I understood the question.
In light of what I went through, what I try to do in my work is find a way to make the system work better. It helps because I provide services to women, and I'm a survivor, as you know.
I think being a survivor providing services allows women to see that there's potential to escape the violence. They can see for themselves that there's hope.
The truth of the story is that it was not the shelter system that allowed me to escape the situation I was in. In fact, it was friends whom I had to turn to. I was employed by a shelter at the time I went through the situation I was in, so that compromised a lot of possibilities.
I think that speaks to the stigma that women face when they're in a situation of domestic violence and where it is that they turn. The reality is that I think it's less than 11% of abused women who turn to shelters specifically to flee violence.
It's a much greater question than just shelter services. The biggest question is on how these women can be assisted to get back on their feet and ensure that by leaving violence, they're not looking at a future in poverty, especially when they're with children. It's so much more complex than the shelters alone.
However, being there as a survivor on the front lines, at least for the women I meet with and have the opportunity to touch base with, has been impactful for them. I truly come from a place of understanding and caring, and they appreciate that.
To have survivors on the front lines.... As we professionalize the shelter systems, we've kind of removed the survivors. We need to reinfuse that.
That's why I think it was so important to be here at this table. When I looked at your list—it was one of the comments that I forwarded to the clerk—I realized how many upper-level individuals you were hearing from. You weren't hearing from the front lines and the women who are impacted. I really appreciate being here for that.