stance on silence

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of Burlington Business and Professional Women at which Janice Santiago was awarded Woman of Achievement for 2012. This award ‘recognizes leadership and achievements for the betterment of women in the community.’

I recently met Janice (Employee Advocate, Women Helping Battered Women) at last month’s ‘Refusing Silence’ workshop, an event I offer annually in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It was her first workshop with me but not, I learned this evening, her first. She was being honored for going above and beyond in her work; for being a genuinely caring advocate, often accompanying clients to classes or appointments.  Into the bargain, her sparkling personality and great sense of humor were duly noted.

In accepting the honor, Janice graciously referred to her workshop experience with Women Writing for (a) Change – Vermont. To illustrate both her own work and the impact of writing as a tool for self-reflection and change, she read her poem penned during our Saturday workshop, below.

Afterwards, speaker Madeleine Kunin – former Governor of Vermont, Deputy Secretary of Education, and Ambassador to Switzerland [among many other significant roles and contributions] – echoed Janice’s remarks about the need for women’s voices to speak out. Stories are how we connect to one another. Stories create compassion. A single voice can be the impetus for change. As Carolyn Heilbrun so famously wrote, “Women catch courage from the women whose lives and writings they read, and women call the bearer of that courage friend. ” ― Carolyn G. Heilbrun, The Last Gift of Time. At least two strong women sowed courage this evening in Burlington VT; and I am proud to call them ‘friend.’

An Advocate’s Stance on Silence
I will not be silent for you
If you cannot speak up – stand up for yourself, I will be your voice
If you are being harmed – I will stand up and protect you and help you to a safe place
I will not be a bystander who doesn’t act or help
I will stand up, step in, and speak out
Do not be silenced, do not be afraid
All of your thoughts and feelings are valued
If you need help I will be there
Whether you need me silently standing by
Or if you need my helping in finding your voice
If you need a hug, to laugh, to cry, or just to be
I will be there
If words are not enough let my actions speak for me
As I will not be silent for you

Janice Santiago

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