Volunteer Spotlight: Outreach for Social Change
This month, we’re highlighting the work of Peggy, a passionate and adaptable volunteer who is always ready to lend a helping hand! A survivor of domestic violence herself, Peggy currently contributes time as an Outreach Assistant for our community education programs and before the Covid-19 pandemic, assisted with the helpline, office work, and childcare as needed.
Volunteer position: Outreach Assistant
How long you've been volunteering: 3 years
Fun fact: Peggy has written over a dozen poems about healing from her abuse.
Tell us about you!
I am a survivor. My name is Peggy. I am a retired high school teacher. I left my abuser 16 years ago. It took me years to recognize the signs of the unhealthy relationship I was in, and it took seeing my children choosing abusive partners to realize something was really wrong.
When I reached out to my friends and asked "Is this normal?", having only seen the charming side of my husband they would say, "Oh, he is just having a bad day. Give him a break. He is a good man." When I left him and went to a support group session at a place similar to Safe Passage, I heard stories like mine, where their neighbors also told them to "give him a break”—stories that reaffirmed that I was not crazy and I had a right to be respected and not live in fear of the next explosion.
Why do you volunteer with Safe Passage?
I volunteer because I understand the "crazy making" that goes on in an abusive relationship. I volunteer because it was a place like Safe Passage that helped me get my sanity back.
There are so many misunderstandings out there about domestic violence, who the survivors are and who the perpetrators are. As a survivor who later researched and wrote about my journey, I can relate and help explain how this happens [to others]. One thing that my colleagues and friends would say after hearing my story was: "You?! How could this happen to you?! You are so strong, intelligent and successful!"
People don't understand that, yes, this happens to "strong, intelligent and successful" people. And many perpetrators are "good neighbors," "caring fathers," and "intelligent, successful professionals." Domestic violence needs to be explained to the community but also to survivors who rationalize and make excuses for their abusers.
What is a meaningful experience you've had volunteering?
When I worked the helpline, I would receive phone calls from frightened, confused survivors who, while on the phone, would try to somehow blame themselves. It felt good to reassure them that they had a right to be treated respectfully, to be loved and cared for, and to NOT live in fear.
How do you bring your skills, knowledge, experiences, and resources to the work you do here?
As a former math teacher, I spent many hours with students convinced that they could not learn math, that they were not smart enough, etc. It was my job to teach them to believe in themselves and show them they had what it takes—just like telling a survivor that they have what it takes and honoring the courage needed to take that first step.
“Peggy has been a longtime Safe Passage volunteer and engaged in an Outreach Assistant volunteer position this year! Peggy brings a unique and powerful skillset and level of expertise into her volunteer work that is valued and appreciated.
I can't count how many times I have heard, 'How can I help?' from Peggy during email exchanges and meetings, and she has supported the work of Community Engagement in many ways. Peggy has stepped in to co-facilitate with both youth prevention and adult outreach. One of her strengths is flexibility and being able to effectively pivot when unexpected things inevitably come up.
She has time and time again proven herself to be a highly skilled facilitator and collaborative thought partner in her support of outreach and prevention work at Safe Passage. Every time I have the opportunity to work with Peggy I learn something new and feel so grateful that she has chosen to dedicate her time and expertise to Safe Passage. ”
–Amanda, Prevention and Outreach Manager
“Peggy is such a rockstar! In addition to the great chats we have, she is a dedicated volunteer who is always looking to assist in any way she can. She took the time to meet with me in the first two months of my time at Safe Passage to share about herself, her volunteer experiences, and her ideas for social change, which contributed greatly to the overall changes made in the new volunteer program. She’s always ready to both share her wisdom and learn new things—a balance I aspire to.
Perhaps more than anything, Peggy exemplifies why it is so crucial to involve survivors like us in the process of preventing domestic violence; it's through authentic connection and storytelling that we can start to change the narratives around violence.”
–Alec, Community Engagement Coordinator
Thank you for being a part of Safe Passage, Peggy!
To read other Volunteer Spotlights, click here. To learn more about the volunteer program at Safe Passage, check out the webpage here.