Our Voices, Our Power
By Jessica Nowlan
Susana Robles Desgarennes was a mother, entrepreneur and artist. She was also apart of our own community as a Sister Rising Intern at the Young Women's Freedom Center in 2013, along with her sister Paola. Susana worked tirelessly to support young women in our local community by building up their leadership through social justice work and community lead transformations. Susana was also a young mother struggling to negotiate a violent relationship.
On Saturday, September 30, Susana's life and the bright future she fought for, for her and her daughter was taken from her in an act of domestic violence. It is a story that is often cloaked in silence but all too common. Like Susana, 1 in 3 women reports being victims of intimate partner violence at some point in their lives*. As in Susana's circumstance, 72 percent of murder-suicides involve an intimate partner*.
My heart breaks for this immense loss for our community, for her family, and for our city. I keep replaying what those moments felt like right before Susana lost her life. I know too well those moments of negotiation and fear when your life is in the balance and in the hands of someone that you once loved, or even still love, who is using violence to control you.
For over 20 years, I have been part of the Young Women's Freedom Center. We believe in the power and brilliance of young women who have been impacted by systemic oppression. 100% of the women we work with and represent have been personally affected by violence. Women face violence at the hands of our partners, families, communities, and at the hands of the state. Together, we work to navigate the persistent violence that has become normalized, and unrecognizable. We celebrate transformation and victories along the way, as young women begin to find their voice and tap into their power. Collectively we sit in a circle, do healing work, learn about history, and share stories. We build sisterhood and collective power, and we understand social justice as a part of the transformative process of healing ourselves and communities, recognizing each other as spiritual beings connected to something larger than ourselves.
We are clear that liberation for young women is tied up with our personal safety. We are fighting for justice, yes, but many of us are also fighting for our lives. As a movement, we cannot ignore this truth.
The Young Women's Freedom Center honors Susana’s memory and the struggles of our sisters by making the reality of domestic violence visible not just in Domestic Violence Awareness Month but at all times. Join us in asking the hard questions and demanding accountability from both individuals and from the systems that tear apart our lives. Join us in fighting for the lives of all of our sisters now and every single day.
Support Susana’s loved ones here.
*Statistics from ncadv.org