gives us the inside
scoop on the first-ever
event at CIW
AIDA hosted its first Annual Domestic Violence Survivor Event at the CIW women’s facility. SQNews spoke with Ms. Vanessa Silva-Collins, AIDA Co-Founder/Director about the program generally and the event specifically:
SQNews: What motivated you to cofound AIDA?
VSC: What motivated me was seeing a gap that needed to be filled. We see great programs for survivors of domestic violence but not for perpetrators. We needed something to help individuals become aware of domestic abuse and its lasting effects. I have been in the child development field for some time and learned that children exposed to domestic abuse are far more likely to abuse or be abused. So I felt we needed a program to end this intergenerational trauma.
SQNews: Have you or anyone close to you ever been a victim of domestic abuse?
VSC: A friend of mine was a victim of domestic violence. She was in the U.S. on a temporary visa and feared losing her visa, so she did not report the violence. She is from Mexico and felt she didn’t have any rights. Still, she temporarily lost custody of her children because a neighbor reported the violence between her and her husband.
SQNews: Why is AIDA so important for the incarcerated?
SVC: AIDA is crucial for them. Many of those currently serving time have crimes against a partner. At some point these people will come home and be in a relationship, so it’s important to educate and give them the necessary tools to be in healthy relationships.
SQNews: Is AIDA available in other states?
VSC: Yes, AIDA is available to all states except New Jersey.
SQNews: Is AIDA available in Spanish or other languages?
VSC: AIDA is offered in both English and Spanish.
SQNews: How has AIDA impacted the lives of the incarcerated, their victims and their communities?
VSC: I believe AIDA has helped those who have taken our course to realize who their behavior affected. Understanding the causative factors at the root of their beliefs is eye-opening because once you acknowledge the problem; it’s a lot easier to create change in self.
SQNews: Why is important for you to run such a program?
VSC: Individuals must learn that abuse is more than just physical. They must know that there are many forms of abuse and be given tools to understand their behavior. Some did not witness healthy and loving relationships as a child. Later, they often model the abuse they witnessed in their own relationships. When you ask a perpetrator of domestic abuse what their childhood was like, it is likely that some form of violence occurred in the home. So it’s important to run a program to end this cycle.
SQNews: What are your expectations for AIDA?
VSC: T hat o ne d ay A IDA will be in all CDCR institutions and we will have a 52- week batter-intervention program recognized by the state, but most importantly, that we will have a mechanism to help reduce domestic abuse crimes.
SQNews: AIDA attended the Annual Domestic Violence Survivor Event at CIW. What did you learn about incarcerated women who have been victims of domestic violence?
VSC: R aj (AIDA’s A dmin) and I were humbled to be welcomed to the prison yard with open arms by the hundreds of excited women in attendance. We met Linda in person for the first time. Linda was the first lady to take our correspondence course AIDA by Mail and played a huge role in the growth of AIDA at CIW. We heard from women who are survivors of domestic abuse. It was powerful to hear their stories and how they have overcome such trauma. Each story was unique, but common themes were their desire to be loved and the hope that their abuser would change.
Hearing stories of women serving time for defending themselves from abuse made me realize there is so much work to be done. I heard over and over that the physical abuse was nothing compared to the emotional and psychological abuse they endured. The bruises would heal, but the words and thoughts would torment them for much longer. In a courtroom, emotional and psychological abuse is hard to prove when facing charges for protecting themselves from their abusers.
SQNews: What stood out for you during this event with the incarcerated women?
VSC: One story in particular stood out. A lady from Los Angeles was a product of rape. Her mother let her know she was neither wanted nor loved. At a young age she was molested for years by family members and eventually raped. As a young adult she met one of LA’s biggest drug traffickers and fell in love. Soon that love turned into a nightmare. She was physically abused and tied up and beaten day after day. Leaving was not an option so she tried to commit suicide by shooting herself in the mouth. That shot did not kill her but gave her a second chance to live outside the world of abuse. She is now an advocate for domestic abuse victims and shares her story to enlighten others. Even though she was left blind in one eye and her jaw needed reconstruction, she looks at life from a whole different view. What was meant to kill her was the foundation for the amazing work she is doing in her community to help others find hope and healing.