Why the Women I Work with are my Heroes
By Maddie, Alexandra House Intern
Everyday I go to work, I am surrounded by heroes. Or rather, heroines. When I walk in the door, I know I will encounter women stronger than Superman, more steadfast than Batman, more courageous than Captain America, and a whole lot more realistic than Wonder Woman.
The women I work with don’t have a mask. They don’t get any reward or recognition. They fight daily and few take notice. These women scale walls and push past barriers and don’t get to change out of their superhero clothes after a long day’s work. These women are the invisible heroines whose only recognition is to be frequently let down by a system that is supposed to be protecting them.
I have been an intern at Alexandra House for nine months now. In reflection, I can’t decide if it feels like I’ve been there forever or like I just started last week. I don’t know that it matters. What does matter is that my perspective has completely changed.
Coming into Alexandra House, I thought I’d be working with timid women who needed my love and support. I thought I would professionally give them my help, but that I would be the one doing the hard work for these delicate ladies who had been badly wounded. I am embarrassed to confess these ridiculous thoughts (subconscious or not), but I am guessing that they are more common than we would like to think about.
The truth is, the women I work with are wounded. But they are not often superficial injuries that take a matter of weeks to recuperate. Lives of betrayal, manipulation and fear cannot be healed in a matter of days or weeks or months. These are hurts that need years to recover from—time that is rarely given to a woman taking steps to completely restart a life for she and her children.
And these women that I so noblely wanted to protect with my warmth and affection? They should never have been given such a mistaken label as I would have confined them to. Working with these incredible women to find housing, to protect their children, to work through the emotional baggage that each person brings with them—I have seen their strength and perseverance. I have seen them fight to protect the rights of themselves and the ones they love. I have watched on as they move forward and take brave steps toward the unknown, often without the support of a society that blames them for the chains that bound them for so long.
These women are not in need of any single knight, even if that knight is a little different and comes in the form of a 20-something, social work intern with all the best hopes and ideals. The women I work with—my daily heroes—are in need of a full army. Not an army to go before them, but to stand beside them. They are in need of advocates who will come along side them in their journey. Advocates supporting them in the way they choose and fighting for a more just society.
Because the reality is, one in four women are facing this battle, recovering from domestic and sexual violence, making room in the trenches for the next woman who will be forced into the ranks. So how long will we wait? How long will it be until we take the cue from the real heroines and take a stance against violence?