts, volunteers, and staff to work with children. As she talks, I feel comfortable w ith the balance she offers. She is respectful of kids and the staff, not critical. Flattere d that she mentions the cooking class, I hope to get better acquainted with her and learn mo re about how to work with the childrens special needs. Soon we are discussing the difficulties of schedules and communication with volunteers in a crisis-oriented environment. I feel the staff getting defensive, as the meeting becomes a litany of why cant you be tween staff and volunteers. I struggle to reflect on my own need for more organizati onal structure, while understanding how crisis work requires flexibility. I try to move th e discussion to a point where each person says what he or she can do. I comment, Lets as k staff what they need I think one major issue is the lack of adequate staffing. There are just not enough staff or volunteers to do certain activities. I propose that at our next meeting, we discuss what we could do if we
232 have three volunteers each night and how we could find those volunteers. The staff looks relieved by my comments and suggestion. We could work toward consistency fo r the kids by offering training for the volunteers at the Youth Center specifically about kids who have experienced trauma, Miss Delene adds. Im willing to work on a training manual and facilitate the training. After we the select the date and time for the next meeting, Miss Delene and I walk across the street to the Youth Center. We agree to coordinate our schedules and work together on projects. It seems like a collaborating and empowering philosophy resonates with the both of us. Driving home from the Youth Center later that night, I think back to the meeting and the past six months of volunteering. Th e moon lights the dark sky, as I drive across the bridge. The future possibilities for resolving the difficulties of DV work, and particularly the youth advocat es challenges, seem brighter for me now, like the headlights shining on the highway, diffusing ra ys of emotions, frustrations, crisis orientation, reframing, and empowe rment that all radiate from CASA. The NCADV Visitation Center Program Ends The NCADV session on visitation center i ssues is coming to a close. The group is finishing a discussion on the pros and cons of using armed police on site. There are many diverse ideas about the impact of poli ce presence on children, the abuser, and both the workers and the childrens safety. E llen thanks everyone for readily sharing their
233 concerns and proposes that we stay open to all the ideas that were generated during the session. Ellen concludes by mentioning the Buddhist practice of Equal Regard and Loving Kindness, asking us to consider each parent a nd each child with compassion. It is a brief comment, but it sets off a burst of ideas in my head like the way the first taste of tart candy spreads in your mouth. Ive been exploring Buddhist practices in the past year because my professor, Art Bochner, recomm ended a book that he said changed his life: Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living (Chdrn, 1994). If lovingkindness for oneself is the beginning of comp assion, this is an important beginning for staff and volunteers who are DV workers seeking to live an empowerment philosophy. I always thought of myself as a compassiona te person, but I have come to a deeper personal awareness in the past four years. Caring for my terminally ill mother at the same time I became involved with CASA broadened my perspective on empathy and compassion. I wonder whether the domestic violence th at many advocates have personally experienced helps them find this sense of humanness. I wish we had more time at the NCADV program to discuss Ellens comme nts about Buddhist philosophy, but the discussion flags. 11 Its lunchtime, and people are ready to leave. Linda and I linger for a few moments after Ellen adjour ns the session. As we stand, my stomach grinds and growls, so I say to Linda, Im starved! Do you want to grab some lunch before the next session? 11 There is further discussion of Eastern and Western views of compassion in the Coda of this dissertation.
234 Linda replies, Yes, but lets just get a quick sandwich. I dont want to miss the presentation about Collaborative Inquiry: C onstructionist Research for Organizational and Social Change. The description in th e program sounded like it would be applicable to CASA. Luckily, I have my own researcher with me! We both chuckle, as we walk briskly out of the hotel and across the street.
235 Chapter Nine Empowering Staff and Organizations Collaborative Inquiry at NCADV After lunch, Linda and I sit on a bench out side the hotel to enjoy the warmth of the sun. The dry heat of Denver feels nurturing compared to the oppressive, humid heat of south Florida. The last NCADV conferen ce session of the day is one that both Linda and I have been anticipating, Collaborati ve Inquiry: Constructionist Research for Organizational and Social Change. I revi ew the program description and say, This sounds a lot like what weve done together, collaborative inquiry as an approach to creating possibilities and strategies for orga nizational and social ch ange. This program might give us some ideas for the organizat ional development and staff training projects weve been brainstorming. Linda tilts her face to the sky, Yes, the strategic planning retreat last year was even better than I hoped. We got so mu ch accomplished. We refined our goals and outlined objectives, but what was equally im portant, or more important, was that we forged bonds among trustees, volunteers, board members, and staff. We needed that relationship building, and your facilitation style worked so well. You are organized, focused and fun--to say nothing of being free! Now, I think its time for us to work on our internal operations and some of the staff issues.
236 Shading my eyes from the sun, I reply, Thanks. I learn so much from each session I facilitate, and its a way I can contribute to CASA. So count me in for the next phase! Soon we leave the sunny bench and head for the Aztec Room. When we arrive, we meet the two presenters. Rose Pulliam, a tall, slim woman wearing a long, lime-green dress is from the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Assault. Her delicate face is framed by long, black dreadlocks accen ted with gray. Rose greets Linda and introduces Dr. Susan Roche, from the Departme nt of Social Work at the University of Vermont. Susan, a short woman with blonde hair, is wearing a casual, salmon-colored blouse and pants. Rose and Susan both had ta ken copies of the CASA booklet from the conference exhibit, and they offer compliments We chat for a few minutes about CASA and the UCI project. The stories Ive read so far seem so real, Rose explains. I like the way you use the term DV workers to mean paid staff and volunteers. Susan says, Im interested in your study of staff and your narrative methodology. Have you published any articles yet? Im working on a book chapter with a coll eague, I reply, wishing I had more publications. The booklet, and the collaborati ve process of creati ng the booklet will be part of my dissertation. Im calling it a res earch novel because I pr esent my research in stories. Our conversation is cut short beca use it is time for the session to begin. The circle of chairs faces a wall covered w ith long strips of flip-chart paper. When the presenters ask us to identify ourselves by category, about half of the 15 attendees self-identify as servic e providers and half as researchers or students. The group
237 is a mixture of ages and ethnicities. Rose begins by outlining the background of their project. I was the executive director in Alabama before I took the job in Vermont. It was quite a change! The audience chuckles I went to Vermont to work on some significant problems with our coalition. We desperately needed a planning process to pull the organization together, unite various factions, and an swer questions about what kind of organization we wanted to be in the future. Most of you probably are not facing such extensive problems, but I think the proc ess could help any orga nization. My first step was shopping for a researcher. Luckily for me, I found not just a researcher, but a collaborative project partner, Susan. When it is Susans turn to discuss the pr oject, she explains how she found time to work with the coalition. I was sincerely interested in the project, but I had a full teaching load so my time was limited. Time can be a significant issue for collaborators. For our project, the coalition provided funding to cover overhead and hire an adjunct to cover my classes for two semesters. Envi ous murmurs erupt from the audience. She continues, This gave us the time to take a comprehensive approach to our organizational challenges. Research is a process and a rela tionship that develops, not just a method of finding answers. Research means that we wo rk together to get people to reexamine the ways things are or might be. We use a c onstructionist approach, which is based on the idea that there are many ways of knowing, so we must create time and space for people to express their ideas, listen to divergent opinions, entertain possibilities, and be reflexive. Susan and Rose model their relationship, acting as co-presenters to chart the similarities and tensions th at can arise between research ers and practitioners who may
238 have different goals, needs, experience, and expertise. Rose tells the audience, Researchers and practitioners speak different languages, and therefore, we must learn both languages. She emphasizes, The results should be published in both the language of academia and the language of domestic violence advocates. Ive heard this many times from Linda and the CASA staff, so I gently nudge Linda and smile. When Susan mentions Participatory Action Research (P AR) and Appreciative Inquiry (AI), Linda glances at me and raises her eyebrow because Ive introduced her to these ideas and related theories. We both feel like we understand the academic, as well as the practitioners, information. Rose closes the program by saying, This process worked because it was a collaborative relationship. It was a journey we took together. The project was transformative for all of us. Our staff members and our organization experienced tremendous change. Susan and I were changed. These transformations mean that we can all pursue social change and social justice more effectively. As the audience asks questions, I thin k about how my tenure as the executive director of a multi-type libr ary cooperative and my consulting work have shaped my relationship with CASA. In each collabora tion, partnering, planning, and facilitation skills have been important. Communicati ng a sense of openness a nd respect has been critical. I also think about how Ive change d by working with CASA, by taking a journey with them. So many staff members have said those words, CASA changed me. As the applause fades, Linda says, Im inspired! Yes! I definitely want to undertake a planning process. It s time to go through a process internally with the staff. We can start with a survey and then have groups. If you have time, Id like you to work
239 with us. When I get back, well talk about or ganizing dates. Linda is full of enthusiasm and determination, as we discuss the possibilities again. With each conversation, the ideas have been building. Im excited, too, and Id like to work with you. I could see using empowerment as our overarching theme or cornerstone for th e project. From what youve told me and what Ive learned at CASA, different peopl e interpret or practice empowerment in various ways. We could build on the meeti ng we had with the program directors and coordinators. With all the staff changes, it seems like the empowerment conversations got put on the back burner. Remember what Rose said, Use the process to connect the values and understanding with the action. Changes in understanding complex concepts dont come overnight. A process takes time. Linda laughs, Yes. You know, Im more ac tion-oriented than planning-oriented. Thats why you and I make a good team. Her statement leads me to think back to our meeting last month at CASA with the program directors and coordinators. CASA Meeting to Explore Empowerment We are meeting at the new, two-st ory CASA building downtown that houses Administration, Outreach, and the Thrift Stor e. Linda and I are in the conference room, sipping cups of coffee and peppermint tea, as people begin arriving for the meeting. There are hugs all around, as Clarissa, who has been promoted to Residential Program Director, enters the room with her broad, fu ll-faced grin. Clarissas long, black braids
240 contrast with her hot-pink print outfit and huge Lucite earrings. Maria, who became the new Shelter Coordinator when Clarissa was promoted, has a quieter aura and a serene smile that radiates to her eyes. Her long, golden hair flows down the back of her soft, sage-green blouse and sweater. Each person arrives in her own way and settles into a place at the table. Bonnie, who moved from the Shelter into the pos ition of Transitional Housing Coordinator, carries an overflowing canvas tote bag and muffins. Her dark, shaved head is covered with a beautiful peach and turquoise scarf th at coordinates with her matching outfit and shoes. Bonnie greets us with her smooth voice and worries that she is almost late. Kelly, who has continued as Outreach Program Director for the past four years, jokes in a loud voice about al l the noise we are making in the community room, as she walks across the hall from her office, balancing her notebook portfolio and large coffee mug. Her short, reddish-blonde hair is styled to attractiv ely frame her face. Linda begins the meeting. I imagine that we all have lots of questions and ideas. Todays meeting is the beginning of a proce ss and eventually a project where we will focus on CASAs philosophy of empowerment. I know that we are all excited about working with Elizabeth, Linda says and nods to me. For the past four years, Elizabeth has been working with us, and I feel that she understands and supports CASA. But we are also looking to Elizabeth to help us que stion some of the ways CASA works. Weve grown so much in the past few years that its time to look at our internal operations, particularly our staffing, trai ning, and related practices. So Elizabeth, I look to you to facilitate our discussion today.
241 I smile and nod. I reach over and turn on the tape recorder. As usual, Ill be taping our meeting, OK? Everyone assent s nonverbally. They dont even worry anymore about how their voices might sound. Its routine now. Well, I am so glad that you all have expressed support for this id ea. Over the years, Ive met with you individually and in groups. Recently, weve begun talking about CASAs growth and changes. I have informally proposed a projec t that looks at empowerment as a core value of CASA and the Battered Womens Movement There has been positive feedback about the idea in general from my informal convers ations with the staff. Now well explore ways we might shape this project. I respect the work you all do at CASA, and I want to be part of developing it. I pause. You ll notice there are no action items listed on the agenda. This is a preliminary discussion. It is what I call an idea meeting, and well have a follow-up meeting to disc uss process and scheduling. Id like each of you to start by sharing your thoughts on what we might accomplish with an empowerment project-whatever the project turns out to be. Before we do that, Id like to clarify so mething, Kelly interjects. You sent us a packet of information before this meeting. Lots of fun reading! The group chuckles. The piece on action research was great; I lik ed the story of you and Linda swimming. The articles on strength-based social work (Blundo, 2001), Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider et al., 2000), and the domestic violence narratives (Wood, 2001) were challenging, but good. I especially liked your one-page summaries. There are more laughs. But Im still not sure what the project will be.
242 I reply gently, Kelly, think back to the very first meeting we had. Just like at that meeting, Im here today to help you shape th e project. Im not here to tell you what to do. Today were going to begin buil ding a framework for the project. Kelly laughs with the group. Okay. It s hard to shake old habits! Were going to design it together. Got it! I suggest, Lets sift through some of your ideas and scribble on the flip chart. Kelly gestures with her finger, I have one more question. I guess Im wondering if this going to be your dissertation project. My dissertation is going to be about th e past four years, and the UCI project, including the CASA booklet of stories. Ov erall, my dissertation will be about how we use communication in collaboration and em powerment. Our discussions today are relevant, but this is a new project. Im s till writing my dissertation, so I think this meeting might provide an ending chapter, if thats OK with the group. Heads nod silently, so I continue, This project signals the next phase of working together. You can shape the process to meet your needs. Just think of me as your volunteer consultant, like at the strategic planning retreat. I take a bite of my zucchini muffin and wait for any other questions. OK, lets talk about the po tential benefits of a project that focuses on empowerment. What do you want to get out of it? Clarissa starts the discussion. Im looking for a way to train new staff and maybe retrain some existing staff.
243 Maria is next. The first booklet of stor ies was so successful. We use it with new staff now. So Im looking forward to another boo klet of stories just about empowerment. I think people learn from stories, not just from rules and policies. I think we need to refresh ourselves on how CASA defines empowerment and learn to understand it as a group, Bonnie offers Participating in the project will also help me personally as a worker, a mom, and a wife, and in all my roles in life. Things get so hectic I cant think sometimes, so I need to be reminded about empowerment. And we can all use help thinking thr ough the tough situations, too. Linda concurs, I agree. On a personal le vel I think that it would help me to be a better manager-supervisor-coach. There will be benefits for the organization as a whole. As weve grown, Ive been concerned about how we can maintain the values that guide our work. In the beginning, the Battere d Womens Movement was a grassroots cause shaped by a commitment to empowerment. Today, sometimes we are hiring people who dont have that background. Then its Kellys turn, I agree. Id just want to add that it has the potential to bring the staff from different departments closer together. I also hope that maybe we could use our process to design workshops to help other shelters and organizations. After some discussion and filling several pages from the flip chart, I summarize our work by circling and underlining key phrases on the pages: To develop a process of understanding the empowerment philosophy by c onstructing, maintaining, and applying empowerment through training, conversations, exam ples, and stories. Does that work as a preliminary working statement? H eads all nod as they copy the words.
244 Kelly continues, Now, Elizabeth, youre so good at listening to us, but today Id like to hear more from you. Personally, Im interested in the ways we interact and communicate with each other that seek to support ra ther than control. Im fa scinated by the power of conversation to generate our sense of reality (Gergen, 2000). Just ta lking about strengths, instead of deficiencies and blame (Gergen, 1994, 2001), can make such a big difference. I think empowerment is about believing in the best people have to offer. They all look at me waiting expectantly. Collaboration ra ther than competition is something that relates to teaching, friendship, family, volunt eering, work, and even political decisions affecting our community. Empowerment is important to my life as well as my studies, research and work. I pause and look around again. Empowerment is a major topic for all kinds of organizations. However, I th ink that CASA is unique because your core value relates so directly to your work with those you serve, as well as your coworkers, colleagues, and partners. An important mo ment for me was when I first heard Linda talking about how she perceived the women who experienced abuse as courageous. Thats what inspired me to write Small Talk With a Big Voice: Poetic Activism (Curry, 2002) and to look at the way la nguage affects our work. The group nods. Now, lets take a quick br eak, and then well talk about what we think empowerment is or isnt--and begi n our process of defining what it means for us. There is no right or wrong answer.
245 Conversations Constructing a Social Construction After a quick break to warm up our coffee and tea, we reconvene at the table strewn with papers, napkins, and mugs. I suggest, Lets discuss what empowerment means--to each of us. Our project during the coming year will focus on defining and exploring what CASA staff members mean by empowerment. Today, I thought wed begin the dialogue. I can answer this one, Clarissa says eagerly. I was in a substance abuse program, and then after I finished the program I worked there. Well, that program was not empowering. It was all about control! The difference was that the courts sent you there. Women come to the CASA shelter of their own free will. I didnt know the empowerment verbiage when I came to CASA b ecause I came from a clinical model. I had almost abusive traits back then, very controlling. I thought I was the expert who could make people follow the rules and cha nge their lives. Now I understand so much more about supporting people in the process of making their own decisions. CASA has empowered me to learn about empowerment! Maria nods. A lot of it is in the way you talk to people, communication skills. On the crisis line, I w ouldnt say, you have to do this or you should do that. Thats what a woman hears from her abuser. Id tell her what resources are available or ask her if she feels safe. Does she want to work on a safety plan? But I guess we use those words because we believe in advocacy and empowerment. Im just more conscious of it now at CASA and in my life.
246 Bonnie says, With all the staff turnover, it makes things crazy. I wish there was some way to tell people how empowerment work s. They want to help people, but some of them dont know how to be empowering. Th ey want to fix people or rescue them. Of course, occasionally we get someone who just wants a job and thinks CASA would be a nice, helping place to work. Those people don t usually last long! They burn out or dont fit, or get too frustrated to stay. Kelly explains, I need self-motivat ed, hit-the-ground-running types in the Outreach Program. The word empowerment may mean something to us, but CASA has grown so much Im not sure that all the staff sees it as our value. The most important thing I think we need to remember is that l earning empowerment is a process, not just a one-day workshop. The training can inspire you or raise your awareness, but we need to model the behavior, talk about it, and disc uss examples. The time and the process are what we need. This has to be a sustained e ffort with lots of follow-through--when we get to that stage of the project. It seems like the right time for this project, Linda agrees. Empowerment springs from our recognition that we are no better or worse than those we serve. We dont distance ourselves as different. We dont blame the victim, and we understand the strength of the women who are courageous in the face of terrible circumstances. Sometime Id like to talk about power, too, a nd the uses of power in social change. Maybe Ill start a series of di scussions like a Brown Bag Lunc hes with the Director. I know, thats an action item. I record Kellys and Lindas action ideas in our parking
247 lot of ideas for later implementation. Linda continues, So we are looking at defining empowerment. Elizabeth, tell us what youve been reading about empowerment. Ive been reading till my eyes are crossed and my brain hurts! I pull some pages from my notebook. Ive been tryi ng to look at how we socially construct empowerment in society (Berger & Luckma n, 1966; Gergen, 1994, 2000, 2001; Hacking, 1999; Lincoln, 2001). Ive been reviewing how we constructed empowerment in the Womens Movement, Battered Womens Movement, social work, and even in research and teaching. Linda, Kelly, Clarissa, Bonnie, and Maria are listening intently, but I feel the need to clarify the issue of social construction. Ive also been looking at the social construction of workers and clients. I put my hand up to stop objections. I know you dont use the word client because of the hierarchical relations hip it connotes--I agree with you, but just bear with me, so I dont get confused. Basically, we can trace the shifts in perceptions of charitable and helping work from (a) the view that clients suffer due to their own moral failings, to (b) clients as vi ctims of societal and personality problems, a medical model, to (c) clients as survivor s with strengths and resilience (Blundo, 2001; Graybeal, 2001). Workers or helpers respond to clients whom they see as people with deficits by assuming paternalistic roles as benefa ctors, liberators, or expert healers. But with the empowerment model, workers relate to clients strengths, so then the workers respond as nurturers of self esteem, facilita tors, mobilizers, and/or reformers (Simon, 1994). I pause. Does that sound like it makes sense?
248 Yes, the different categories are clea r. Its like PAR [a substance abuse program] thought we were moral failures, and they diagnosed us so they could fix us with their expert rules. Clarissa seems pl eased that shes made the connections. I can almost see how different staff memb ers act in certain ways. It fits, Maria adds with a pensive expression. Im feeling good about the discussion. Iv e been reading social work literature, which talks about moving from the traditional service model to a strength-based model (Adams, 2003; Baldwin, 2001; Blundo, 2001; Cohen, 1999; Cox, 2001; Graybeal, 2001; Gutierrez, Parsons, & Cox, 1998; Malekoff, 2001; O'Brien, 2001; Simon, 1994; Washington & Moxley, 2001; Werner-Wilson et al., 2000; Wood & Roche, 2001). There seems to be a lot of similarities to the em powerment philosophy you espouse, particularly from the materials you gave me, Linda (Natio nal Coalition Against Domestic Violence Battered/Formerly Battered Women's Task Fo rce, 1992; Schechter, 1982). I understand the feminist connections to empowerment, but Im not sure how the strength-based model, empowerment, and CASA fit together. Is the strength-based system of care idea being discussed by domestic violence folks in Florida or nationally? Linda nods, sits up in her chair, and uses her advocacy voice, Yes, well, we hear about strength-based concepts from our funders, but not from the DV movement. I think thats because at least those of us w ho subscribe to the feminist philosophy always have come from a strength-based perspective, long before social workers coined the term. We say that a woman who experiences abuse is a strong, courageous person for getting to CASA or some other place for help. We talk about her well-developed coping skills and
249 even that the things that she does that mi ght not be considered good in another context have served her well in keep ing her alive. Let me shar e a quick story with you. Linda looks around the table; I worked with a woman from a rural area who called the sheriff to stop her husband after hour s of violence. The sheriff did not come because he was a buddy of her husband, the batterer. She finally escaped and went to the Suwannee Swifty, a 7-ll type store, and clea red off a whole shelf of mayonnaise and pickle jars that crashed to the cement floor and broke, making a mess. Then the sheriff came and carted her off to jail. The next morning, the good judge made the sheriff bring her to our shelter in Gainesville, and two deputies transported her themselves. She was sentenced to community service at our shelter. We praised her many attempts to be safe and keep her children safe. We encouraged her resourcefulness and even supported her creative solution to escape. Linda continues, I do not buy the image of the poor, damaged creature who is too stupid to make it on her own without our help theory that is promulgated by the batterer and reinforced by many non-feminist s and even social workers. We do not believe that most battered women need thera py, just information, encouragement, and safety planning. I acknowledge that the eff ects of trauma can lead to other problems, from addiction or brain damage to symp toms labeled posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]. However, the woman who has been abused and the staff simply do not have much time. The woman needs to survive, figure out how she can escape with her life, find housing, arrange childcare, and get a job. We only have about 45 days with her at the Shelter. Later, at Transitional or w ith Outreach, we can start to work on other
250 problems. We are currently trying to root ou t all of the mental he alth/social work jargon that creeps in with our funders language, su ch as: case management, case plan, recovery, client, counselor, clinical ma nager, staffing, clinical s upervision, therapeutic play, therapeutic groups, etc. Linda ti cks off the words on her fingers. She continues, All of these are words used by the dominant culture, in this case, the culture of social workers and mental hea lth workers, to separate us by our education and prove that we are different from the wo men we are assisting and that battering could never happen to us! Even system of care seems to imply that we have a woman (client) without strengths. Advocacy is a word that is so much more powerful and makes us feel like we are doing this together. The skills that social workers bring are welcome, but the effort to blend them with our culture is a challenging one. The basic philosophy is that we want to be a Movement starte d by battered women where battered women can still get jobs and have their voices represented in the le adership of our work. The addictions movement started in a similar vein with grassroots addicts. Now they have to have college degrees and cr edentials that keep the origin al alcoholics and junkies from working in the movement they started. We are consciously working to keep from going there, although lots of tens ions are pushing us there in spite of ourselves. I make a note to follow up on the idea of the movement versus a mainstream or governmental model. Im so glad we are tapi ng this meeting. I could never get all that in notes! Thanks for clarifying that point, which well address even more as the project develops. Language is so important to how we see the world and create our reality. I
251 learned early in my visits to CASA that you ar e very aware of language. In the future, we might use some of the strength-based ideas, bu t we wont call it a system of care. I glance at the clock. Is it time for lunch now? How about pizza? My treat. Everyone smiles, but I sense they are tired of the abstract. They want to jump into action. In a crisis environment, thats often the way you must operate. Empowerment Stories, Blame, and Ethics Thirty minutes later, the conference room is littered with papers, files, notebooks, coffee cups, soda cans, and pizza boxes. I sl ide the vegetarian pizza toward Maria, who shakes her head no. Bonnie and Clarissa c onsolidate the leftover pi eces, careful not to mix the veggies and the meat in deference to the vegetarians. Bonni e takes the box to the staff break-room kitchen. Linda has finish ed returning phone calls, and Kelly has come back from her cigarette break on the back step. So is it nap time? I joke and join ev eryone in a groan. OK, Im turning the tape recorder back on. We are going to l ook at empowerment stories, blame, and maybe disempowerment. When we really start sagging, well have an after noon treat. I pause to get reoriented. Before lunch, we talked briefly about why we are pursuing this project, possible outcomes, and we began expl oring what empowerment means to us. Let me share a broad definition that encomp asses several important categories in empowerment as a process, not a product: Empowerment for women includes personal, interpersonal, and culture-changing thoughts and actions that together bring about real increases in the personal and political power of women (G utierrez et al., 1998, p. 35).
252 The author focuses on the right and ability to express oneself and concludes that empowerment is Speaking the truth of one s life in ones own voice, and working collectively to create that possi bility for all (Gutierrez et al ., 1998, p. 35). This seems to fit with what we discussed this morning. It fits with our emphasis on voice in the DV Movement, Linda adds. I continue summarizing, One similarity I notice is that the strength-based folks are just like some of the CASA staff. Y ou both talk about empowerment as more than a technique, model, skill, or a goal. For many it is a way of life, and a way of being (Blundo, 2001; Gutierrez et al., 1998). As they nod their heads, I think about how much non-verbal reinforcement I get from them during the meeting. For some people, the empowerment philosophy can mean a fundament al change in the way they think and view the world. However, one article explained that people often talk about empowerment or strength-based practice and tr y to add it to their existing models. In other words, instead of shifting their ex isting view or frame, people try to add empowerment as a philosophical attachment to their current frame, without really altering their world view (Blundo, 2001). I think th is may be the challenge you face with new staff and to some degree with existing staff. Bonnie concurs, It is a way of life. This work changes you. So what you just said makes a lot of sense to me. We should ta lk about that more with the whole staff. Yes, because when we hire people, we need to be really clear on our philosophy of empowerment! Clarissa adds.
253 Maria agrees, Im looking forward to lis tening to some of our newest staff members as we all discuss empowerment. They may be able to help us understand the process of acclimating to CASA. I distribute several sheets of paper and say, These are from the FCADV workshop on empowerment. I thought you migh t find it interesting, as we look at creating our training model, materials, workshops, or meetings. FCADV describes empowerment as having different levels, m oving from cooperation, coordination, and collaboration, which Ive seen in other litera ture (Mattessich, Monsey, & with assistance from Roy Cornna, 1997; Mattessich & Monsey, 1992). I think this might make sense for some staff. Cooperation could mean that a person abides by rules and procedures. Coordination might mean participating in suppor t groups or activities that are expected or required. Collaboration would mean sharing the pow er, Kelly adds. We offer resources and classes or counseling, but the women decide what best fits their needs. Internally, it could mean how different programs work toge ther on a project. You know, I like this workshop outline, but I think, well, our ma terials should be more comprehensive. I agree, Kelly, I say, writing on the f lip-chart page with the heading parking lot. Perhaps well develop a really useful and extensive training package. Maybe the Outreach Program could take the lead in that activity.
254 Re-storying Empowerment I want to shift our conversation just a bi t with critical questions related to how staff members use stories in empowerment, I say, and then query, Do CASA staff members promote a CASA version of abuse? Do workers make space for or encourage women to produce their own stories of abuse? Do workers accept different versions of the story from different women? Empowerme nt might mean that stories other than CASAs fit the situation. Do we teach sta ff the CASA rules and viewpoint, or do we help staff learn a philosophy that is open to ma ny views? Research has addressed these questions (Loseke, 1987, 1992, 2001), and I thi nk it is important for the staff to think about the ramifications as we explore empowerment. The CASA staff members look confused, at a loss for words, waiting for someone to make the first comment. There is a long silence. Their eyes dart from person to person and down to doodles on their tablets. Finally, Linda speaks, Ive heard similar questions, and there are several answers. Em powerment is all about letting women make decisions for themselves and honoring those decisions, even if we might feel that different choices would be bett er. We need to question our assumptions about better--in whose opinion and for what reasons? Our ph ilosophy is about supporting victims as they try to regain a sense of their alternatives in life. We must respect them to create an empowering environment. At least this is wh at we believe we are doing, but we may still be trying to convince the woman that our way is best, instead of supporting her way. We are trying to keep her safe. But I acknowledge that these women rarely get to tell their story or their full story. And when they do tell their stories, people may not hear or
255 understand them. The police, the courts, and social services all have their rules and regulations. To get certain kinds of help, the womens stories must fit into the established categories. Even to get into CA SAs Shelter, we have some guidelines. Women learn what to say to get services and resources. We do tell women that no one deserves to be abused. That might be the CASA story, Clarissa offers hesitantly. In the support groups, women often find that they have similar experiences. We see certain patterns of abuse. I guess it is important to remember that there are similarities, but each person is unique. I do see women who have been virtually brainwashed by their controlling abusers. The trauma of years of abuse can be very difficult to overcome. One of the first steps in our advocacy is validating their expe riences, Maria explains. We see that as empowering, not coercing a certain story. Some women really think that abusive relationships are normal, or that they deserve to be hit, kicked, whatever. Some women never used the word abused before; they never defined it before. We offer her new words to describe whats happened to her. Yes, a researcher named Parry wrote about that, I comment thoughtfully. The discovery of a persons own voice for telling a story occurs when she feels heard, and thus validated (1991, p. 44). He also expl ained how we must balance validation with respectful questioning, which helps people re-story their lives. I add, The article I sent you by Wood (2001) talked about romance narratives that infuse our society and reinforce the notion of mens superiority and dominance, along with womens deference
256 and dependence. These stories serve to norma lize violence in intimate relationships. The CASA story seems to challenge that. Maria comments, I really like the idea th at we offer women an opportunity to restory their lives. Maybe thats part of our empowerment project. We are reinforcing the ways we can re-story our work and those we assist. I guess Id say the CASA story is how we can help women be safe and that takes many different forms. For some women, safety is staying in their current relationship. We know that when a woman leaves is actual ly the most dangerous time and potentially deadly, Clarissa says. The CASA story is that community acti on can stop abuse. Our story is that domestic violence does not need to exist, and it is detrimental to women, children, families, communities, and workplaces. But our empowerment value means that we respect the women and support thei r choices, Linda summarizes. Would you say that you offer women a chance to revise their stories, to change their lives? I ask. First, you give them a chance to te ll their story, to speak the often unspeakable. Then you encourage them to create a story of a different future, right? Heads nod so I continue. At the CASA Annual Meeting and awards ceremony, I admired a vase that a former Shelter resident had painted for one of the awards. Then she told me about spending 13 years being punche d and kicked any time she didnt please her husband, until she finally found a way to leave. This woman lost count of the number of times he gave her a black eye, but she still remembers the first one. For some reason, I was initially shocked that she told me her story after only a few minutes of chatting.
257 Then I realized that my shock might have been because I somehow blamed her for her beating, or maybe thought she should feel a sense of shame. Maybe it was the sudden intimacy; Im not sure. Later, I decided that her comment was certainly appropriate in the context of the CASA even t, but Im still puzzled over my reactions. The woman also told me about her volunteer ac tivities and how she wanted to tell her story to help other women. Her sense of empowerment was palpable She has a different story or at least a new chapter to the story about how she sees herself and her experien ces with violence. Shes a survivor, an artist, a volunteer, and a helper. I know her story is complex, but in that short conversation, I saw many of the thi ngs we are discussing about empowerment. Thats a good example, Bonnie affirms. Those are the kind of stories that make us feel like we have made a difference in their lives. Im excited that many ideas that Ive st udied about how we story our lives seem to fit this project. You call your work advocacy, but there is an element I might call cooperative counseling, or collaborative constructive counselin g (Friedman, 1993), but I know you dont use the word counseling. CASA advocates work together with people to create a story of possi bilities. Something called generative theory is about how we create or generate our liv es. Stories dont simply represent or mirror what has happened; rather, we create stor ies to explain our experiences. We create the meaning of those experiences through our wo rds and interactions with ot hers (Gergen, 2001). Let me find Parrys article, which has a great quote. I rummage through my pile of notes, He says that a story is, A tool for enabling clients to shake off constraining beliefs so that they can live their stories henceforth as
258 they choose. Their stories need no longer live them. . A story is not a life, only a selection of events about a life influenced by that persons beliefs about herself and others. . Beliefs are embedded in the st ory; change the story and old beliefs are shattered (1991, p. 43). One more key point, which might lead us to discuss blame: We are all characters in each others stories. Our stories are conne cted to other stories, so the story becomes huge! And there is no one viewpoint or lens th at is privileged. All we have is our point of view and a universe of points of view (p. 51) from others. Im feeling a bit frustrated with the limited time and my attempts to share the academic theories without sounding too pedantic I want to be sure that the staff members see the connection to their work. Suddenly, the rear door opens, and a staff member delivers a tray of cookies, wh ich signals that its time for a break. Twenty minutes later, I reconvene the group. Lets jump back into the discussion now that weve had more sugar, caffeine, and nicotine. Maria and Kelly laugh because they just returned from a cigarett e break outside. We have two topics left to touch on today: (a) blame, or maybe a broa der term is relational responsibility, and (b) disempowerment issues. I want to preview ideas on blame for our next meeting because we dont have much time to really dig into it today. I guess this whole meeting has been an overview of sorts. I think that bl ame may become one of the most critical conversations we have with staff. Ive str uggled with it myself in terms of domestic violence. Wood (2001) wrote about how women blame themselves because of societys
259 expectations. Ive heard you all talk about how abusers isolate and control victims to the point that those being abused blame themselves. Right, they keep trying to iron the shirts correctly or cook di nner perfectly so he wont become enraged. They are sure its th eir fault, Maria commen ts. We try to help them see that there might be other reasons he is violent, and at the same time, we acknowledge that not all men or all relations hips are violent. Some women begin to believe that abuse is just the way it is. The abusers blame the victims, and intim idate, belittle, threaten, and isolate them. Society blames the victims and asks why dont they leave. So when we advocate for victims, we create an empowering environment, where they can stop blaming themselves or thinking they deserve the abuse, Kelly adds. We ba lance the scales of justice a bit. But do we then blame the abusers? Or do we blame our communities and society for tolerating such abuse? If we blame society, does that mean blaming individuals--blaming ourselves? I query. We have different messages and different responses based on need. When the most women first arrive at the shelter, they need help to stop blaming themselves. We show them how the abuser has treated them in an effort to control them and get power. We use the Power and Control Wheel to get them to think about their situation, Clarissa jumps in. Yes, there are times you might say we blame the abuser. It may take years, I mean years, before you are strong enough and ready to look at the abuse in the bigger
260 picture! Thats not where you can start. Im still working through my stuff, the feelings I have about being a victim of abuse as a child and a woman! Everyone is quiet. Linda leans forward and says, There is th e day-to-day survival part of our work and the long-term part of our work. Until women are safe, they arent looking at the big picture. Its a hierarchy of needs. After they have their own lives stabilized, survivors often become supporters and advocates. Then they begin to understand the political context of abuse. Thats the basis of the grassroots movement--women helping women. CASA and the Movement have always includ ed sheltering victims and social justice work, such as community outreach, training, and policy work. I think our name change from Center Against Spouse Abuse to Community Action Stops Abuse is a strong message. More and more men are becoming part of the Movement to promote the message that violence is unacceptable. You sa w that during several programs at the state conference. There are programs that work w ith the batterers, but thats not CASAs focus. Yes, I respond, and at the CASA planning retreat, there was a strong community emphasis, which was great. At our next meeting, I hope we talk more about relational responsibility (McNamee & Gergen, 1999). If we talk in terms of blame, then we create right-wrong, win-lose scenarios. And I realize that domestic violence work can be about life and death. Even the relationa l responsibility theorist s acknowledge that in the case of domestic violence, safety is important (p. 215). They dont suggest that we stop talking about social justice, but they do propose that we seek to replace a language of blame with a language of possibilities, transformation, and awareness of relational
261 responsibilities (Gergen, 2001). Its about being open and list ening to others because we believe that we are all involved in a complex ma trix of relationships. I think a culture of blame can destroy the possibility of empowe rment, because empowerment is based on respect for others. It ties into reciprocal empowerment, which we have discussed in the past. Another term we could use is relational empowerment. Blame and trust could be crucial issues internally at CASA in staff re lationships--something we want to explore. Unsure of where to go from here, I pause. It made so much sense when I was reading, but its harder to explain in practical terms. I think about how often the theorists propose applying the ideas outside the academy. Kelly comments, Im still trying to understand all this, but the article on Appreciative Inquiry that you sent us made sense. I especi ally noticed the example of how an organization approached a morale proble m in a different way. Rather than talk about all the problems, they proposed beginning with a discussion of what the organization would be like if people wanted to come to work (Ludema et al., 2001). Im still going to need to th ink more about how it applies to ou r work, but its interesting. I like the positive approach. Thats a perfect example. I think it can be very effective to discuss what you want, rather than what you dont want. . wh ich leads, strangely enough, to the idea of disempowerment. Disempowerment was one thing several people mentioned to me during informal chats. Do you have the interest or the energy to talk a bit about disempowerment? I ask the group.
262 Yes, I actually think this is the toughest part of our job, even though discussing disempowerment is a bit on the negative side of things, Bonnie quips. I agree. What do you think? Should we pur sue this or skip it? I ask, willing to let them direct the flow. Clarissa, Maria, Linda, Kelly, and even Bonnie agree that they want to discuss the topic, so we continue. I start, I guess I see two aspects to this issue: (a) how workers disempower the victims--maybe without meaning to, maybe with the womans best interest in mind, maybe because the worker thinks she is the expert, and (b) how workers themselves may feel disempow ered by the type of work they do or by a supervisor or by organizational constraints. There isnt that much written about domestic violence workers, compared to research about abusers and victims. But Donileen Loseke (1992) from the University of South Florida wrote about how society has constructed the definitions of battered women and how shelte r workers face the prac tical realities of defining clients and managing shelter life. Another academic who worked in a shelter wrote an ethnography of women who escaped, and she included her observations as a volunteer researcher (Lawless, 2001). She wr ote about feeling sty mied, frustrated and angry (p. xxi) because she felt so helpless in the face of the empo werment strategy that emphasized respecting the victims decisions, ev en if they face dangerous consequences. Lawlesss other concern was in the ways victim s stories changed so that they could get services. Could it be that sometimes our empowerment strategies are disempowering as well? Clarissa quickly comments in an empha tic tone, Definitely, and it may depend on how you personally define empowerment a nd disempowerment. We realize that the
263 women who come to CASA may die because of decisions they make. Thats why it can be so hard to respect some of their decisions. Some women are faced with making a choice between being homeless and losing th eir children or staying in an abusive relationship. What is the right answer in such a case? Maria adds, Some women refuse to make a decision because they dont know how, have never been allowed to decide things, or are emotionally numb from trauma. Sometimes its hard not to think that they ar e just lazy, or maybe we failed to motivate them. Thats the blame thing. Ultimately, our empowerment yardstick is that we are not the experts in control of their lives; they are. But we also acknowledge there are time s when a woman might need or want extra help when shes stuck. Weve all been stuck at different points in our lives. If we believe we are working collabo ratively, then we should know when to nudge a little, question a littl e, open new possibilities, or pose c onsequences. In some ways, we are helping women learn to make decisions, and sometimes the stakes are high, Linda explains. What about a woman who doesnt seem to want to be empowered? Can you empower someone who isnt inte rested? I pose to the group. We can create an environment, but we dont empower someone. We dont do it to them or for them. We do it with them, while they do it for themselves. Probably the most empowering part of our interaction is that we dont shame, embarrass, or blame them. They will decide what they need to do and when, but it is important that they know we are here, so they dont give up, Clarissa explains.
264 Maria says, I got frustrated with some of the new advocates. Its like some of our new hires just look at things in black and white. They dont have any common sense. They are so focused on the rules that they fo rget to think of the womens needs. One advocate told an elderly Shelter resident that she had to walk down the block to get her ride. It was the rule; but it didnt make se nse for the elderly woman. Of course, that advocate didnt stay long at CASA. Clarissa agrees, We have a great staff now. We are building a solid team, but hiring new staff members has been difficult. Its hard to teach them our philosophy. Right, which is what led us to this m eeting--to look at how we can help everyone on the staff sustain the philosophy of empo werment, Linda summarizes. From what Elizabeth has shown us, conversation and sharin g stories are powerful ways to reinforce organizational values (Kreps, 1990; Meyer, 1995). So what about disempowerment of staff? Are there aspects of the job or the organization that are disempowering? I ask. I learned a lot when I wrote a paper on vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue, and I think internal issues will surface during our project discussions with the staff. You have to find your own sense of empowerment from the work. Maybe its that reciprocal empowerment youve talked a bout. Im a helper by nature, but I had to learn a way of helping women, sort of indirectly. I can give them resources, opportunities, and encouragement, but then they help themselves. Some days, I still have to work on my own issues of control, wan ting to fix it, Bonnie offers. I try to
265 remember the parable about giving someone a fi sh that feeds the person for a day. Teach someone to fish and they can feed themselves for a lifetime. As a victim of childhood a buse, I spent my life trying to be perfect; lots of victims do. Im a survivor, and sometimes I get frustrated when the women dont work hard on their stuff. I want to help them so much, but I have to remember how long it can take. And at work, I know that sometimes I look at the problems first--I want to solve them! But Im trying to learn more from Linda about being a manager and empowering those I supervise, Clarissa shares with the group. I guess we had some disempowering situations when we were so short-staffed, the turnover was high, and the Shelter was full. Working conditions were making it hard to do a good job. People were demoralized. Lately things have been better, and weve been working on solutions together, Maria a dds. I feel empowered when we try new ways of solving problems. Elizabeth, compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma are a major area of discussion in the DV field. It might be time to have another workshop on that for new staff, Linda muses and scribbles a note. I glance at the clock again. Its almost time to adjourn. Weve covered a lot of ground today. During our next meeting, well talk more about schedules and process. Well start with notes from our parking lot sh eet. We are officially adjourned, but Id like to switch gears just a bit and clarify a few things a bout my dissertation. I need your help. I have an important question for you.
266 Who am I? Insider, Outsider, Collaborator? Im trying to decide how I want to wr ite the overall story of learning about CASA. Each of you has signed a consent form and weve discussed certain protocols. But Id like to consider what would happen if there is an outcome we didnt anticipate, something that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe I write something you disagree with. Maybe we have different conclusions about the project. What would happen? My serious tone affects the gr oup. They look to Linda. She speaks slowly, Basically, I trust you. We trust you. After almost four years of working together, I think we all know how you write and even more how you frame things. You have a very empowering way of working with us. And you have described your work as social action research, which I understand means we are working together. I do acknowledge that there are risks, but I be lieve we can negotiate any difficulties. We are part of this project because we want to take a look at what weve been doing and how to do it better. Kelly looks at bit more skeptical, So what would we do if we disagreed with you? What are our options after we read the dissertation? I pause briefly and reply, First, Ill give you some simple ideas; then we can talk about more complex issues. One option might be to not identify CASA by name. I can use a pseudonym. People could still guess it was CASA, but the organization would not be specifically identified.
267 That might work, but I agree people woul d still know, Kelly replies. Im having a hard time thinking this through. Ca n you give me an example of a problem that might occur in research? Lets suppose that at the end of the project, I wrot e a chapter about how CASA staff talk about empowerment, and my observations are that certain staff members dont practice empowering conversations in the workplace. Maybe I have examples of programs and events that are disempowering. I pause and look around the table at their confused faces. But you always gave us drafts of your pa pers in the past. Couldnt we tell you that we disagreed with you, that maybe you got it wrong? Several people giggle at Clarissas question easily imagin ing her setting me straight. Yes, you could. I might agree with you, or I might not. Actually, what I would probably do is write your ideas and our followup conversations into the story or the analysis. I would reflect on why or how we interpreted things differently. But I might still write that I saw moments of disempowerme nt. Now Im not saying that I have. Im just posing the possibility that we interpret things differently. Linda jumped in, I remember when Ca rolyn wrote a chapter in her book about difficulties in community-based research (Ellis, 2004). Carolyn sent her draft to me, and I responded with comments by e-mail. She didn t change everything, but she inserted my words and talked about how we saw things differently.
268 Yes, I said. Carolyn shared your e-mail with me, and we discussed that process. Thats an example of representing different points of view. I could get copies for anyone who wants to read it. Maria said, Id like to read it, and I w ould share a copy with others. Elizabeth, I trust you after all these years, but Id like to hear more from you about your ideas on this. I imagine this comes up frequently for researchers. I take a breath and begin, Yes, this is a major ethical issue for researchers and for my dissertation. With my work on narrativ es, Im not doing surveys or trying to claim that Im objective. Ill acknowledge my subj ectivity because my feelings, opinions, and past experiences do affect my perceptions. With narrative research people might be identifiable in the stories. Weve talked a bout questions such as: Whose story is it? And for whom is the story written? The two main research issues are social responsibility and representation (Denzin & Li ncoln, 2000). The collaborative relationships weve developed are the foundation for our work and will continue to be important as we work more on empowerment. Maria looks around the table. I definite ly agree that we have an incredible research relationship. You are more like one of us. Yeah, you get it! Clarissa adds, pointi ng her finger in my direction and looking around the table. Thanks. I smile and feel the warmth of their support. Discussions of researchers and those being studied often desc ribe being an inside r or an outsider and many different variations within t hose categories (Acker, 2000).
269 Linda interjects, I dont believe that resear chers are ever totally objective. None of us are, even if we claim to be. I like the action research, feminist ideas of working together, rather than separating researcher and those researched You and I have discussed the idea of blurre d boundaries, Elizabeth. Why dont you talk some more about that now? Linda suggests. Many people agree with you, I say to Linda and look around the group. Many researchers have moved from the we-they mentality to the idea that we all have multiple identities, multiple roles that blur during resear ch (Davies, 1992; Fine, 1994; Fine et al., 2000; Fonow & Cook, 1991; Reinharz, 1992). Its funny because sometimes when you introduce me to people, you have hard time deciding what to call me--volunteer, researcher, story writer, friend, facilitator, arts and crafts person, or, best of all, the person who brings pizza and chocolate, I clown, as group laughs. Youre just like part of our family now, Clarissa says. The most important thing I can do as a researcher is to recognize the multiplicity of my own roles and interpretations and include those in what I write. I want to be open to conflicting interpretations, and strive for reflexivity that mirrors my lived experiences in my dissertation (Borland, 1991; Ellis & Flaherty, 1992). Again, that doesnt mean we will have conflicts, I reiterate. Before I can continue, Bonnie stops me. Ive heard you use that word, reflexivity, before, but I want to be sure we re all thinking the same thing. So explain a bit.
270 Thanks for asking, Bonnie. It means looking at what you are doing--reflecting, maybe like what you call processing. One of our texts defined reflexivity as the process of personally and academically refl ecting on lived experiences in ways that reveal the deep connections between the writer and her or his subject [italics in original] (Goodall Jr., 2000, p.137). But we must remember that people may experience the same event and still interpret that event differently, and tell the story differently. You discussed that at the staff m eeting when you looked at how staff framed the residents: how we all filter things and bring different meanings to our experiences. Yeah, we used coffee filters to demonstrate how our backgrounds, education, families, and other things affect the way we see our work! Clarissa affirms. That makes sense, contributes Kelly, and others nod. Any other questions on this topic? I ask a nd pause. I feel comfortable with our relationship and our approach to working togeth er, but I wanted to be sure we discussed the possibilities. In my first class with Ca rolyn, we read a really powerful article she wrote about the quagmires of researching pe oples lives and communities. She wrote of her relationships and how people felt about what she wrote. Carolyn concluded that research should emphasize how our lives are connected rather than set apart; how we should be conscious of ambiguities and mu ltiple roles; and how we should exhibit empathy, community, and a sense of responsibil ity in our research (Ellis, 1995, p. 94). Ill use her example to guide my work. Thats why we fit together--because we have similar values, Maria observes with a smile.
271 The meeting adjourns so Clarissa, Kelly Bonnie, and Maria ca n return to their offices. I ask Linda if she has time for some debriefing. Since she would be attending a community event later in the evening, she is between shifts. After we settle into the comfortable, cream-colored couch in her offi ce and kick off our shoes, I ask, So how was the meeting for you? Do you think we are ready to move to the next step? I enjoy your visits and c onversation so much! You get us thinking in different ways, so yes the meeting was great, Linda re plies. We need to talk more about the logistics and scheduling meetings with staff. Yes, remember this is still the plan ning stage. Maybe we should have focus groups with staff to see what they think. We can work on process and then action items and well have a plan, I reply and shift on the couch. I really want to work on this, but I must complete the final draft of my dissertation in the next few months. Well, summer isnt a very good time for new projects at CASA because we have people on vacation. You and I will be in Denver for the NCADV conference. Im also going to Australia to give the keynote address at a conference there, and then my friend is going to meet me for vacation time. Looks like we should revisit this project in the fall. After I return from Australia, Ill also ha ve time to read drafts of your dissertation chapters, whatever you have. My biggest challenge right now is or ganizing the outline. Ive tried a few approaches, but Im not satisfied yet. Writing in a narrative format is actually very difficult because you must find ways for all the chapters to flow together with a
272 framework or a plot. I feel a bit of frustration creeping into my voice. But it will be great to have you as a reader! NCADV Winding Down The NCADV program on organizational change and research collaboration concludes. Suddenly Im exhausted, like a light bulb that just burned out. It is the end of the conference, the last program. Im weary, spent. Linda turns to me and says, We can ta lk more about our CASA organizational staff project later. Lets go back to the room and rest a bit. Tonight theres a social with a talent show and an informal dance. I hadnt seen these events in the conference program, but Ill find the energy to attend because I want to soak up the NCADV culture. As we walk toward the elevator, I reply, Sounds like fun, but I need to put up my feet for awhile. Im fading.
273 Chapter Ten Conclusion: Looking Back and Flying Home Considering Criteria The hotel breakfast bar offers Linda and me a feast of muffin s, pastries, jams, fruit, yogurt, eggs, meats, and cereals to indulge our appetites and stockpile energy for the long day of travel ahead. After breakfa st, we lounge in the lobby, satiated and waiting for a shuttle bus to the airport. Our f lights are on different airlines, but with close schedules, so we decide to ride the shuttle together. Linda inquires casually, So what did you think of your first NCADV conference? The social and the talent show last ni ght were a hoot, lots of enthusiasm and clapping, but Im not sure about real talent ! We both laugh. The impromptu dance was a fun way to end the conference. It was neat how people brought their CDs and took turns volunteering to be th e DJ, organizing the whole th ing informally. All the goddesses were dancing: young and old, couples, groups and individuals dancing to assorted beats and styles. Linda replies, Its become a tradition at each conference. I enjoy the freedom of letting loose! Theres such sheer joy in dancing! Yeah, an embodied celebration! I needed some release after the intensity of the conference! Im glad you invited me, but my head has been whirling with ideas,
274 connections, and flashbacks to my CASA experiences. I had no idea what to expect because, truthfully, I had been so busy that I ha dnt read the materials very closely before I came. The combination of the research tr ack and the practitioners track has been a catalyst for my thinking about my dissertati on. The programs included so many issues! Linda nods, I always feel refreshed somehow after these events. I get a renewed sense of energy and dedication to working hard er for the Movement and social justice. The plenary sessions on the rape culture and human trafficking featured intense presentations. I noticed the combination of socio-political commentary and emotional stories at the plenary sessi ons, which reflected the persona l and the political feminist philosophy. The singing sure set an emotional tone as well. The memorial to Susan Schechter affected me the most dramatically, in part, because I felt like I knew her after reading her book. But even more than that, I was intrigued by the testimonials describing her as a compassionate advocate and mentor. Yes, DV work is emotional, so our confer ences have emotional elements as well. In our work, we are dealing with horrific abuses of power. Thats what can make advocates so angry. We balance the compassi on of our work with our outrage. As part of a feminist philosophy, we honor and acknowledge expressions of emotion. At the same time, we try to take care of ourselves, and each other, so th e vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue doesnt overwhelm us. Thats probably why we try to see the strengths and hope in our work too. We desperately need to believe in the possibilities and nurture that hope.
275 I muse, Stories were a big part of the conference. From my readings and our discussions, I knew that voice a nd stories were important, bu t during this conference, I experienced narratives in a unique way. The plenary sessions were full of stories from speakers and respondents; even the sponsors told stories. The memorials and songs were stories. Every session conveyed some kind of narrative thread. Thats why I wanted to showcase our CASA booklet of stories. Linda smiles. We brought hundreds of copies, and we ran out. I heard lots of interesting comments, although some people werent sure what to make of the focus on staff. Its not very often that we turn the lens on ourselves. You know my response is that to understand our work and the Movement, people must understand us. I heard lots of discussion about cultiv ating new leadership. I think the stories might be a good way to communicate your philosophy to others, I observe. Linda proposes, Im ready for more st ories when you are. Maybe we can get another grant. I must finish my dissertation before I can start any new project. Writing narratives has become easier for me, but th e process of mapping out a 200 to 300-page book and trying to weave together multiple layers, plot lines, and characters has been almost overwhelming at times. I have done al l kinds of outlines and notes, so now its time to write. Im experimenting with creative ways to communicate academic literature and theories in a dissertation. Including th is conference in my dissertation might be a way to balance the research and the practi ces. Maybe Ill make some notes about the conference on the plane.
276 Linda asks, With an experimental form, how will you know if youve done it well? Whats the criterion for judging th e narrative when you have completed the dissertation? Right now, its not only what I think, but what my committee thinks and, eventually, what my readers think, as well as what CASA staff think--lots of readers and thinkers to please! I joke. Linda says in serious voice, I know you arent going to use statistics to prove something, so Im really not sure what the academic standard is for your work. You might call my work poetic social science (Bochner, 2000) or poetic activism (Gergen, 2000). The stories Ill use wont be just data that Ill analyze and include as snippets in a long, factual analys is. The narrative that I write will be my interpretation of the meaning. My goal is to show the readers of my work the events, characters, and ideas involved in the project, rather than to just write about what happened in the project. I want to paint pictur es that will draw people into the scene and engage them--make them feel like they were there. Of course, much of being there involves conversations about our work, since CASA likes to process the work. I want readers to be sitting with us in those conversations! My voice is getting louder, and Im using my hands to gesture, as I lean toward Linda. I can almost see it now, Linda jokes. Thats what the booklet of stories did for us. It helped us look at ourselves and our wo rk, as well as making our work feel real to other people not directly involved in DV work.
277 One criterion for my dissert ation project is that it need s to address the goals of action research, by working co llaboratively with a community organization on a project that relates to social justice. Last week, I was talking with two colleagues of mine about what we wanted. One said she wanted to get a job and make enough money so that she wouldnt always be a broke grad student. Th e other woman said that she wanted to be known for excellent work; she wanted to be the best. I said that I wanted to be known as someone who made a difference. I need to make money, and I need to feel like my work is recognized, but most of all, I need to be socially relevant, to make a difference. Maybe thats just the old hippie in me! Well, you can check that one off your list, Linda assured me. You have made a difference with CASA. And youve been with us for a long time, which should give your research credibility. I know it does with those of us in the domestic violence field. The rapport with CASA that has develope d over time certainly adds credibility to my study; however, the criteria for the qua litative research and narratives Ill write dont focus so much on credibility or validity; or rather, these terms are defined differently in narrative methodology. The goals are very different from those associated with the predict and control model. W ith social change and narrative work, the goal isnt to show whats wrong with CASA, but to promote an understanding of the tensions and difficulties. The goal is no t necessarily to reso lve problems per se, but to look deeper into the issues and seek commonalities (Ellis, 2002). Of course, with the action research slant, the project itself is designed to help CASA. Th e narrative methodology supports the feminist theory that the personal is the political, and so personal stories can lead to
278 social changes. Some people contend that na rratives are just introspective navel-gazing, but various academics, including Carolyn, have written about the power of narratives in social change (Ellis, 2002). One academic, Laurel Richardson (1995), specifically used the word empower and wrote, Narrative structure . will empower individuals, contributing to liberating civic discours es, and support transformative projects (Richardson, 1995, p. 214). I really like that phrase liberating discourses, and she is one of the narrative trailblazers. A criterion Id like to suggest is that whatever you write must be readable by those involved in the work. Much of your work is engaging and accessible, but I hope it stays that way in the dissertation. Or are we going to have to skip the beginning and end sections, like we do with some of the papers? Great point, I respond. CASA staff have emphasized it on numerous occasions. Im trying to write a narrative, integrating the th eory, analysis, and literature within the story, rather than using the acad emic parts as bookends of theory at the beginning and end. That is another issue often discussed in articles about criteria. I hope to write something a bit experimental, li terary, and accessible, and I know the CASA staff will give me feedback on that. I grab a file folder from my bag. Ive been pulling together lists in preparation for this section of the question. I ascribe to an idea of writing as inquiry that proposes writing as a way of discovering and knowing (Richardson, 2000), so Im not sure about the final format at this point, but writ ing as inquiry is a method of knowing, investigating, and cons tructing our world, ourselves, and others
279 (2000). Writing as inquiry is significantly diffe rent from traditional social science, where data collection and reporting are separate. If its all integrated, that will mean that both the academic and the community readers will be experienci ng both worlds, or maybe you are creating a new space for all of us, Linda says, almost like she is thinking out loud. Richardson also outlined something cal led CAP--Creative Analytic Practices, which holds that narrativ e research should meet the followi ng criteria: (1) contributes to our understanding of social life, (2) demonstrates aesthetic merit, (3) includes adequate self awareness and reflexivity, (4) impacts the reader emotionality and/or intellectually and causes reactions, and (5) e xpresses embodied sense of re ality, lived experience (p. 937). But what I really like is her metaphor of crystallization as an alternative to traditional notions of validity. Richardson s upports the idea that there is no one single truth; rather, truth is like a prism, reflecti ng multiple dimensions, patterns, and colors that continually change. What we see depends on the angle from which we view the crystal (p. 934). The crystal metaphor is ju st perfect. Lindas face lights up. Maybe we can use that as part of our empowerment training, one of your memory anchors. Oh yes, perfect! I exclaim and pull a tabl et from my briefcase to scribble notes. Im lucky to work with Carolyn and Art because they are leaders in our field, and they have written extensively on criteria for narratives (Bochner, 1994, 1997, 2000, 2001; Bochner & Ellis, 1999, 2003, 2002; Bochner, Elli s, & Tillmann-Healy, 1997; Bochner et al., 1998; Ellis, 1995, 2000, 2002; Ellis & Be rger, 2002; Ellis & Bochner, 1992, 2000;
280 Ellis & Flaherty, 1992). But it is a bit ove rwhelming, too, because they have high standards. Here, read these two quotes. I hand Linda a sheet from my folder. W hat makes narratives believable is the sense of reality they create, their intim acy, economy, accessibility, verisimilitude, and their capacity to evoke and promote identif ication, feeling, empathy and dialogue (Bochner & Ellis, 1999, p. 492). I point to the bottom of the page. We seek . a meeting ground where heart and head can go hand in hand, a rigorous and creative ethnography that is passionate political, personal, critical open-ended, enlightening, pleasurable, meaningful and evocativ e (Bochner & Ellis, 1999, p. 498). Writing evocatively is actually much more difficult than most people think. I sigh. Just outline your goals, from your heart, Linda encourages. One researcher says that its not wo rth doing any work that doesnt break your heart (Behar, 1996). Some days, CASA break s my heart, but it inspires me on other days. I think the staff feels the same way. I want to write stories about the daily lives of CASA workers, sharing their dilemmas of en acting empowerment with readers. I also want to share my own feelings about empowerment and working with CASA. Coconstructing multi-voiced accounts of interpersonal experiences and moments of understanding will encourage multiple interpretations, full of vulnerabilities and contradictions. Hopefully, well stimulate peop le to reframe some of their assumptions. Oh yeah, Im not setting the bar too high! I laugh and gesture with my arm over my head.
281 You can do it. Ive read your work, and I think you will meet all those goals. Youll make a difference, not only for CASA, but for other domestic violence programs in the state and the country. Thanks, I appreciate the encouragement. I need it. Ive come full circle from being an old literature major and English teacher, to someone writing grant proposals, technical reports, newsletters, and marketing copy and back to a creative author again. You know, I also hope that my dissertation will be useful to all kinds of organizations and people who are trying to find their own se nse of empowerment and strength. One of the first books I read in my narrative classes was by an author I had cherished in college in the 70s, Robert Coles. Hes an activist storyteller, and prolific author from the medical field, who invites the reader to see how powerful stories are in our lives. He writes, There are many interpretations to a good story and it isnt a question of which one is right or wrong but of what you do with what youve read (Coles, 1989, p. 47). Looking Back, Looking Forward Watching people in the lobby for a while, Linda and I chat ab out the people she knows, and people Ive met during the conferen ce. We pause, each in our own world of thought for a few minutes. To me, our comfort with this silence shows how we can coexist, near each other, without c onversation, in a sp ace of acceptance. After a while, I turn to Linda and expre ss my thanks. This conference has been memorable. Thanks for inviting me and s howing me around. The last few days have been bursting with connections and very thought-provoking ideas. Iv e been feeling the
282 ambiguity of being an insider and an outside r. Even at CASA, sometimes Ive felt like I dont really belong because Im not a survivor of abuse, but there is a deep resonance philosophically. Linda explains, The movement is in a di fficult phase. It is important that we keep space for survivors and the experienced, grassroots advocates. We are concerned that people with social work, criminology, or even business degrees often get jobs when they dont understand the philosoph y. Shelters are becoming so cial service agencies with big budgets, but we want to preserve the so cial justice mission as well. Someone like you brings the philosophy of compassion and empowerment to our work. This conference has been about collaboration, wh ich is what we have achieved. I remember one moment that shaped my sense of belonging in the Movement--a light bulb moment of meaning at the state conference. I co ntinue, At the final awards ceremony banquet, I was sitting at the CASA table feeling like an insider, someone who belonged there. As the awards were presen ted, each person told his or her story of personal experience with abuse. It was beau tiful and touching to see their triumphant spirits making a difference in their work. Ho wever, I began to feel like I could never truly fit into the work because I hadnt experienced domestic violence in my family. I pause. Then the last award was for youth advocacy. In her acceptance speech, the award recipient revealed that unlike others honorees, she was not a survivor; however, her inspiration came from her supportive, lovi ng family. Embraced by the warmth of her family, she wanted everyone to have that gift of love. Her speech was a poignant
283 awakening for me because I felt the same way. I just didnt realiz e it until I heard her award speech. I think you got your heart from your Mom. I never met her, but the way you cared for her and talked about her showed great love, Linda observes in a gentle voice. Mom had a special way of seeing the possibilities, seeing strengths in people. I experienced that as a child, and even more when she was terminally ill. Watching my Mom slowly and painfully die at the same time I became involved with CASA made me think about chaos and control of our lives, or the illusion of control that we have. I spent a lot of time trying to give Mom choices-empowering her by not taking over her life even though I was caring for her. I start to feel a residual sa dness infuse me. You know, Linda, it meant a lot to me that you and the CASA staff members came to Moms funeral. I dont go to many funerals, but Im gl ad I heard your cousins eulogy. He celebrated your Moms personality. I could se e how she was the family rascal with a big heart and youre like her! We both laugh. Linda continues, It took your Mom such a long time to die, and my Mom went so sudde nly. Youve been a good listener since my Mom died. It helps to talk about all of it with someone who understands the grieving process. I reply, I remember that you said you argued with your dad because he tried to control you, but your mom tried to se t you free. That was beautiful. Linda muses, Weve been through a lot in the past four years. So much has changed. Your mom died, my mom died, Ho mers dad died. Clarissa got married.
284 I add, There have been lots of staff changes, too. People have been promoted, or left. New staff was hired. I miss Ellie. Her retirement was difficult, but I understood she had to take care of her dad. We are bot h quiet again, until I say, I had no idea that our first meeting would end up like this. Linda laughs and says, I didnt either when I first went to talk to a room full of academics about why I dont like researchers! Im glad we found our common ground. Sanctuary for the Vulnerable: A bove the Clouds on the Airplane The airport shuttle bus arri ves, and the hotel bellman calls in a loud voice, Ten oclock bus is now boarding. We scurry to pick up our briefcases, computers, carry-on bags, and purses, lining up as the bellman loads our luggage. Gazing out the window with a hypnotic stare as we cr uise along the interstate highw ay, I watch the mountains in the distance. The ride is quiet, with people thinking of where theyve been and where theyre going. After the hustle and bustle of checking into the airport and the long lines where passengers play hurry-up-and-wait, I settle in for a long flight across the country. The wide, smooth, leather seats in the first-class cabin make me feel ha ppy I used my frequent flier points for an upgrade. When we are flying high above the clouds, I close my eyes and think back to a story about CASA a nd my moms illness that was in the CASA Booklet. One day Bonnie asked me if my st ory would be in the booklet. At that point in my life, it was very difficult to write a bout my mother, but the story I wrote showed how much CASA helped me through those diffi cult times. CASA members shared their
285 personal and organizational stories with me, opening themselves to me so they were vulnerable to the researcher. In this story, I become vulnerable to them and open to receiving their compassion. Sharing Pain and Laughter I feel relief flood my body, as I walk up th e sidewalk to the CASA Shelter. The sun is shining. The air smells fresh. CASA is my shelter today from the illness, hospital, operations, and worry. I pour a cup of coffee and pull up a chair at the large, round conference table. Judy and Clarissa are reviewing paperwork. Clarissa looks up and says, Youre here for Bonnie, right? Shes in the garage sorting donations, but shell be in soon. No problem, Im a bit early. Its nice just to sit for a minute, I reply with a sigh. Weve missed you, but we know that you are taking care of your Mom. So how is Mom? asks Judy casually. I shake my head slowly and murmur, N ot too good, not too good. I look down at the table and take a deep breath to stave off tears. I know that the CASA women are accustomed to emotionality and pain, but I ju st dont want to start crying again. Judy waits, and I explain, Good news and bad ne ws. The good news is that Mom survived the operation, even though the doctor told us there was a 75 percent chance--or more-that she would die. The bad news is that they cant find the right kind of medication to control her pain. She has been hallucinating for days. The other ni ght, the nurses called me at 2:00 a.m. because Mom wanted to get ou t of bed and come home She must lie still
286 or her hip wont heal properly. But its hard for her to breathe unless she sits up straight. Ive been staying at the hospital about 16 hour s a day and some nights. Im finding its wrenching to watch my Mom suffer so much. She cant hear or see very well, so shes scared and confused. I feel like a balloon that has deflated. I try to switch to a different mode, You know, I had to drop my summer class, so coming to CASA is a treat for me! Today, Moms regular daytime caretaker is with her at the hospital. Im hoping that Mom will relax with her there, but Im not sure how she will react. Judy nods her head. Lets go out on the porch and have a cigarette. When we get settled at the wooden picn ic table she continues, My mother had bone cancer, and she came to live with my family before she died. I remember the pain. Toward the end, I slept in her room each night. It was rough because I had two kids and was working fulltime at the daycare center--talk about juggling priorities! Judy and I chat about mothers and illness, care giving, and death. I feel a deepening and new kind of bond with her because of our shared experience. She understa nds something that I often find too painful to discuss except in generalities. Moms impending death and myriad medical problems seem unspeakable, except to those who share this experience. Clarissa sticks her head out the door, Bonnie says shes running late. Will you stay for lunch and then interview her afterward? Sure, I love to lunch with yall. We chuckle and walk back to the conference table to check the take-out menus, add our or ders to the list, and put money into the envelope. By now, the lunch routine is familiar to me--casual, but effective.
287 Ellie, the program manager, greets me and says, Elizabeth, can we chat for a few minutes while we wait for lunch? She smiles and squeezes my shoulder. I nod, and she leads me into the small, pr ivate intake room. She looks into my eyes and says, We are worried about you and y our Mom. Clarissa mentioned to me that things have been difficult for you lately I hope you are taking care of yourself. I am deeply touched by Clarissas anxiety and Ellies almost motherly concern for me. She really cares, and sh e is also very serious about her suggestion to take care of myself. I remember our interview about vi carious trauma and compassion fatigue, when she explained how staff members at the Shel ter must keep themselves mentally and emotionally healthy. Her approach to me is so much like how the staff describe her as a manager. I reply, Thanks, I have been le tting myself get wrung out. The lack of sleep and the worry have taken a toll, but coming he re has been my respite. You are my fun time in the midst of it all! We both la ugh, recognizing the irony of my statement, because the work at the Shelter is often very intense and painful. Ellie and I talk for a while about caring for parents, my Mom and her aging father, and then a knock on the door lets us know its lunchtime. We go through the convivial chaos of matching the food with the person who ordered it. As we all sit to eat, Clarissa stands and waves her hands, Everyone, give me your attention. I have some special music for todays lunch. This is especially for Elizabeth, but also because we all need support and inspiration. Clarissa sits next to me and tells me, Last night I was just so beat down, my spirit was at the bottom. Then I listened to Yolanda sing on this CD and I was revived!
288 Girl, you just know it, Bonni e says from across the table, That music gets to your soul! I listen to Yolanda in my car when I need to feel lifted up! We all munch our food with music in the background. Afte r lunch, Clarissa a nd Ellie are standing by the tape player, and were talk ing about how music can affect us. Ellie, a middle-aged Caucasian woman with white hair, wearing a conservative denim jumper, gestures with her hands and her hips, I always wanted to sing Respect R-E-S-P-E-C-T! You know what you mean to me! We all laugh at he r imitation of Aretha Fr anklins dance steps and singing rendition. Clarissa jangles her arm bracelets, flip s her long, black braids over her broad shoulders, and hugs Ellie. Well, I want to be a Black Betty Boop! Clarissa smoothes her brown, beige, and black leopard-skin outf it down her full hips. And karaoke, I love karaoke! Hey, we could be Ebony & Ivory ! The two women clown around, dancing and pantomiming, as the rest of us laugh. This play is typical of th e way that each of us shares and releases our stress at the Shelter. The play doesnt last long, but the spirit is there. On the way back to the hospital, I stop at the music store to buy Yolanda Adamss CD, Through the Storm and whenever I listen to Yolanda in the car I think back to the debut of Ebony & Ivory at CASA. The storms of life will blow. Th eyre sure to come and go.While riding through the storm Jesus holds me in his arms. I am not afraid of stormy winds and waves. All powers in His hand (McKay, 1990) I remember sharing the laughter and pain th at fills us in times of suffering. Sharing our emotions connects us and uplifts us. At lunch, the melody conveyed comfort
289 and support, but later I read the spiritual, religious words in th e CD liner notes. I feel like it is a message from my Mom because her faith is so strong, but her body is failing her. Now two years after my Moms death, flying across country, I am looking forward and creating a future from the past. As my memories of th e Shelter fade, I stare out the airplane window at the expanse of bl ue sky and white clouds. The engines hum soothes me. In order to shake off the sadness th at clings to the memories of the story and Moms death 16 months ago, I slide my br iefcase from under the seat and pull out my tablet. The long flight offers me time to review my conference notes, record additional observations, and find the CASA co nnections to the NCADV sessions.
290 Epilogue Floating with the Currents Opening to Possibilities For months after the NCADV conference, I write and revise sections of my dissertation each day, pulling together connec tions, refining the language of my stories, and checking citations. I steep myself in th e process of writing, taking time off from volunteering at CASA, except for occasional informal visits and social dinners with Linda. Soon I can see the completion on the ho rizon. Waiting for feedback from CASA staff and my major professor, I begin wonderi ng what the next phase in life will be, what kind of job I will pursue. One morning, shuffling into the kitchen for a cup of steaming tea, I peer out the back windows at the lake, which is obscured in a dense, smoky, ethereal fog. Glancing at the clock, I decide to attend morning church services. Cautiously navigating through the foggy road, I drive with limited visibility on the road ahead. St. Marys Church is a small, cozy, comforting church, decorated resp ectfully, but not ornately, with only about 40 rows of simple, wooden benches. Not all churches comfort me like St. Marys. Some churches are majestic and awe-inspiring; othe rs are bright and modern; some are formal or imposing monuments. St. Marys Church is homey.
291 I grew up at St. Homers Church and Sc hool, but rejected organized religion in my twenties, until returning home to care for my Mom over 20 years later. I still think of St. Homers as my Moms church because she was a founding member. In the 1940s, St. Homers Church started with a simple, wooden structure. Then it gr ew to a large block building, and eventually it be came a wealthy parish featur ing a huge, magnificent church with a gold roof and incredible, stained-gl ass windows. Sometimes my mind wanders during a lackluster sermon and I compare the two churches: the buildings, the services, the rituals, and the people. In the end, one isnt better than the other, just different. After my Mom died, I moved across the bridge from St. Petersburg to Tampa to avoid the long drive to the uni versity. The church closes t to my new house has Moms name, Mary, which seemed like a sign she was still with me. St. Marys isnt my Moms church, but I feel like Mom is with me when Im in church--like Im visiting her. So one foggy morning at St. Marys Church, I find myse lf praying for guidance, but Im not sure from whom. Mom always taught me not to pray for anything specific, but rather to pray for the strength to accept and work through life s challenges. I meditate on being open to what the world has to offer, rather than tryi ng to control the future, a life-long struggle for me. Being present in the now can be much mo re difficult that setting goals to shape or control our future. Staring at the altar meditating, I visua lize myself swimming against the current and getting tired, thrashing in the water, but not making progre ss. There is no fun in this swim, just frustration. Feeling overwhelmed and empty, I decide to change my strategy and float down the river in harmony with th e currents. Progress is swift and I gain
292 strength. Swimming in this way is not giving up, but accepting and flowing with the forces, using the current to enhance your strength. Rather than fighting the currents, I have found that the currents often take me to places that help me grow. A few of my friends think this metaphor is crazy, but others share my understand ing of the paradox of releasing control and finding power in the energy flowing around me. Kneeling in church, I pray for openness a nd feel thankful for the goodness in my life, which is another lesson from Mom--appr eciating the gifts we have, rather than focusing on what we dont have. My sister and I call it the arent we lucky club, as we remember the blessings and opportunities in our lives. My faith isnt anywhere near as strong as my Moms, but her example inspires me. People argue that the church is a patriarchal hierarchy, and there are definitely times when the gender inequities upset me, but, selfishly, I find comfort in church. I grew up going to Catholic school and praying with my Mom and my grandparents, aunts, a nd uncles. Now when I go to church and spend an hour thinking about living a meaningful life, I feel li ghter and energized. In the middle of the service, when people in the c ongregation hold hands and pray, then offer the sign of peace to each other, shaking ha nds, hugging, and smiling, I am filled with a sense of hope. At the end of the service, the priest says, Go in peace to love and serve each other through God, and Im inspired by these words, a lofty and optimistic charge for the day. Of course, some people forget th is by the time we try to exit the congested parking lot, but the words of peace sustain my spirit.
293 New Horizons Bridging Boundaries After the church service, I am energized, even as I struggle with writing the last chapter. My self-imposed schedule calls for writing until 1:00 p.m. As the printer churns out the latest draft, I open the office blinds. The fog has cleared with the sunshine, and I gaze across the water to watch the ducks glid e across the surface. The phone rings, and Im ready for a break. Hi Elizabeth! Hows your dissertation coming? Linda asks when I answer the phone. Im working on the last chapter, which is not flowing smoothly yet. I just keep writing. Thanks for your feedback on the ch apters I sent to you. Ill be working on revisions in a few days hopefully. I respond. Have you heard anything about the job in Jacksonville? Made any decisions on what you want to do? Yes, I just heard that someone else got th e library directors job in Jacksonville. The headhunters havent notified me yet, wh ich is so tacky. Luckily, the grapevine works quickly. I sigh. I wanted to live near my sister, but now I dont know if Ill look for a university position, conti nue consulting, or what. Im just treading water for now, I reply, feeling tense about this question, which my friends and colleagues have been asking me over and over. I guess I dont know what I want to be when I grow up, I joke. Im usually more goal-oriented, but for now Im going with the flow. Sorry about Jacksonville because I know th at family is important to you. But if you are staying in the area for awhile, Elizabet h, I need you at CASA. I want to create a
294 new position, something like Chief Operating Officer or Director of Operations. With CASAs growth and staff turnover, the orga nization is at the stage where we need a position to do more planning and coordinating. Fundraising should be my priority and I cant be so involved in the operations as we ll. Linda pauses. Are you interested? Maybe in a few years you could move to Jacksonville. As Linda talks, I wander around the hous e with the portable phone, eventually stopping at the sliding glass doors leading to th e lake. The strange timing of this call is creepy. I know Linda had a spiritual upbringing, and shes active in her church, but we have not talked extensively about faith. L inda, you wont believe it, but this morning I went to church to meditate on being open to opportunities. I guess the path is getting clearer. I think back to the first e-mail message I received from my professor inviting me to meet Linda. That message also came af ter a day in church, when I had prayed for an open heart. Linda chuckles, Ive been thinking about th is for awhile, but I wasnt sure when to broach the subject with you. Then we discuss salary, responsibilities, and my concerns about completing my consulting contracts during the coming year. We work out the details so I can do both, CASA work and consulting with libraries. Even more importantly, the start date at CASA would be after Ive finished writ ing my dissertation. This feels like a good fit, and well make a gr eat team, I say. I just have one more concern. Linda waits as I pause. Now Ill still be driving across the bridge, only in the other direction now! The fates just want me to be commuting back and forth. I laugh. Seriously, Im used to the drive, and Ill use it as thinking time.
295 You can make your own schedule, and avoid rush hour on most days, Linda suggests. Everyone will be so excited! Now you really are one of us! she exclaims, as we hang up. I wonder if I have gone native (Tedlo ck, 2000). Will this impact my research or my credibility? Shaking my head to dispel those thoughts immediately, I remind myself that I have worked for years to blur boundaries, rather than engaging in either/or thinking. Questions of going native assume a distinction between the subject and the researcher, the observer and the observed. With a foundation of feminist research principles, I have worked with CASA staff as co-researchers, colleagues, and friends, in roles as a volunteer, a writer, a consultant, a coach, and a trainer. Creating a new space where researchers and practitioners collaborate to engage in empowering work has been my goal. The story continues with my new role in an ever-changing interplay of relationships that bridge the distinctions.
296 Coda Thinking About the Stories Fitting the Pieces Together I hesitate to summarize for the reader, or write about the stories. I find labeling difficult, since I have worked to blur bounda ries, acknowledge the in terplay of ideas, and embrace ambiguity. The narratives are the re search and the theories in my research novel. This Coda is an acknowledgement that people find meaning in different ways. The conversations, presentations, people, id eas, stories, and memories from the conference overlap and build on each other lik e colorful toy Lego blocks of different shapes that all connect. There are many diffe rent ways that Legos can be combined to create cars, boats, trucks, planes, towers, castles, cabins, forts, houses, monsters, and other shapes Like the Legos, the pieces of my stories could fit together in many assorted ways, and I expect readers will piece together unique and personal meanings. Thats the source of both joy and frustration, which is sim ilar to my effort to create a structure for my dissertation. After months of search ing for the way I wanted to frame this dissertation about CASA, the conference in spired me to create a layered account, integrating the conference and my experiences. Broadly this dissertation includes stories representing three areas. First, the narratives demonstrate feminist research prin ciples in the form of engaged scholarship, action research, or, more speci fically, participatory action research and social action
297 research. Within this first category, the topi c of research relationships is a strong element with a foundation of collaboration. The s econd major area of focus is framing and sensemaking, particularly Kenneth Gergens (Gergen, 2000) Poetic Activism. Included in this category is an emphasis on connected knowing, Appreciative Inquiry, the language of possibilities and strengths-based service, which emphasizes reframing. CASA demonstrates how important framing is to empowerment. The third concept is the use of narratives and life stories as a method of know ing and communicating. This dissertation is an experiment in thinking with the story, not about the story and erasing the boundaries between analysis and narrative. Studying collaboration in the context of engaged scholarship between the university and the community is the impetus for my research, while understanding the lived realities of domestic violence work is the context. Empowerment, a value of the Battered Womens Movement, is a major theme because it is also essential for engaged scholarship, participatory action research, and feminist research. The resulting dissertation models collaboration and empo werment as both a process and a product. Engaged Scholarship in Feminist and Action Research The issues, challenges, and experiences during my participation in the UCI project to compile CASA stories and my work with CASA for the past four years were communicated in this novel researchs narratives. The following list summarizes the ways in which empowerment is essential to collaborative work in participatory action research and feminist research.
298 1. Committing significant amounts of time, extended duration at research site 2. Respecting research that is cont ext-bound in everyday situations 3. Maintaining an orientation to social justice and action 4. Honoring the CASA insiders li ved experience and expertise 5. Promoting a diversity of ideas and making space for multiple voices 6. Considering issues of gender and the social construction of abuse 7. Actively developing the process at all st ages, from defining the project through analysis 8. Encouraging the communication flow in many ways, to and from all levels 9. Paying attention to affective compon ents, relationships and conflicts 10. Writing accessible reports and other products based on the research for multiple audiences 11. Recognizing and embracing the ambiguity of permeable boundaries and roles 12. Acknowledging subjectivity and engaging in reflexivity 13. Embracing flexibility and emergent issues Lisa Tillman-Healy (2003) referenced feminist research and PAR as a basis for her friendship as method. This method builds on the foundations of qualitative research, interpretivism, and seeking understandin g, not control. Tillman-Healys friendship as method resonates with my experiences at CASA, as I developed relationships with the staff and the executive director. Calling for inquiry that is open, multivoiced, and emotionally rich, friendship as a method involves the pr actices, the pace, the contexts, and
299 the ethics of friendship. . Although we employ traditional forms of data gathering (e.g., participant observa tion, systematic note taking, and informal and formal interviewing), our primary procedures are those we use to build and sustain friendship: conversation, everyday involvement, compassion, giving, and vulnerability. Her list summarizes my goals for my i nvolvement and research at CASA. My work and context are different but yet also si milar to Tillmann-Healys. My friendships developed from the collaborative research, while her friendships spawned her research. During my research with CASA staff members, weve shared the lived realities of working against domestic violence, from th e mundane to the emotionally charged. Weve shared personal stories and new ideas. Research relationships developed that moved past just blurring the boundaries into creating new ways to define research and researchers, embracing the ambiguity of roles. Ambiguous Emotions and Creating Sanctuary The intersections of emotionality, organizations, and feminist research are related to my study. The ambiguous nature of emotions is evident in my experiences at CASA. Arlie Russell Hochschilds (Hochschild, 1983) book on the managed heart led researchers to study emotional labor (EL) in many different jobs and settings, but there is limited research on communi cation and the day-to-day en counters of emotion among social workers. While CASA staff members do not use the term social work, I see some similarities in their ways of wo rking. Social workers need support and
300 acknowledgement that their work is emotiona l, involving a personal capacity to feel and to feel for others (Meyerson, 2000). Emotions are a part of the usual routine for CASA workers. Meyersons words inspired me to honor the CASA staffs emotions. A social science that honors emotional experience would treat emotions as a legitimate realm of social experience. Narrative accounts that detailed the texture of human feeling in organization--joy and pain, fear and suffering, hate and love--would be central to social science. . (2000, p. 174). Putnam and Mumby pointed to the possibi lity of this coexistence of EL and emergent work feelings, which I choose to interpret as ambiguity, the ability to balance the feminist both/and view. CASA worker s use the communicative role of emotions to develop a sense of interrelatedness. This is a messy process, but these workers enact social support on a daily basis for each other, and Beckys attack ch allenged this support in unique ways. They know such support is critical to their abili ty to do the work. Putnam and Mumby described one case study in a way that also fits CASA; Open expression of emotions facilitated the formation of community and developed a sanctuary atmosphere where teammates pr ovided emotional support. . . (Putnam & Mumby, 1993, p. 53). CASA is a sanctuary that honors the heart, facilitates the sharing of emotions, and offers a safe place to explore ambiguous feelings. Al l these elements of sanctuary are important for the sense of em powerment, self-efficacy, self-confidence, and supporting others.
301 Defining and Framing Empowerment The meaning of the term empowerment, both individual and collective, has been explored, defined, re-defined, and de bated throughout the literature that I have discussed and illustrated in the narratives. I briefly summarize them here because I recognize different ways of knowing and learning. Pacanowskys (1988) early ethnographic study of an empowering organiza tion concluded that distributed power, open communication, trust, and personal responsibility were as critical as embracing organizational ambiguity, all of which reflect the principles of engaged scholarship. Empowerment has been compared to the emperors new clothes (Argyris, 1998) because we discuss or praise it, but are unclear what it means. According to Rowlands (Rowlands, 1997, p. 8), Unless empowerment is given a more concrete meaning, it can be ignored, or used to obscure, confuse or divert debates. The failure to define and explore in practical details how empowerment can be achieved considerably weakens the value of the concept as a tool for analysis or as part of a strategy for change. (Rowlands, 1997, p. 8) A recent edition of the Communication Yearbook (Kalbfleisch, 2003) focused on theoretical discussions of empowerment th rough many different lenses, which informed my work (Aldoory, 2003; Brown, 1990; Coopman, 2003; Deetz & Mumby, 1990; Hammond et al., 2003; Jacobson, 2003; Kalbfleisch, 2003; Kirby, Golden, Medved, Jorgenson, & Buzzanell, 2003; Kreps, 1990; Luthra, 2003; Pacanowsky, 1988; Parker, 2003; Rogers & Singhal, 2003). My work extends the theoreti cal with narrative methodology. Hammond et al. concluded that emergent power and dialogue are not as
302 easy to observe and study as tr aditional power models and ar tifacts; however, research on the contextual, social, and s ubjective cases could lead to better understanding of power, dialogue, creative learni ng, and change. The concept of empowerment can be am biguous, particularly for women who are seeking new ways of defining power and em powerment. My study contributes to the body of feminist research as a product about feminist issues conducted with feminist research principles. Life stories, as a method, are a feminist way of knowing that I explore. Investigating the ambi guity of emotions and work feelings is also relevant to feminist research. In the early 90s, Miller and Cumins (Miller & Cummins, 1992) were among the first to reframe the approach a nd examine womens perspectives of power empirically. These authors concluded that women perceived societys definition of power as one that requires resources (mone y) and control over others, which they generally attributed to men. The women studied reported that their own feelings of power were based on self-enhancement and pers onal authority. The participants believed that men and women understood power differently. Women rarely spoke of empowerment, but mentioned personal authority, autonomy for themselves, but not within context of relationships, especially sexual relationships. The authors called for more research into the cultural and social contexts that affect women and mens ideas of power, control, and personal authority. What I found particularly interesting was Miller and Cumi nss literature review of feminist scholarship abou t empowerment during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Empowerment was defined as a process where each participant
303 enhances the others feelings of competen ce and/or power. Power is something to share, something to use for the enhancem ent of others (p. 417). Miller and Cumins continued by discussing feminists move to shift the concept of power out of the interpersonal mode (i.e. domi nating, influencing, empowering another) to focus on more intrapersonal form of power (p. 417). Chiles and Zorn (Chiles & Zorn, 1995) elab orated on this shift in perspective and suggested that we consider both the inte rpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of empowerment. Their work on employee empowerment expanded on Banduras four influences of self-efficacy: enactive attainment, verbal persuasion, vicarious experience, and emotional arousal. Rather than a single focus on perceptions of either individual competency or personal control and authority, the authors asse rted that both are required for empowerment. They strongly focused on human interpretive capacities and the relational aspects of constructing empowerment. Chiles and Zorn defined empowerment not only as a state of being, but also as the process of creating that state. My dissertation illustrates much of the recent theoretical work on coserving and reciprocal empowerment. Wo men are reclaiming and redefining the idea of serving and co-serving in a feminist context. This moves us past the idea that empowerment is something done for so meone else, as is associated with the traditional nurturing feminine role. Marlene Fine and Patrice Buzzanell (2000) proposed another feminist revision to the concept of serving, particularly in an organizational leadership context. They reclaimed the term.
304 Serving means more than just enabling others; it is also an ethical vision that creates what is worthy in life, develops avenues for living the vision, and revisits this core vision continually. . To serve is to articulate, and implement organizational visions that challenge the gendered organizational values, beliefs, and be haviors that pervade organizational life. (Fine & Buzzanell, 2000, p. 132) Serving, in Fine and Buzzannells cons truction, is a form of resistance that operates through dialectic processes to creatively incorporate the multiple commitments to self, others, community and principles so that we serve ourselves with and through our connections with others (Fine & Buzzanell, 2000, p. 152). They positioned serving as a process of engaging in co -serving. Co-serving is a process of balancing all the needs, a dialectical interpla y that is important to the commitment to lead in a deeply ethica l manner. The authors acknowledged that the metaphor of serving might seem oxymoronic to feminism, and they explored paradoxes to the feminist act of reclaiming the term. In some ways, women who embrace the role of serving seem to be acting in stereotypical roles. Serving as a life commitment does not fit the traditional view of changing leadership styles in context pursuing stra tegies and techniques In their view, however, Women who successfully enact leadersh ip as serving are threatening the status quo (p. 151); they are willing to subvert the gendered social order, live by self-reflexive principles, and struggle for change. Fine and Buzzanell want to
305 reclaim and reframe the idea of serving in womens lives and work to honor the mutuality and relational aspects of the experience. In Women, Power, and Ethnicity: Working Toward Reciprocal Empowerment, Darlington and Mulvaney called for further research on empowerment, and ways to educate women about alternative models of power and languaging those models in a recu rsive process they call reciprocal empowerment (Darlington et al., 2003). Language, naming, and conversation are crucial for social research on how women construct, attain, define, and exercise power so that they do not necessarily recreate traditional models. Women may need to develop ways to describe the pow er they practice in order to understand their practices and those of others. The stories in my research contribute to this process. Writing about a collaborative pr oject in an empowering way that resists critical dissection, I use a narrative style to open the conversation, rather than creating distance with an oppositional stance. Reciprocal, Vulnerable, Compassionate Empowerment Working on my dissertation leads me to reflect on how compassion intersects with empowerment and collaboration, which f its the notion of redefining concepts in feminist philosophy. Personal and reciprocal vulnerability and compassion are essential to collaboration and empowerment. I say reciprocal compassion because one theme that emerges is the idea of self-compassion as part of compassion for others. This selfcompassion thus contributes to empowerment or reciprocal empowerment. Similar to empowerment, sympathy and compassion are often described in terms of power and
306 hierarchy, who is one up and who is one down, giving or receiving (Clark, 1997). However, if we value respect as central to our relationships, then we seek symmetry, a sense of connection and trust on an e qual level (Lawrence-Lightfoot, 2000). Differences in cultural approaches to emotions, particularly from Eastern and Western standpoints, convey a distinction between ri gid cognitive or affective approaches and those that are more synergistic and symbiotic to understanding emotions (Planalp & Fitness, 1999). In the Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama explained that compassion may be seen as a burden in the West, but he knows it has a freeing, positive effect (Dalai Lama XIV & Culter, 1998). In Ethics for the New Millennium, the Dalai Lama called compassion the supreme emotion, not just sp iritually important in the worlds major religious traditions, but also fundamental to th e continued survival of the species (Dalai Lama XIV, 1999). The principle of lovi ng-kindness should start with compassion for oneself, which then can be extended to othe rs (Chdrn, 1994). This fosters a connection that avoids dualism, condescension, or a hier archy of giving to others from a superior position. Chdrn called our sense of sepa rateness, a funny kind of mistake. This resonates with CASAs belief that any woman c ould become the victim of abuse. When I began this research and my relationship with CASA, I felt sympathy for the victims, but I thought they were separate fr om me. I didnt realize domes tic violences pervasiveness in the community, nation, or world or our connection to this abuse that surrounds us. I even think there were times when I benevol ently blamed the vict ims without realizing that my sympathy was blame.
307 Pema Chdrn (1994) advocated for a change in how we view sympathy and compassion as the helper and the one in need of help. In order to have compassionate relationships, compassionate communication an d compassionate social action, there has to be a fundamental change in attitude (p. 103). She summarized the importance of selfcompassion as . . putting ourselves in someone elses shoesdoesnt come from theory, in which we try to imagine what some one else is feeling. It comes from being familiar and so openhearted and so honest about who you are and what you do that you begin to understand humanness. . (Chdrn, 1994, p. 101). Karen Armstrong has studied concepts of compassion in all the major religions and defined the concept as entering into the point of view of others (Armstrong, 2004, 2005) and finding commonalities as a means of collaborating rather than focusing on differences. Like Pema Chdrn, Ruth Be har, Arthur Frank, and others, Armstrong asked us to look into our own hearts to find our pain--so that we can share others pain on an equal level (Behar, 1996; Chdrn, 1994; Frank, 1995). Kathleen A. Brehony concurred in her work, Ordinary Grace, which examined compassion and altruism (Brehony, 1999). She found that major factor s were feeling a connection others, having faith in goodness others, framing service as a privilege, and having humility, a sense of humor or happiness, and an ability to turn negatives even suffering into positive energy (Brehony, 1999, p. 167-168). The CASA sta ff members exhibit a sense of work as a calling to a higher purpose (Dalai Lama XI V & Cutler, 2003). Further, CASA staff members use their vulnerability and highly re fined sense of reciprocal compassion to frame their work against domestic violence in an empowering way. I had no personal
308 experience with DV, but I have a personal sens e of reciprocal comp assion and reciprocal empowerment that I could share with CASA wo rkers. My experiences with the chaos of my Moms terminal illness also refined my understanding of vulnerability and control, which is related to an empowerment philo sophy. An area for further study is the connection between empowerment and the fr aming of vulnerability, and individuals perceptions of the paradoxical nature of compassion for self and others. An Invitation for a Journey This work was constituted through a socia lly reflexive process of sensemaking. Weick would say that I chopped storied moments out of the flow of soup that is life and then found cues from those moments (Weick, 1995). The moments and cues are then put together into stories. Since sensemaking is an on-going process, it never stops or starts. Yet stories have beginnings and endings becau se we structure them to create some sense of coherence to the events in our lives. At certain moments within those stories, meaning comes together for an individual or groups of individuals. The meaning within the interaction becomes a memory moment that in dividuals create in th e context of social activities. Goffman (1974) referred to framing as the structure of experience individuals have at moments in their social lives (Goffm an, 1974, p. 8).. In this research novel, I attempt to chop moments from the whole a nd share the meanings created within the social activity, storied moments, and the proc ess of creating meaning. These narrative moments are examples of interruptions or disruptions, often with emotional reactions,
309 that spawned sensemaking. Readers will create their own meanings as part of their own sensemaking. This dissertation invites readers to enter into a relationship with the stories, encouraging them to reflect on empowering ways of living, thinking, feeling, talking, knowing, learning, and relating to others in their lives and the world. Each person will bring something different to his or her interp retation of the stories, just as I bring my interpretation to the narratives I write. While the NCADV conference was a meaningful trip, it is also a metaphor for lifes journey. We meet people, talk about ideas, reflect, learn, grow, and tell our stor ies to each other so the pro cess can begin again. Their story, yours, mine--its what we all carry with us on this tr ip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them (Coles, 1989, p. 30). Life is not about the destination, but the journey, the conve rsations and stories we tell along the way.
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338 About the Author Elizabeth A. Curry was a teacher and an organizer of experimental education during the Free School Movement before she obtained her masters degree from Emory University in Library and Information Manageme nt. Working with local, state, regional and national organizations, Elizabeth has been involved in community outreach, partnerships and collaborative projects for ove r twenty years. As the executive director of a nonprofit organization she led a coal ition of five counties and over 300 organizations, which built an electronic community information system. Her experience includes strategic planning, volunteer management, grant writing, marketing, and organizational training. She has edited a nd written numerous publications. She now facilitates leadership development institutes for non-profit and government agencies. For the past four years she has worked with CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) as a volunteer and co-researcher. Currys research interests center on collaboration, empowerment, collegiality, compassion and using narratives to frame lifes meaning.