This Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) and beyond, we’re spotlighting some of our incredible Survivor Leaders, former clients of Sanctuary who go through a 12-week training and certification course to prepare them to make system-wide change through advocacy, training, program development, and working directly with other survivors.
Ashley Marte is a mother of three children, full-time student, online support group moderator, and Survivor Leader.
Survivor leadership is an essential aspect of Sanctuary’s work. Can you describe how survivor-led initiatives or programs have made a difference in the fight against domestic violence?
Survivor Leaders make a difference by bringing awareness to what a Survivor is going through. Not only do we have lived experience, but it also allows us to have more connection with another Survivor. It makes a huge difference when the survivor feels the genuine empathy approach from survivor led efforts.
Can you tell me about some recent advocacy work you’ve been involved in, and which moments have been the most impactful to you?
Being able to speak at Zero Tolerance for Sanctuary for Families this year was an incredible advocacy experience. Speaking in my public speaking class about gender-based violence during DVAM. I was able to share knowing the signs. It felt great to share this information to a larger community of both young college students and older adults. Not only does this offer a learning opportunity for others, but it also builds awareness to know the signs of when someone is in danger, when to ask for help, etc. My ongoing yearly advocacy efforts of about 4 years on Facebook to support survivors of gender-based violence through housing and other resources. This Facebook group has a following of 60k, and I check in with my followers on a daily basis. The most impactful moments for me are the positive outcomes I get to hear from the individuals I assist in getting them to the next step of their life and the thank you’s is what impacts me most.
How has your experience as a survivor influenced your approach to supporting others who have experienced gender violence?
Given my experience as a survivor, I feel that this has influenced me in being empathic and compassionate. It has also influenced me in wanting to acquire education and awareness. Being a part of Survivor Leadership allows me to help others more in depth.
What challenges have you encountered in your journey toward healing and advocacy, and how have you overcome them?
Some challenges that I have encountered would be advice not being taken, being back in a position I do not want to be in. Only a survivor can recognize when it’s their time to make the change. Accepting help from others, learning to accept help from others and building trust with people who actually care for you. Burnout has helped me realize I cannot do it all on my own. Like they say, it’s a village.
What advice do you have for other survivors who may be hesitant to come forward or get involved in advocacy work?
My advice for survivors is to come forward and seek help. Shamed. You are not the only one. There are people here who are willing to help. This advocacy work is something that was never a part of my plan and it landed in my lap. Find it within you. Seek the help and take the help. Be okay and heal from your story in order to be able to help others. We all fall in love sometimes but sometimes the love is not good for us.
“Find it within you. Seek the help and take the help. Be okay and heal from your story in order to be able to help others. We all fall in love sometimes but sometimes the love is not good for us.”
In your opinion, what are some of the most significant barriers or misconceptions that still exist when it comes to addressing domestic violence?
Misconception around boundaries because some people do not realize setting boundaries is really to protect yourself. Staying grounded in what you want more out of your relationship. It put restrictions and limits on how the other person should have access to you. A man will do what you allow him to do. And that word of advice came from my abuser. It does not matter what the situation is.
What are some ways that people can get involved or support survivors throughout DVAM and beyond?
People can get involved by volunteering and donating to survivors and their families. Represent by wearing purple. Little things matter. Action speaks louder words. By paying it forward, you are helping someone in need. If you cannot support yourself by speaking on it. Open the door for survivors to opportunities they never thought they could receive.
Is there a particular message or call to action you’d like to convey in honor of DVAM?
We march in purple! We stand in purple!
Join Ashley in standing with survivors of gender violence. Your gift supports Sanctuary’s life-saving work with thousands of families escaping abuse.