Although one of the very first domestic violence shelters in the country, it may surprise you to know that when The Women’s Center began in Carbondale on November 2 of 1972 that caring for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault/abuse was not our stated purpose.
Rather, our founders recognized the need for women to be safe – to have “a room of their own” in which to meet; to hear and be heard; and to thrive.
It was the 1928 Virginia Woolf booklet “A Room of One’s Own” that became an impetus for our founders to incorporate as The Women’s Center. In her book, Woolf observes that while men possessed all and controlled all, a woman could thrive if they had both a minimal amount of money to their name and “a room of their own”.
Realizing the power possessed by men, and knowing that men were the perpetrators of over 90 percent of domestic violence incidents, our mission almost immediately expanded to assisting those who were victims.
Volunteers began caring for women and their children who were affected by domestic violence. We opened a shelter to provide a safe place. And, years later, we began providing counseling and advocacy for those who had experienced sexual assault, abuse and harassment.
We also grew the geographic area in which we provided services; starting in Jackson County but evolving over the decades to include Franklin, Gallatin, Johnson, Perry, Saline, Union and Williamson counties.
And we began to serve males who were survivors of domestic or sexual violence, as well as those who are transgender or who do not have the gender identity or biological sex assigned at birth. As the need to provide services to a group larger than women expanded over the past decade, it became increasingly apparent that the name “Women’s Center” had become an obstacle to helping many.
Following a three-year board-led process that solicited community input from stakeholders throughout our service area, we adopted the name Survivor Empowerment Center in February, 2022.
It’s a name that is more inclusive – or at least less exclusive – and concisely states what it is that 41 employees working in four offices and serving eight counties – does every day of every week of every month of every year.
In creating our new logo, we incorporated the house drawing that has been our logo for the past 49 years. That house no longer has a gender-specific symbol at its center because we do serve all. But that house is also a reminder of our legacy; of what our founders realized almost 50 years ago; that violence against women has been and will continue to be an epidemic, and that women will continue to be that group that makes up more than 90 percent of our survivors.
Survivor Empowerment Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit that is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. Our EIN # is 23-7417709.
We will commemorate our 50th Anniversary on November 2, 2022 and in so doing remember the foresight and enthusiasm of our founders: Lillian Adams, Judy Criswell, Candace Dean, Genevieve Houghton, Bobbi Majka, Clara McClure, Libby Moore and Rita Moss.