Barbara Gibson oral history interview, 2011-04-14

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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SHAQUILA WILLIAMS: The following interview is being conducted as part of Georgia State’s University Activist Women Oral History Project. I am Shaquila Williams and I am interviewing Barbara Gibson from the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence. It is April 14th, 2011 and we are at the Georgia State University Media Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Can you please tell me where you grew up?

BARBARA GIBSON: Mm-hmm. I’m from East Orange, New Jersey and I am the oldest of four children. Yeah, East Orange is not very far from Newark and my youngest brother is 10 years younger than I am. So how our family looks.

WILLIAMS: What type of environment did you grow up in?

GIBSON: [clears throat] Well, as I said, I had siblings. We had a dog. I had 1:00both my parents there. We lived in a house, mostly on 5 Morris Avenue. We’d moved a couple times before then, but that’s where I remember growing up, 5 Morris Avenue. It was a large white house. It had beautiful trees in the yard and we did regular things that people do. We went to church every Sunday and vacation by the school in the summertime. We went to visit my grandmother in the summertime as well. She’s from South Carolina, that’s my father’s family. My mother’s family is from New Jersey, so just, you know, basic things.

WILLIAMS: Can you tell me about your childhood friends and hobbies?

GIBSON: Mm-hmm. Let’s see. I wish I could say I had a really exciting hobby, but I’ve always really been a reader. I like reading very much. I have hundreds of books and I’ve always had lots of books. One of my biggest joys 2:00was going to the library. On the street where I lived there was a library that was walking distance from my house and so I went there quite a lot and at that age I read a lot of Danielle Steel kind of books and Harold Robbins I think, you know, those kind of trashy novels, I used to love those. And Barbara Taylor Bradford, those kinds of books. That was really my biggest pleasure. I had a window seat in my room and I sat a lot in the window seat and there was a nice view outside of really beautiful trees in the yard, it was a good-sized yard, so that was really my biggest, my biggest joy and my favorite hobby, I still have today.

WILLIAMS: Where did you attend school? What subjects interested you?

GIBSON: New Jersey had some schools with really, really funny kind of names. I went to two different schools, an elementary school I went to Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament and I went to Our Lady of All Souls and then for high school I went to a school called Marylawn of the Oranges. It was a school for 3:00girls, it was a small girls school, Catholic. There were 60 of us total. And when we graduated and we wore white gowns and gloves and we carried red roses and so when I went to dinner with my family after the graduation, everyone thought that I had just gotten married. [laughter] It was lovely though, I really enjoyed it. I did. And in terms of my favorite subject, I think -- surprisingly what I would say would be Latin. I had Latin for all four years of high school and it was my most dreaded subject my freshman year. I dreaded being called to the board by Sister Joan. I dreaded it because I could never conjugate the verbs right. And Sister Joan always had a way of calling you out if you’d gotten them wrong. But there was something about her enthusiasm, I think, that really helped me stay with the subject and so we had a full class in 4:00the freshman and sophomore year, but the junior year and the senior year, there were only four students total and I was one of those that hung in there. Just the four of us had Latin and I enjoyed it.

WILLIAMS: Were there any influential figures or events in your childhood?

GIBSON: Let’s see. I guess in terms of shaping me, it would really have to be having grown up in the church. I went to -- I guess not large in the way that we think of large churches now, mega churches, it was, you know, a church where everyone knew everyone else, but it wasn’t so small. It was called Bethany Baptist Church and it was in North New Jersey and we were very closely affiliated with that church so I felt very supported there. I felt very encouraged there and I did things like write greetings of welcome for the Welcome Committee and people were very open to that and I felt really encouraged there. So you know, in terms of influence, that was something that was really a 5:00great influence for me. Other than my family and my school, my church was.

WILLIAMS: Speaking of family, what were your parents’ aspirations for you? As a child.

GIBSON: A couple of things. I think they really wanted me to grow up to be of course, responsible and to have strong character. They imagined, I think, that I would be maybe a lawyer or a doctor. But as we see, that did not happen. That’s not what I wanted for myself. I imagined myself actually being a journalist. But that didn’t happen either. I think the path that I did eventually get on is really the path where I was meant to be.

WILLIAMS: Can you tell my about your university experience?

GIBSON: Yeah. When I started school I went to Emory University. When I was in high school I participated in something they called the Summer Scholars and so I 6:00went to Emory for the summer and began earning credits and then I applied there and went to school there for two and a half years and then halfway through my junior year the money just, my parents weren’t able to pay for it anymore, so I left school and I worked for four years doing all kinds of things. I was a security guard. I worked at Eckerd, I waited tables, I worked for an insurance company. And then I transferred to Georgia State and I graduated from Georgia State.

WILLIAMS: Okay. What is, what do you consider domestic violence to be?

GIBSON: That’s really a tough question. Part of why I hesitate, and I will give an answer, is that sometimes when we talk about what we think domestic violence is, people feel excluded. They’ll say things like “Well, it wasn’t that big a deal,” or “I don’t have bruises,” or “He just did this,” or “He just did that,” so I really want to be clear that although I 7:00can give a definition about what domestic violence is, I think it’s also important that people understand that if you’re in a relationship and someone is hurting you in some way, if you feel harmed in some way, if you have asked this person not to do these things and the behavior continues and it doesn’t feel right for you, then you really do have a right to, to -- you know, describe that as violence for you. If you don’t feel safe in some way, if you don’t feel emotionally safe, if you don’t feel physically safe -- in terms of a definition of domestic violence, I would say that it’s a pattern of behavior that is designed to make a person feel unsafe physically or emotionally. It’s a pattern of behavior that in some way tries to or sets out to rob a person of 8:00her sense of herself. And that can look like different things. It can look like name calling, it can look like -- you know, making it so that a person doesn’t feel financially safe. You know, I take your paycheck or I make it so bad you’re not able to work and I threaten you constantly about how I’m not going to pay the rent or I’m not going to give you money for food. It can look like making it so that a person does not feel like she has a right to make decisions about her own body. So for example, if I say, “I don’t want to have sex tonight,” you know, that has to be the answer, I don’t want to have sex tonight. Or I don’t feel comfortable doing or saying these kinds of things. It has to be okay that I say that I can make those decisions for myself. And when you run into a situation where someone is trying to make you feel like you don’t have a right to make decisions for yourself or you cannot feel safe or you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, then absolutely, that is domestic violence.

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WILLIAMS: What motivated you to get involved with a career working to combat domestic violence?

GIBSON: I know what domestic violence looks like. You know, I have lived with it before. I know what it feels like. And it was really important to me to be able to do something helpful. One of the things that can be really difficult when you see something going on and you don’t know what to do about it, you feel a sense of kind of despair and overwhelmed. But if you feel like you’re doing something and I think that makes it feel a little bit better. And my mother is a survivor of domestic violence and it was really important to me to be able to do something about domestic violence. So here I am.

WILLIAMS: How long have you been involved in working to combat domestic violence?

GIBSON: I came to the Women’s Resource Center in 1989 and I did the volunteer training. The executive director at that time was Virginia [Brimmer?] and we 10:00did a volunteer training that was Thursday evenings from 6:00 until 9:00 for about six weeks, I think. And I started off as a volunteer at The Shelter. It was called The Shelter at that time. You know, of course, it’s the Safe House now but that’s what we called it. So yeah, I came to the Women’s Resource Center in 1989 and this has been really my only involvement with the domestic violence movement.

WILLIAMS: When you first came to the Women’s Resource Center, what title did you hold?

GIBSON: Well, when I first came I was a volunteer, of course, and then when I came on staff I was a child advocate. And at that time I was very drawn to children and I drove a little Hyundai and I would, or before then I had a little Rabbit too, and you would be amazed about how many kids I could get cramped into that car. Because we didn’t have a van back then, so -- and whenever we went 11:00on field trips the kids would have to, you know, get in my car and go with me or we’d have to round up volunteers and do like a car pool to get the kids out.

WILLIAMS: As the Safe House director, why do you feel the Safe House or other domestic violence shelters should be available for women?

GIBSON: Well, primarily it’s an issue of safety. In many cases women have had to make, you know, a so-called choice about, you know, being safe or being -- what am I trying to say? Being safe or being homeless. Women really need opportunities to live someplace and not have to worry about walking on eggshells. Women need opportunities to rebuild and I think that’s one of the 12:00things that’s most important about the Safe House. It’s an opportunity for a community because one of the things that often happens when you are a survivor of domestic violence is that you feel isolated. People don’t really understand. People don’t imagine that this person who often, the person who’s hurting you is often seen as a very kind, very gentle, very nice person to other people and so you’re kind of living, you know, what people describe as their own private hell. You know, he has a very public face, where people can’t imagine him ever doing or saying anything like the kinds of things you’re experiencing in your home, so there is a great sense of isolation that I think women need to be able to move away from and being in the Safe House helps them do that because you are in a supportive community where people do understand. You don’t have to explain yourself over and over again about these 13:00things that have happened to you. So that’s why it’s important. It’s important in terms of you know, creating community around yourself. It’s important in terms of being safe, in terms of getting some real resources behind yourself as you rebuild, you know, moving from, you know, the very difficult experience of having to devote all your energy just to survive and you’re making it from one day to the next and then being able to go to a place where people are concerned about, you know, ultimately your empowerment, about your safety, about your freedom, about helping you realize your highest vision of yourself, helping you reconnect with that part of yourself that feels strong and brave and filled with possibility and joy. I think sometimes you do get disconnected from that when you are living with domestic violence and I think safe houses are important because they help reawaken that part of women.

WILLIAMS: Currently the center’s programs include the Safe House, a 24-hour 14:00hotline, the legal advocacy, consultations with volunteer lawyers, support groups, family advocacy, child and youth advocacy, supervised visitations at Mia’s Place, dating violence prevention and community education. Let’s talk about what the facility looked like in its earliest years. What programs and services were offered?

GIBSON: Well, one of the things that we did have at that time was the Safe House and you know, of course, they have a really large, beautiful facility now and we have the 10 bedrooms and we have the courtyard and flowers in the garden and all that, but then we had a house that I think could best be described as modest, you know, at that time. It was just a regular ranch house with I think three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a little attic office. We had our office up at the 15:00top of the stairs. And what else did we have there? Just a very small kitchen and we were able to accommodate 12 women and children in this little house in Moreland in Little Five Points, in that area. Now the area’s changed quite a bit now. It’s much more upscale looking now than it was then, but then it was just really a regular house where women came and we had a little keypad combination on the back door and we would change the combination every couple of weeks so that the women could, you know, let themselves into the house. Of course, now we have a gate at the house. But we didn’t have anything nearly that fancy then, so. But in terms of the other services, we had the Safe House, we had the crisis line, we had legal advocacy, we had support groups. And you mentioned a number of services, we had the children’s program. You mentioned 16:00a number of services that we just didn’t have then. We didn’t have Mia’s Place then, the supervised visitation. We didn’t have a legal clinic then. We had, we did have legal advocacy, but it was much smaller then than it is now. We’ve really, I would say, over the years probably quadrupled in terms of size and service and scope. You know, the number of people we were able to reach, maybe, maybe even more than that. In terms of the services, too.

WILLIAMS: Where did the funding come from?

GIBSON: A good bit of our funding was federal, state and local funds. I think -- and of course, we did have some, some support from the community and that was really nice. You know, people -- we started off as very much of a grass roots and I think that’s still kind of in our DNA, the grass roots way of providing services and about how we are in the community. But at that time we had lots of 17:00people who would give us 5 dollars and 10 dollars and our board was made up of people in the community from just you know, we didn’t have any corporations on the board or anything like that. We just had regular people. Not that corporations aren’t regular people, but it would be, we even had a youth position on the board, so you might have been somebody who could have been on the board of the Women’s Resource Center, in the way that we started out. We had a youth position. We had a student from Spelman. I think her name was [Raina?], that sat on the board and we had, you know, mothers and people who really wanted to be able to do something about domestic violence and didn’t necessarily have connections. But they did have some passion and some interest about the issue and I think what’s nice now is that we have people on the board who have passion as well as connections because ultimately you need to be 18:00able to have a broad base of support to get the work done. I mean, if we house 32 women and children at one time and we need to be able to keep the lights on. We need to be able to provide food for them. We need to be able to provide diapers and clothing and -- and also you know, a next step. Now if you are going to be moving into an apartment house, it couldn’t happen if you have $10, if the woman has $10 toward this expense then because of the people who support the work that we do, we can offer her five toward that $10 that she has, really help women make some meaningful steps towards becoming safe and stable.

WILLIAMS: What were some victories the center faced?

GIBSON: [laughs] Honestly, one of our biggest victories at that time really was just surviving and as I said, we were, you know, very, very grass roots and sometimes the victory really was keeping the lights on and, and being there to 19:00provide services for women. That was really the biggest thing that we could have done, just being able to be there for women because as I said, it’s quite expensive to be able to provide the services that we do and so just keeping the lights on and being able to keep payroll going and being able to be there, having somebody there physically there to open up the door when women came to the door and they did come, a lot of them came and we continue to be there and it was really by hook and by crook sometimes. It was really a miracle that we were able to continue to be there.

WILLIAMS: What were some challenges that the center faced?

GIBSON: Well, I guess that would also be a challenge, so of course, the financial piece. And I think that really building some awareness about the issue of domestic violence was a big challenge. I think a big shift happened around the time that Nicole Simpson was murdered. At that time there was a lot 20:00of conversation in the community and in the media about the issue of domestic violence. Reporters were coming to the Women’s Resource Center to do interviews all the time. There were articles in newspapers, there were articles in magazines. So people did begin to think about more and talk about more of the issue of domestic violence and that was primarily the big challenge then, to help people understand that it wasn’t just something that happened to you, a select group of people, because of something that they did. You know, she talks too much. She doesn’t get dinner ready on time. She’s not an adequate mom or adequate housekeeper, whatever the excuse is that people used to blame women for surviving domestic violence. So I think that was really, you know, other than the financial piece, the -- just creating some awareness and some support for women who had survived domestic violence, that was really one of, one of what I saw as a big challenge.

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WILLIAMS: Are those challenges and victories similar to the ones that you face today currently?

GIBSON: I guess in some ways I would say. You know, it’s always difficult for nonprofits to keep going. The demand is always great, I think, especially now. We provide far more services now than we did when I first came to the Women’s Resource Center. And of course, there are some expenses associated with those services. And then I do think that I had hoped that there would be a different kind of a conversation around domestic violence at this point in the work or this point in the history of the history of the world, but I know that that’s not the case. Even in thinking about -- so many people have talked about this, that whole business about Rihanna and Chris Brown. People really still do not understand about the dynamics of domestic violence. People really still do 22:00believe that somehow if the woman is harmed in some way, if she’s hurt in some way, that she did something to deserve it and that it can never happen to this kind of woman or it can never happen to that kind of woman. And if a woman really didn’t like it then she would just get up and she would leave and she would go -- people don’t really understand that in spite of the fact that, you know, we did at one point have only 12 women and children at the Women’s Resource Center, at our Safe House. We turned away so many women, which is why we had the campaign and we were able to come up with the funds to build the house that we have now and you know, increase capacity to 32 and still we’re turning away so many women. We turn away -- well, you know that -- we turn away so many women all the time. And so I think that I thought or I hoped that you 23:00know, at this point that domestic violence would be something that people would really, really rally around and there would be some real kind of outrage in the community or it would be clearly understood that violence is a choice and we all know that. Because we know that when the people who are perpetrating this violence, if we think about how they behave in other settings, we know that they don’t do that. We also know that they can control it, that they understand that, you know, in some settings it’s not okay and so that means that they understand and they don’t do it in some settings and they do do it in some settings, that it is, it is a choice. And I think I’d hoped that at this point -- I don’t think I really thought that domestic violence would be over now, but I think I thought the conversation about domestic violence would be different now than it is and unfortunately it isn’t. I think it is getting somewhat better, but I do still think there’s far too much blame. I do think 24:00there’s far too little accountability. I do think that we make too many excuses and I do think that there really could be more involvement from the community. Even small things like thinking about the way that we talk about domestic violence in our own circles, I think I’d hoped for some more improvement by now.

WILLIAMS: So do you feel that the public is more aware now than it was maybe two years ago, of domestic violence?

GIBSON: I do think the public’s more aware and so yeah, I would say that. I think the awareness has grown, but I don’t think that we’ve made the kind of shifts in attitudes about domestic violence that I would have liked to see at this point. So people are aware and so maybe that’s the next phase. Maybe, you know, maybe the process -- well, it is, it’s slower than I’d hoped it would be. So maybe it’s a process of first building awareness and then 25:00shifting attitudes and that’s kind of where we are. But it’s very, very slow going and it’s, it’s maybe more slow going than it should be. It is. It’s far, it’s just way slower than it could be.

WILLIAMS: How does dealing with violence and particularly violence against women on a daily basis affect you?

GIBSON: Well, it is true that I deal with violence on a daily basis, but -- or women who have survived violence on a daily basis. But it’s also true that I deal with women who are hopeful and joyful. Especially working at the Safe House, women who come there are leaving something behind, but they’re also going towards something, which is, you know, their right to be safe. They’re going toward their dreams, every building, they’re going to where their hopes and so there’s something that’s very exciting and -- it’s really just, 26:00it’s a pleasure to be a part of that process and I think there’s something about that that’s energizing and so if you think about it, it might sound like it’s something that’s very draining because you are dealing with people in crisis quite a lot. That’s only really a small part of who they are and what’s going on with them. There are people who are managing a crisis, but there are also people who are mothers who have great hopes for their children, who relish those relationships. There are also people who, you know, are trying to rebuild work lives and have goals and so you know, that’s just really a small part of the and that’s what we typically think about when we think about something called the Women’s Resource Center to end domestic violence, but 27:00that’s, that’s not all the women are and that’s not all they bring to us and that’s not all we take away from the work that we do with them.

WILLIAMS: How do you not get burnt out?

GIBSON: Well, I’m very, very lucky that I work with a really, really wonderful group of women and we’ve all worked together for a very long time and we’re very supportive of each other and -- so we can bounce things off of each other and -- so that’s important. Also I really enjoy the work. I like the women very, very much. I’ve met some really wonderful women. And also I do a really good job of you know, taking care of myself and having some balance and I do know when I need to step back and when I need to take a break, take a kind of a time out. But I think the other thing that’s really helpful is I don’t think that the work belongs to just me and I work with women that come into the Women’s Resource Center is really a partnership and so we kind of do it 28:00together. And so it’s not as if I’m carrying this giant burden around all by myself because we do do it in community. We do it with the women who are there for services and we do it with the women who are there to help provide the services. We all do it together as a group and I think that we do energize each other and keep each other going.

WILLIAMS: Was there any time when you felt like giving up?

GIBSON: Giving up. [laughs] I wouldn’t say that. I would say that there are times when I have been discouraged and, and I have taken that step back that I talked about before, taking that break that I talked about before. But you know, stepping back kind of gives you an opportunity to get some perspective and you kind of see, this is really where I belong. This is where I feel like I’m doing good work and I’m really making a difference and so I don’t think I 29:00ever felt like giving up. Maybe just, maybe like I just needed to take a, take a deep breath.

WILLIAMS: How do you get the women to see the pattern of violence as not being their responsibility, instead of blaming themselves?

GIBSON: It’s really just about having an honest conversation with women. If women talk about some of the things that have happened to them, then helping them look at the evidence. Much like I was talking about just a moment ago. If the evidence is that the person who’s using violence against you, only it is with you but not in other places, then the fact that the person has made a choice that does not have anything to do with you, I think should be clear. A lot of the times women imagine that they have the power to change somebody 30:00else’s behavior and ultimately they don’t. We all only have the power only to change our own behavior and it’s helpful to kind of think about -- even parenting. If you try to talk with them about, you know, getting Johnny to do this one thing and getting Johnny to do that one thing -- maybe you can, maybe you can’t. You know, so yeah, just helping women see that you only have control over yourself, that you only have the power to change you. You don’t have the power to change him. You don’t have the power to make him do anything. You don’t have the power to make him be accountable or responsible. That’s a choice he has to make. And when people understand about, you know, what they can control and they can’t control and they can see that you can’t be responsible for somebody else’s behavior.

WILLIAMS: People believe that if a battered woman really wanted to leave she 31:00could just get up and go. Could you explain how something that seems so simple can be so complex?

GIBSON: Yeah. It is very complex for a number of reasons. Domestic violence is not something that just happens. It’s somewhat cumulative sometimes. So it might start off very small and you begin to second-guess yourself. So it might start off with, oh no, you don’t have to work. I will pay the bills; I will -- I will support you. No, you don’t need to drive yourself to work. I’ll drive you because I just love your company and I want to be able to be there when you start your day. And so you know, at some point you might start thinking to yourself, hmm, is it really that he really wants to be with me when I start my day? Or is it that he’s really trying to make it seem like, make it so that I can’t go anywhere or have any freedom to go anywhere. Sometimes it can be kind of gradual and I heard a woman describe it one time as building 32:00like a spider web and you do sort of second-guess yourself over time sometimes. So -- I’ll get some water. [laughs] Okay. So [inaudible] I heard that. [laughs] And so it’s not, it’s not bad every day. This is a person who you share a history with, a person that you love, a person that you really hold dear, who holds your memories and your secrets and your dreams. And so what you often wish is that the person would be the person that you thought he was in the very beginning. You keep holding out hope that that person is going to somehow 33:00emerge and you do see glimpses of that person every now and again and those glimpses sort of keep you caught in your feelings of hopefulness. You know, I want things to get better. I don’t necessarily want the relationship to end, I want things to get better. And then there are all sorts of other complications. Now there’s religion. You want to be able to keep your family intact. There are other children. There’s a lot of stigma attached to, for some people being a single parent. There’s family pressure, there’s peer pressure. There’s even issues around finances. You know, sometimes if you share expenses in the household, if you remove this person or you remove yourself from this person, then what does that mean for your children? What does that mean for how you’re going to eat? What does that mean for how you’re going to pay the rent or pay the mortgage? So people have to make very tough choices every day because it is again a matter of, you know, do I stay 34:00here and at least I know I have a roof over my head, I’m warm, there’s enough food -- or do I go someplace out into the wild blue yonder where I don’t know what’s in store for me. Maybe there won’t be space in the shelter. Maybe I can’t stay with my family. Maybe I don’t have enough money to get my own apartment and maybe being here helps me know what he’s doing because oftentimes after you leave the violence can escalate because the whole goal of the violence is to control what you’re doing and have some power over what you’re doing by using violence and by using abuse. And so if I leave I’m doing exactly what this person doesn’t want me to do. This person will feel like he has lost control over me and will step up his attacks against me to reassert control and so maybe I’ll be in even more danger if I leave. At least if I’m here I can try to keep him calm and do the best I can until 35:00some miracle or some magical thing materializes where I can get out of here.

WILLIAMS: Do you find it hard to harbor anger towards men at times?

GIBSON: No, I don’t. I don’t harbor any anger against men, but I do understand that this is something that some men do and I do understand that there are many men who are making different choices all the time about whether they will or they won’t use violence and I do understand, too, that people are very complex and as I said before, that just because a person is violent one day doesn’t mean the person is violent that day and I do understand that people are you know, full and total human beings and if I really say I think domestic violence can end and I really hope that it can end and that means that I have to 36:00believe that at some point someone will be able to say something to people that choose to use violence, that will help, that will motivate them to change their behavior and, and I do believe that. I do think that some people with the appropriate motivation can make some significant changes in their behavior and in their attitude about domestic violence and I think men -- I have a lot of hope for them, I do, I have a lot of hope for them and somehow I don’t harbor anger against them. Of course, there are days when I feel frustrated, yes and I feel, I feel -- you know, a great deal of disappointment in some of the things I hear someone say, that they have to endure, especially at the hands of someone 37:00that they thought they had a relationship with, someone that they have, they thought they had some level of trust with and commitment with. Someone that they thought would hold those soft places in them dear. That person didn’t do that so I do, I do feel some disappointment around that. But -- but again still, I am hopeful.

WILLIAMS: Do you think the media’s portrayal of domestic violence is helpful or a hindrance?

GIBSON: I think that’s kind of a mixed bag. You know, I do think that the conversation around domestic violence in the media has -- has shifted some. I don’t think enough. I do think again that, that there’s too much conversation about blame and about excuses and about why she stays and all that kind of stuff. But I do think, I do applaud the media, though, for more conversations about domestic violence and more opportunities for people to have 38:00some kind of dialogue around the issue of domestic violence. And -- I do think there are enough places where people get wrong, there are enough people now who can kind of respond in a way that gets it right and so there are many opportunities for people to hear good information, many opportunities for people to hear good information about domestic violence.

WILLIAMS: Are there any individuals or events that have been influential or inspirational in your adult life?

GIBSON: I -- this probably sounds a little strange, but you know really, I have to say -- I mean I’ve grown up at the Women’s Resource Center. I came there in my twenties and now I’m in my forties and so it’s had a big impact really on who I am and how I think about things. And to my mother. My mother is a 39:00survivor of domestic violence and I’m very, very proud of her, the way that she’s been able to rebuild her own life and I do know how much courage that took and how much strength that took and so that’s a really powerful motivator for me and helps me remember that people do endure and spirits do endure, that things can happen but they are not things that can destroy me, that there are things that might take me off course for a moment, but, but I can’t think of anything or anybody that has the power to destroy me. And I tell the women that, too, when I talk with them about surviving domestic violence. He might be able to take you off course, but he doesn’t have the power to destroy you.

WILLIAMS: If you were to give advice to someone starting in this field of work, what would it be?

40:00

GIBSON: Come to the Women’s Resource Center. [laughs] Absolutely. And I think there are so many wonderful people there and it’s, it’s a place where the way that we think about the work and the way that we do the work can really touch you in a way that allows you to touch women in a way that’s powerful. That’s what I think, but of course, that’s my own personal bias. Yeah but you know, other than come to the Women’s Resource Center, I would say to leave all your judgments and your ideas at the door and approach the work with a position of curiosity, you know. Don’t assume that you know anything. Don’t think that you know anything about any woman that you sit down with and even if it’s a story that you’ve heard 500,000 times, it’s still her own unique, personal story and everybody wants to be able to stand out as an 41:00individual, unique person. We all want that for ourselves. And people want to be understood as larger than the experience that they’re having in this moment. People don’t want to sit down in a chair, women don’t want to sit down in a chair and be seen as a victim of domestic violence. They want to sit down in a chair and be a woman. I’m Barbara, you’re Shaquila. We’re two women having a conversation. That’s really what you want to be able to bring to the work and we sit down with women who have survived domestic violence. You want to sit down with them exactly the way that you would sit down with anyone. So I think that would be an important thing to, to think about when you’re starting this work. And also be very careful about how much ownership or credit you take for the work. The journey does not belong to you. The journey belongs to the woman. Your job is only to be the guide and the cheerleader and so when 42:00a woman makes a victory or a woman does something great, that’s her victory, it’s not because of you. It has nothing to do with you. Just as if, if the woman has a really bad day and she comes in and curses you out, that also has nothing to do with you. That’s where she is and that belongs to her and so don’t, don’t take things so personally. Because our job, as I said, is to guide. Our job is not to assume anything about the women or about who she is or about what she’s doing or about what she’s able to accomplish.

WILLIAMS: Well, I’m honored and I’m thankful for you taking the time out to sit down and have this interview with me and that ends our interview. Thank you, Miss Barbara.

GIBSON: Thank you, Miss Shaquila.