Meet Jane Doe Inc., the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence
What is it like to do domestic violence work in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts has a long, deep, and proud history of working against sexual and domestic violence. Our coalition’s motto is that there is “strength in numbers,” and we see that in effect every day as our nearly 60 members programs and hundreds of partner organizations work collaboratively to create networks of services, strong policies and practices, and resources to provide hope and options for survivors and communities.
What impact does your unique Massachusetts context have on this work?
The diversity in Massachusetts from the Berkshires to Cape Cod and every community in between compels us to value the individual and collective narratives of people and to learn with and from each other. One of four Commonwealths in the United States, Massachusetts is comprised of 351 cities and towns, defined by their type of local government. This form of local control requires a lot of collaboration between government systems for everything from schools and emergency response to waste management! Similarly, sexual and domestic violence programs may cover urban, suburban, rural, and even island communities. Each of these environments poses their own challenges and opportunities in reaching and supporting survivors and their friends and families.
What are the biggest barriers that survivors face in Massachusetts?
The organizational, systemic, and societal barriers survivors face in Massachusetts are probably not much different than elsewhere in the United States and beyond. Access to affordable housing, health care, a living wage, transportation, and economic opportunities are general concerns. Limited access to culturally specific services poses additional barriers for non-English speakers, people who identify as LGBQTIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Intersex, or Asexual), immigrants, and others. JDI has been working hard internally and with our partners to identify how oppressions related to race, ethnicity, disability, identity, and more not only contribute to violence itself but also limit access to services and justice. Domestic and sexual violence advocates in local communities work hard to help survivors access options and resources, but more is needed.
What’s happening in Massachusetts that you’re excited about? Proud of?
We like to say we are small but mighty. You’d never know there are only eight full-time coalition staff when you see the amount of work we produce and the successes we’ve achieved. The variety of trainings and networking opportunities has helped expand the knowledge base and capacity of advocates to meet the complex needs of survivors. In 2018 we held the 11th Annual Massachusetts White Ribbon Day Campaign to engage men and boys as part of the solution to gender-based violence and deepened our work to #ReimagineManhood. Our legislative and budget advocacy resulted in improved laws and increased funding for programs.
Last year, the staff crafted a set of core values that guide our work – from deciding on policy and programmatic priorities to shaping our interactions with each other. Not known for being terse, we managed to distill these values down to three words: Community, Justice, and Solidarity.
Are there any champions in Massachusetts that you’d like to thank or celebrate for their record or work on domestic violence?
While the champions in Massachusetts are too many to name here, we want to highlight the survivors who show us and teach us what it means to be champions for change. We also acknowledge that these survivors are indeed us, as so many of the staff, volunteers, and community leaders working to end and prevent domestic and sexual violence have ourselves experienced violence.
How is your coalition working to end domestic violence?
JDI’s work is only possible given the partnership with our nearly 60 member organizations, board of directors, volunteers, community partners, elected officials, government agencies, health care providers, athletic teams, academics, businesses, students, donors, and friends. The four domains for our policy work – human rights, economic justice, education, and prevention – inform our programmatic initiatives as well. JDI’s work involves advocating on the state and federal levels for policy and funding; training and supporting advocates and organizations; and promoting prevention through the media and community organizing campaigns such as #ReimagineManhood. A common thread is our commitment to center the experiences of the most marginalized among us.
If your coalition was a musician or music group, who would you be and why?
A more apt analogy for JDI might be to compare us to donuts. They come in many forms, they can be shared or enjoyed alone, they are flexible, they make an impression, and they are a great conversation starter! In fact, this year we introduced the Jane Doe-Nut, scrumptious with teal frosting to mirror the No More logo!
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Anything we didn’t ask that you’d like to share?
We are a work in progress. The first iteration of JDI was the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault, formed in 1973. Soon after, some of the first rape crisis centers in the US were established. A few years later, the Massachusetts Coalition of Battered Women Service Groups was founded in 1978. In 1998, these two entities merged to create Jane Doe, Inc. We continue to learn and grow with our membership to live out our values as social justice change-makers focused on gender equity, racial justice, and safety for all.
Learn More about Jane Doe, Inc.