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I began thinking about women's rights in college, although there was very little being said about that topic way back then. I was among a small group who started a "Women's Liberation Sisterhood" (no joke - that's what we called ourselves) on my college campus. As the years went by, more and more was being written, debated, discussed, and accomplished around what was then a full-fledged women's movement.
My earliest, and most lasting, involvement in the movement focused on the issue of violence against women. I was not myself a victim of rape, domestic violence, or any kind of abuse -- but I knew that was just a matter of luck, because it can happen to any woman, anywhere. It became clear to me that whatever rights we gained, whatever laws we successfully passed, whatever barriers we broke down in the worlds of work, politics, education, salary, opportunities -- the freedom from fear of violent attacks in our homes or on the streets had to be of paramount importance to the basic freedom and dignity of women.
I was fortunate to be involved in starting the first rape crisis and domestic violence agency in Amarillo, including the very first SANE (sexual assault nurse practitioners) program in the state of Texas. I forced myself to learn public speaking because I was so passionate about the cause, and proceeded to speak to many groups all over the Texas Panhandle. I spoke mostly to receptive audiences, as the times were ripe for this new message, although some individuals were deeply disturbed at the thought of women challenging patriarchal attitudes and values. As a licensed social worker, I did volunteer counseling, served on the Board of Directors, and did fundraising for this agency, while working in the Women's Program at Amarillo College, where we had a grant to serve "displaced homemakers" in forging transitions post-divorce. (I learned that many of these clients were DV victims.) I began my university teaching career at West Texas State University, specializing in gender studies and courses in feminist social work practice.
Moving to Denton to earn the Ph.D. at TWU also introduced me to the wonderful Denton County Friends of the Family, where I have served on the board, off and on, since 1994. My teaching career included UT Arlington and then Texas Woman's University, where I teach Family Violence and specialize in women's issues. My dissertation research on Protective Orders was in conjunction with the Denton County DA's office and I present often on women's issues, including violence against women, at professional and academic conferences. My work with women students at TWU often brings the issue of violence to the forefront and, while I do not counsel students, I know that our courses in the Social Work Program offer therapeutic experiences, hope, and a vision of how we can move forward as a society to a world free of violence. Many students of our program go on to make anti-violence their lifetime work.
When I think back on how much has changed in the last 30 years, in virtually every area of women's lives and especially in the way violence is viewed and responded to, I am amazed. I cannot think of any cause more worthy or more gratifying than this. I feel profoundly honored to have been a part of this movement and the superb Denton County Friends of the Family!