One time I was introducing myself to a group of advocates: “My name is Ankita. I work on WSCADV’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project.” And then I cried.

In this role, I’ve learned from the lives and deaths of numerous women about the impact of domestic violence, and how we all can improve our response. Each story of victims reaching out for help and not getting what they needed contributed to my passion and energy to educate communities and professionals to be better prepared. I did this in hopes that the lesson of one woman’s death would be the success of another woman’s survival.

Recently, I began to work on WSCADV’s Domestic Violence Housing First Project. The goal of this project is to eliminate housing as a reason for survivors to stay in abusive relationships. It is supported by a funder that has given domestic violence programs the space to creatively meet the needs of survivors so they can obtain and remain in housing. For example, advocates can offer rental assistance, pay off an old debt that has been a barrier for a survivor to obtain housing, or pay for childcare. The help advocates can provide is not governed by contract requirements or organizational barriers. Instead, solutions are formed or offered based on what that survivor needs.

Now I get to hear stories about women moving beyond surviving and on to more fun and exciting things, like obtaining an education, helping other women, watching their kids grow in a violent-free home. When I first realized that when funders, domestic violence programs, and survivors are aligned―and words like justice, hope, and change no longer represent a concept, but an action―I cried again.

I am re-energized to hear survivors telling us that this project has restored their dignity, advocates being thrilled to eliminate barriers for safety, and funders seeing a real difference in people’s lives.