“So, what do you do for a living?”

Whenever I tell someone what I do for a living, I get one of these responses:

  1. they look at me real hard to figure out if I am a crazy raging feminist that they need to be afraid of, or
  1. they say, “Wow, good for you,” or “I could never do that,” or “That must be so depressing,” or
  1. they quickly change the subject.

But lately I’ve been thinking that maybe instead of saying that I work to end domestic violence, I should just say, “I’m an optimist.”

Say what?

Domestic violence advocates envision a world where domestic violence doesn’t exist. We really and truly think it doesn’t have to happen. We believe this so much that we continue to enter into relationships ourselves. You’d think after hearing terrible stories day after day, that all of us would swear off relationships. Not so.

I can’t think of anyone that I have ever worked with in nearly 20 years that has said, “You know what, it’s just not possible. It isn’t worth looking.” Nope. Instead advocates help people pick up the pieces and dream of something better. Then they go home and try to do the same for themselves.

What optimism! I love that we envision a just and loving society. I love that while we see the bad and the ugly, we work for the good and the beautiful. I love that our work is moving towards preventing violence, not just supporting survivors. I believe that we can end domestic violence. I really do. I guess I’m an optimist!

-Ilene Stohl, our economic justice & prevention coordinator

6 thoughts on ““So, what do you do for a living?””

  1. I love explaining what I do for a living as a Domestic Violence Shelter Manager…I am a lawn mowing, toilet cleaning, report writing, unconditionally supporting, problem solving, forward thinking, and definitely optimistic partner to women who are remaking thier lives! WOW I love my job! :)

  2. don’t forget the other responses. They start telling stories about abuse they have witnessed and it starts to feel like an advocate session. Or worse yet, they agressively say well what about the males who are being abused trying to get you on the defensive.
    I love my job, I love what I do too. Talking about what I do to strangers is something I try to avoid.

  3. Yes, telling others what we do is always an adventure! Thanks for the great comments and for the optimism and commitment you all bring to the work!

  4. I don’t like talking about what I do. I’ve decided to start saying I am a social worker. I really don’t like it when people act like I am a saint for doing what I do. But occasionally someone will say thank you, and that feels good.

  5. Hi there,
    I agree with what others have posted and how hard it can be to answer this question and hear the range of responses –Wow, that must be hard, and what about men who are abused?

    I mix it up–sometimes I say I’m a social worker (I am in grad school to get my MSW!) Ilene, your reply is the best response I’ve heard yet! I’ll try it! It’s so true–I haven’t sworn off relationships yet. And we are working to end violence! I am an Optimist for a living! Niiice!

    Thanks!
    Shauna, DV Children’s Advocate, YWCA

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