Friday, January 4, 2013

January 2013 Y's Words

Dear Friends,

In December, we lost a beloved and respected community leader. Val Joshua was passionate about eliminating racism and oppression. Learn how Val influenced our community and the work of YWCA Clark County in this month’s newsletter. An inspiration for all, Ms. Joshua will be forever missed and never forgotten.

Also in December, YWCA held our 10th annual Holiday Shop – a no charge ‘shopping’ opportunity for participants in need during the holiday season. The Youth Philanthropy group from Community Foundation of Southwest Washington made up a handful of the more than 70 volunteers who stepped up to make the shop a success. Our annual holiday campaign also ran last month and continues until January 15th.

If you are a senior citizen considering a donation, pay special attention to the tax break announcement which outlines a federal tax break available for a short time only. If you’ve already donated, thank you.

We are overwhelmed with gratitude to the many people and businesses who have given both to the Holiday Shop and to the holiday campaign this year.

Coming up in the new year are two awareness months that aim to fight oppression. This January and February, we will focus on stalking and teen dating violence awareness. Read “Violence Prevention and Awareness” to learn how stalking and dating violence affects our community and what you can do about it. Also, meet Cecily Griffus, LGBTQ Advocacy and Dating Violence Prevention Specialist, whose prevention work helps area teens recognize signs of violence and
seek help.

Also in January, YWCA is offering a five week group for men who love someone who is healing from sexual assault or abuse. Laurie Schacht and Rick Sievers will co-facilitate this group in a casual, respectful and empowering atmosphere.

If you’re a volunteer or interested in volunteering, be sure to check out the Volunteer Venue, a new section of YWCA’s newsletter that is news specific for YWCA volunteers. This month Stephanie Barr, Director of Volunteer Development interviews WORTH volunteer Skyler Dorsey-Schlenker. We’re also recruiting volunteers and are offering an open house January 29th for those who want to learn more.

Strong Alone. Fearless Together. Happy New Year!


Meet Cecily Griffus

By Sharon Svec

Sherri Bennett, Executive Director at YWCA signs her e-mails with the phrase, “Strong Alone. Fearless Together.” In each newsletter we’ve introduced you to one strong volunteer from our fearless team. In 2013, we will introduce you to our strong staff, but you can still meet our great volunteers in the volunteer venue. With more than 600 people actively involved in YWCA Clark County, we cannot feature every staff, or volunteer. Our hope is that by meeting a handful of us each year, you will feel the passion and hope that runs through all of our veins and makes us “Fearless Together.”

This month, meet Cecily Griffus, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and queer) Advocacy and Dating Violence Prevention Specialist. Cecily has been with YWCA for 4 years. She started as an intern with the SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program in 2008. Since that time, she has grown to be an expert in violence prevention. Cecily serves on a number of YWCA committees. I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with her on our upcoming Dynamics of Oppression Training, and found her endless passion for humanity to be remarkable. Cecily specializes in culture-specific advocacy and prevention for dating youth and the LGBTQ community.

Cecily Griffus
Teen dating violence is common in Clark County, with most abuse taking the form of manipulation, isolation, verbal abuse and threats. Stalking is another form of violence, and is also common in Clark County. Cecily emphasized that “Stalking is NOT romantic.” She continues with the stark fact that one in 12 women is stalked in her lifetime and over 75% of attempted femicides were preceded by stalking behavior by the perpetrator towards the victim.

Cecily believes an upstream approach to ending violence is integral to ending violence in our communities. With increased violence and mixed messages in the media, Cecily feels it’s difficult for youth to understand the elements of a healthy relationship. As a prevention educator, she can serve as a guiding voice among the confusing messages, but she emphasizes that anyone can help, “If they are in the position of a teacher, parent, or otherwise in direct contact with youth, they can talk to kids about the reality of abuse and try to be a role model as a healthy, safe person that those kids can look up to.  If they have money to donate, they might donate to research efforts on effective violence prevention programs.  If they have time to donate, they might become a volunteer for SafeChoice or a similar program to further the work that is being done to prevent violence.” Teens and youth today have their own culture, and because Cecily is able to relate to this group it makes her prevention-related messages easy for this group to understand.

Just as teens have a culture, so does the LGBTQ community. As an LGBTQ advocate, Cecily uses her personal experiences and cultural-specific resources to relate to survivors from this minority group. She stated that, “A survivor who identifies as LBTGQ may not feel comfortable working with someone who is not from the LBTGQ community.” Like services provided to Latina or senior populations, the existence of a culturally specific advocate can be a huge deciding factor in whether or not the person will even approach an agency for services.

The work that Cecily does for this community aligns well with her personal goals of helping to advance effective prevention education, integrating information and solutions to relationship violence in to mainstream culture, and eliminating a need for domestic and sexual violence services. If you too are interested in violence prevention, or want to learn more about dating violence and LGBTQ-related services you can contact Cecily at 360 696 0167 or

Val Joshua, Dedicated Leader

By Sharon Svec

Val Joshua
Champion, hero, leader, dedicated, patient, inspiring, sweet, great; these words can only describe one person. Valree Jacqueline Joshua was a beacon of light for struggling souls and a model of social justice. As I connect with co-workers, family and friends of Val, I see one common theme: dedication. Val was dedicated to her family, her church, and to her community.

Val spent her youth in Gilmer, Texas and it was then that she first joined YWCA. She was 22 years old when she moved to Vancouver in 1942. She quickly became a part of the community through her church and participation in organizations such as YWCA Clark County, the Urban League or Portland and the NAACP. Through her involvement, Val extended her passion for human rights into the community. In the last 70 years of her life, she witnessed the growth of Vancouver in size and in social justice. Her efforts in the community lead to desegregation of housing, teaching, and places of worship in Clark County.

Val recognized discrimination beyond racism. Daughter, Jackie Webster thinks that may have been what prompted Val to start her work with women inmates at the jail. Most jail and prison systems in the United States are designed to address the needs of men, but by 1993 women accounted for 9.3% of the jail population nationwide.  In addition to the unique medical needs of women, the majority of women in jail are mothers. Because many facilities do not take females, many are displaced from their communities, making it even more difficult for children or family members to visit. Family ties could quickly unravel without means of communication.

Along with friends Helen Bussey and Margaret Crandall, Val started the WORTH Program in 1973 to bring equality and hope to women in Clark County jail.  Val’s dedication shined stronger than ever. “She truly believed in it and wanted to try and make a difference in the lives of these women,” said Jackie, who now serves as Custody Chief at the Clark County Jail. For nearly two decades, WORTH primarily supplied women with cards, envelopes, nail polish and undergarments. Val was responsible for the cards, envelopes and paper. She would bring them to the jail every Tuesday. Each woman could write two letters, and Val would take the letters back and mail them for the women. By empowering incarcerated women to write, Val opened communication lines and gave them a voice they had never known before.

Val’s dedication to eliminating racism and empowering women did not go unnoticed. She served two terms on the YWCA Clark County board of directors, was voted Board President in 1976 and is honored annually at our Community Celebration where the Val Joshua Racial Justice award is presented to an individual, business, or organization whose efforts support the mission of YWCA Clark County. The award was originally presented to Val in 1989 for her lifelong commitment to, and work for the elimination of racism. Val’s dedication to eliminating racism was exemplified in her community outreach to schools and community leaders.

In an interview for “The Center for Columbia River History’s Vancouver African American History Project,” Val shared an example of how she always “rolled up her sleeves” and went out to talk with anybody who expressed a need to learn more about racial equality:

“In the YWCA, the friend that was CEO at that time is still living, and she and I became very good friends. She started her life membership with the local chapter and anytime there was anything going on we could always gather people. One time we went down to a forest area somewhere down the Columbia River Gorge to a black girl who was teaching there. Her husband was a forester and they had three children and I can’t remember exactly what the issues were, but we went and they were having a board meeting that night and would not let us stay at the board meeting… Of course, they wanted their children to grow up in an integrated area, so she moved to Vancouver and she’s still teaching in Portland, but the husband and father lives back East. We’ve always taken an interest. Anybody that calls me and wants me to go with them to court, to a school, I will go if I’m not already doing something.”

It’s that commitment and dedication that made Val’s work in racism and at the Clark County jail so successful. YWCA Clark County will continue to honor Val annually with the Val Joshua Racial Justice Award. Beyond our humble efforts to memorialize Ms. Joshua, her legacy will surely thrive in Clark County where she reached out to so many community members personally, touched so many hearts and inspired so many with her good nature and strong values.

Violence Prevention and Awareness

Contributors: Heather Tom, Cecily Griffus & Sharon Svec

Have you ever been stalked? Did you, or someone you know experience emotional or physical violence as a teen? Stalking and teen violence are both difficult to recognize because they don’t always leave physical scars. But both are very damaging. which is why awareness of these topics is so important. A 2008 survey from the National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center found that “1 out of every 12 women, and 1 out of 45 men have been stalked at some time during their lives.” According to a 2008 study by Liz Claiborne and, “One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.”

January is National Stalking Awareness Month, and February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Now is the perfect time to talk with those you love and care for about stalking and dating violence. Together, a community can support victims and survivors by educating and empowering one another. Anyone can help, no matter who they are or what position they are in. If you are a teacher, parent or otherwise in direct contact with youth, talk to your kids about the reality of abuse. Try to be a healthy and safe role model.  Do some reading or studying about the complexities of abuse and trauma. Share that information with others.

Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, the U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia that affects 6.6 million victims a year. Yet, many victims and criminal justice professionals underestimate its seriousness and impact.  In one of five cases, stalkers use weapons to harm or threaten victims and stalking is one of the significant risk factors for femicide (homicide of women) in abusive relationships. Victims suffer anxiety, social dysfunction, and severe depression at much higher rates than the general population, and many lose time from work or have to move as a result of their victimization.

Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate, and prosecute. Unlike other crimes, stalking is not a single, easily identifiable crime but a series of acts, a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause that person fear.  Stalking may take many forms, such as assaults, threats, vandalism, burglary, or animal abuse, as well as unwanted cards, calls, gifts, or visits. Stalkers fit no standard psychological profile, and many stalkers follow their victims from one jurisdiction to another, making it difficult for authorities to investigate and prosecute their crimes.

Teen dating violence also affects millions. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. Teen dating violence can happen in opposite- or same-sex relationships and can be physical, emotional or sexual. It’s very common in Clark County, with most violence taking the form of manipulation, isolation, verbal abuse and threats. Victims are at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, suicide and adult re-victimization. A teen’s confusion about law, and the desire for confidentiality are two of the most significant barriers to young victims of violence seeking help.

Technology is commonly used in stalking and in teen dating violence. According to the National Center for Victims of Crime and the Stalking research center, “1 in 4 victims report being stalked through the use of some form of technology (such as e-mail or instant messaging).” A 2007 Liz Claiborne survey noted that 25% of teens in relationships have received harassing or degrading text messages from their partner.

You can help stalking victims and dating abuse victims in your community. Take action, and share information about stalking and dating abuse. Educate the teens in your life about the subtleties and nuances of violent behavior. Tell them where to get support and be available for questions. Stalking is considered a crime by the State of Washington and is punishable by law. For teens experiencing dating violence, a report may be filed with Child Protection Services (CPS). YWCA’s abuse hotline (360 695 0501) is anonymous and available to anyone seeking help.

A 2008 resolution presented by the National Association of Attorneys General encourages schools to develop teen dating violence awareness curriculum. YWCA Clark County has resources to support these efforts. If you are a parent or a student and you would like a visit from a violence prevention specialist to your class or school, talk to your teacher, school counselor, or administrator who can make arrangements with Cecily Griffus by calling 360-696-0167 or email her at

Sometimes a teen will need services if they are already in the midst of a violent relationship.  Advocates at YWCA Clark County can help create a safety plan, offer support, and help with filing a protection order if needed.  It is important for youth to identify safe adults they can talk to.  Youth can call the 24-hour hotline (360 695 0501) anonymously with questions.  Finally, YWCA will offer a training this February called In Their Shoes, an activity designed for adults who work with youth that puts them in the “shoes” of the youth survivor.  The training is free to adults in Clark County.  To sign up, call 360 696 0167.

Youth Philanthropy Group Visits YWCA

By Stephanie Barr

Over 70 volunteers dedicated their time and holiday spirit to make YWCA Clark County’s 2012 Holiday Shop a success. The Holiday Shop is a one-day ‘shopping’ experience for YWCA program participant to personally select donated gifts for their family members.  Joining this year’s volunteers were Anne Digenis, Donor Services and Grants Coordinator for The Community Foundation of Southwest Washington, and members of their Youth Philanthropy Program. According to the Community Foundation website, the Youth Philanthropy Program gives juniors and seniors in high school the “opportunity to learn more about their community’s needs and about the many different ways in which they can help address those needs.” The members eventually make grant recommendations to the Community Foundation Board of Directors based on the needs they discover through their experiences volunteering.

To support YWCA’s Holiday Shop, Anne and the Youth Philanthropy members wrapped the gifts YWCA program participants selected for their families. I asked Donnie Rhoads, a junior at Columbia River High School and Youth Philanthropy member, about his experience volunteering at the Holiday Shop. “I honestly had a great time,” he said. “I’ve learned that I can do something as simple as wrapping presents to make someone’s day better. I didn’t think that such a small action could have much of an impact on someone’s night.”
Volunteers hard at work.
The generosity of the Clark County community enabled YWCA to provide gifts to 405 people through this year’s Holiday Shop. An essential piece of that generosity is the commitment of volunteers who organize the donations, bake cookies, add an extra bow to a special gift, and smile as they wish YWCA participants “happy holidays.”  Donnie was struck by that as well, sharing, “I liked seeing how much support the YWCA gives to those in need, especially during the holiday season.”

In addition to gift wrapping, Youth Philanthropy volunteers demonstrated flexibility and initiative, stepping in to meet unexpected needs as they arose. For some volunteers that meant accompanying program participants through the shop as they searched for something special for their families. For another it meant carrying a woman’s packages across the street to the bus stop in the rain. The Youth Philanthropy volunteers were willing to look beyond their initial task and seek new ways to make a difference.

In order for the Holiday Shop to feel empowering and respectful to program participants who may be in the midst of crisis, YWCA relies on volunteers to provide welcoming, compassionate service. Donnie expressed his enthusiasm for that dynamic of the Holiday Shop, sharing, “I especially enjoyed being able to talk and be social with the people I was helping.”

“I was able to witness the impact [philanthropy and volunteerism make] firsthand at the Holiday Shop,” Donnie reflected. YWCA staff witnessed a group of young volunteers, passionate to make the holidays a little brighter for families in need.

Partners in Healing

By Rick Sievers

YWCA Clark County is offering a five week group for men who are a partner or spouse of someone who has experienced sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse. The group meets weekly from January through February 2013 and is offered at no charge.  Space is limited. Please call the number below to see if this group would be right for you.

Laurie Schacht, Interim Director of Sexual Assault Program, and Rick Sievers, Volunteer Advocate in the Sexual Assault Program,  will co facilitate a group for men who wish to learn more about supporting their partner who has survived sexual assault.

Questions we will address in the group include:

  • How do you remain present and solid for a partner in crisis?
  • What are the issues that affect men in our society when facing the difficult reality of a loved one’s past sexual abuse?
  • How do we support and empathize without losing our own sense of balance and compassion?
  • What can you do with anger or grief caused by the events that have so hurt your loved one?

Our approach will be both educational and supportive. The leaders of the group are not the experts on realities of your life. We will offer ideas and facilitate insights from the great wisdom that a group of men have to offer one another. This is not a therapy group. Our approach will be both educational and supportive. Skill building and respectful witnessing of each other’s process will be explored.

This is not a group to get lost in the details of our partner’s stories. In fact, out of respect, it will not be a place to tell a partner’s story at all. Instead, we will co create a process which builds a sense of personal empowerment and a better understanding of the effects of sexual assault. We hope that the end result will be that participants will have a little more peace of mind and a little more compassion for themselves and their partner.

If this group sounds like it could aid your marriage or partnership, please contact Laurie at 360 906 9116 or You can also view or print a flyer here.