The 2009 Fellow
Patricia Duncan Hall
As a domestic violence survivor, Patricia made the decision nearly 20 years ago to end the abuse in order to protect herself and her children’s well-being. While receiving services from STAND! Against Domestic Violence, a local domestic violence agency in Northern California, Patricia decided to focus her experience not on victimization but on survival. She eventually obtained a master’s degree in education from Mills College in order to support children who have been exposed to domestic violence. Her training as a Child Life Specialist was specific to children who experience trauma. In addition to her degree, Patricia also completed training with the California Attorney General’s Office on children, trauma and brain development.
Patricia has worked over the years advocating for children who are affected by domestic violence. She talks candidly about her journey so that others might hear the message and not share the same fate. She is most proud of the work that all three of her children have participated in over the years as advocates as well. Currently, Patricia works for STAND! Against Domestic Violence where she is a liaison to the Contra Costa County social services agency. She has come full circle with STAND – from client, to longtime volunteer, and now as staff member. Her accomplishments include the oversight of a digital storytelling project (with accompanying facilitator’s guide and training tools), “Hear Our Voices – Stories of Children Exposed to Domestic Violence”. This project symbolized both Patricia’s commitment to advocating for domestic violence survivors, and her deep compassion for children exposed to violence.
Patricia Duncan Hall first became introduced to Susan Schechter’s work while working on a project that focused on children’s exposed to domestic violence. Susan Schechter’s groundbreaking work, which holds children at the center when looking at issues around domestic violence, resonated deeply with Patricia and inspired her to both narrow her focus to this issue, and to apply for the Fellowship.
During her Fellowship Patricia will explore the powerful connection between early exposure to domestic violence and the development of health and social problems of the children affected, with a specific focus on children ages 0-5. At the conclusion of her Fellowship, Patricia will produce a document outlining national policy recommendations to better meet the early childhood development needs of children exposed to domestic violence. Patricia will collect personal narratives and perspectives to distill the ways in which violence against women affects young children. Her research aims to illuminate perspectives from parents (mothers who are domestic violence survivors), service providers, and the children themselves in order to raise community awareness about the impact of childhood exposure to violence; train professionals who work with children and families on how to best meet the needs of children; and integrate community action strategies on children’s exposure to domestic violence.
The 2006 Fellow
In her tribute to Susan Schechter, Fran Danis, assistant professor at the School of Social Work, University of Missouri-Columbia, wrote: “Social workers have a particularly important role to play in carrying out Susan’s vision. As a profession, we can and must do more to join with the battered women’s movement. Social workers must learn about the complexities of domestic violence. Social work educators must also prepare future professionals for the cross-cutting issue of domestic violence." (2006) Danis’ statement is a charge to the social work field of education and future professionals, and is a challenge that Holly Mattson is dedicated to addressing.
Holly Mattson received her Master’s Degree in Social Work at Boston College in 2007. Her emphasis is on Community Organizing, Planning, Policy and Administration with a concentration in Children, Youth, and Families. Holly’s background in service demonstrates a desire to share a feminist consciousness within the social work field, participating in the feminist movement in various facets on a grassroots level.
Holly began working in the battered women’s movement as an advocate for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors through an organization, the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County (DV/SAS), in Bellingham, Washington while receiving her B.A. in Human Services at Western Washington University.
Like Danis (2006) noted of Susan, Holly is committed to maintaining the feminist roots of the antiviolence movement, and to foster the feminist voices of the social work community in a stance against violence against women, children, and families. During Holly’s fellowship, she explored social work graduate programs that receive funding through Title IV-E. She created a survey for educators and graduate students about the extent to which current curriculums address the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child maltreatment within a social justice theoretical framework.
Holly aimed to document the progression of the social work field in preparing future professionals to address the complexities of domestic violence, it’s connection to children’s needs, and to make curriculum recommendations to advance the field. Holly’s innovative thinking prompted discussions about how to broaden the reach of the Fellowship to impact the next generation of social workers through academia. These discussions lead to the development of the Leadership Development in Anti-Violence Work: The Susan Schechter Social Action Seminar. This curriculum was pilot tested in January of 2009 at Simmons College and will soon become available for other schools of Social Work to implement.
The 2005 Fellows
Over the last year, CONNECT, Inc. in New York City, the Family Violence Prevention Fund based in San Francisco, and their partners across the country have supported two extraordinary individuals chosen to carry on the work of the late Susan Schechter. Sharwline Nicholson and Andy Wong, were selected as the first Susan Schechter Fellows.
Sharwline Nicholson, in her writing, underscored what guided Susan Schechter herself: "keeping a mom safe will result in safety for the child." She is an immigrant woman from the Caribbean who works for Home Depot where she began as a cashier, going on to be promoted over the five years she has been employed there. She is also a domestic violence survivor who experienced the worst of the child welfare system. Ultimately she turned pain into power by beginning a lawsuit which became a landmark case: Nicholson v. Williams. In this case, a federal judge decided that the practice of removing the children of battered women from their custody was erratic and unfair, further punishing mothers already victimized by domestic violence.
Nicholson pursued this suit at great personal risk because she wanted to help other mothers and their children faced with similar issues. As a result of her success, she has been invited to many domestic violence conferences and colleges to speak, conduct workshops, participate in plenary sessions and facilitate dialogues. She has been active in several organizations in New York City including serving on the board of the Child Welfare Organizing Project and on the advisory board for the Child Welfare Watch. Her goal is to work collectively at addressing the systemic issues which directly affect mothers and children. She truly is an emerging leader who has a platform from which to launch a career that holds the potential of changing the landscape with regard to the response to child abuse and domestic violence.
Nicholson is in the final stages of production on a video titled, "Balancing the Harms," that focuses on issues and discussion that emerged from the decision in the landmark case that bears her name. This compelling video reveals an unintended and often overlooked consequence of domestic violence and child welfare practice – the trauma of removal. Professionals and survivors share their experiences to help all of us understand how the removal of children in domestic violence cases deeply affects the lives of children and their families. Understanding that exposure to abuse is harmful to children, this film reminds us that removal is not the answer. Balancing the Harms will stimulate new discussion, thought and solutions to help children who are exposed to domestic violence and are involved in the child welfare system. It is time for us to balance our focus and protect our children from further harms. Children can and do recover from exposure to domestic violence. What are we doing for our children who were removed, still in care and or aged out of care? Everyone who cares about children and domestic violence should not miss this film by Sharwline Nicholson. The intended audience for this video is social service professionals, law and social work students and advocates who work with families. This is meant to be an empowerment tool for women and children.
View Balancing the Harms video trailer
If you would like to hear more about Sharwline’s video and her work in the community please email: email@example.com
Andy Wong, a young man engaged in a variety of social justice organizing work in San Francisco, wanted to take his commitment to addressing issues of violence in the family national. As a young child, he witnessed his mother endure years of domestic violence, an experience that fuels a dedication to making a difference that has already been expressed in remarkable ways.
His commitment to issues of social justice has been demonstrated by serving as the Director of Development and Communications at Community United Against Violence, a respected Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community-based anti-violence nonprofit; and President of a campus-based Feminist Majority chapter, the first male to hold the position, and by organizing a public awareness campaign on dating violence. He provided legal counseling to low-income survivors of domestic violence at Women Against Abuse Legal Center, the nation’s first legal clinic for victims. He organized a conference to educate more than 100 lawyers on how to effectively prosecute cases on adult rape and sexual assault while at NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, and helped raise funds for the Polaris Project, a startup nonprofit organization that has since been recognized by Ashoka for its efforts to end sex trafficking. All of this from someone in his early twenties.
Through the fellowship, Wong has been invited to speak about his experiences as a child witness to audiences at events across the country.
In addition, Wong has been asked to serve in a number of leadership roles to address issues of child welfare and domestic violence, including as a Steering Committee Member of the California Intimate Partner Violence Consortium, a Children and Youth Cabinet Member of the United Way of the Bay Area, and a Trainer for the Sheila Wellstone Institute.
Wong's project was to develop a call-to-action statement to encourage child witnesses to organize to end violence against women and children. Wong’s intention is to create a movement that organizes young people who themselves witnessed violence in their youth to find their voices, and that empowers these individuals to work toward better policy.
Susan Schechter understood how important her work was to women and children everywhere who live with violence in their homes and communities. Sharwline, Andy, and now Holly will carry the torch that Susan held so high.