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Sojourner Center becoming global leader in domestic violence field

By: Jessica Urgiles-- 2015-03-30 11:15 am --

Mural at Sojourner Center (Photo courtesy of Sojourner Center)


Women’s History Month highlights the triumphs (and struggles) of women. It’s a history that is, sadly, plagued by gender-based violence. This year’s theme is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives,” which celebrates the courageous ones who have transformed the lives of women throughout history.

At DollarDays, nearly half of our customers are nonprofits — including many women’s shelters. We frequently help shelters by donating merchandise to them. However, we recognize that domestic violence shelters do much more than provide abused women with a temporary home.

Sojourner Center, one of the largest shelters in the country, aims to be the catalyst for domestic violence education. For nearly 40 years, the Phoenix-based shelter has helped women and children rebuild their lives after escaping domestic abuse. Sojourner has three centers: two crisis shelters and a transitional apartment complex. In 2014, the shelter helped over 8,700 people impacted by domestic violence.


Dr. Maria Garay, Sojourner Center’s CEO, says the center recently implemented a new strategic plan to expand its mission — particularly in research, policy, advocacy and cementing Sojourner as thought leaders in the world.

“We’re focused on creating Sojourner Center the center of excellence in the field of domestic violence by establishing metrics where we measure our outcomes and standardize specific interventions that will have resonating effects in the field,” she said.

While domestic violence shelters have worked tirelessly for decades to help survivors, efforts to galvanize society into action have been elusive. The societal shift toward putting domestic violence at the forefront is one that’s long overdue. Social media recently contributed to opening the dialogue with the #YesAllWomen hashtag that propelled stories of violence against women to the Twittersphere last year. The campaign was a powerful attempt to overcome society’s aversion to publicly discussing domestic violence.


Dr. Garay says she sees domestic violence as a public health issue as opposed to a women’s issue — a sentiment that Vice President Joe Biden recently echoed at the National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence.

"We have come such a long way in our fight against this epidemic, but we have to keep making the case even stronger for prevention and intervention," he said.

Sojourner is cutting to the heart of the epidemic by doing just that.

“We’re going to be very intentional about doing more by our children here. We feel they are the answer to breaking the cycle of domestic violence,” Dr. Garay said.

According to Dr. Garay, 51 percent of Sojourner’s population is comprised of children (50 percent are 5 years old and under). This puts them in the optimal position to intervene early, educate children about domestic violence and break through the culture of silence.

The shelter will soon be accepting pets, too. Dr. Garay says that women often stay in abusive homes or go to inhabitable places if they can’t bring their pets with them to domestic violence shelters. Allowing women to keep their pets will remove one of the many barriers faced when leaving abusive relationships. 


Sojourner is also focusing on the aftermath of domestic abuse.

“We have the issue of looking at the health of women and children a lot deeper and issues that have been historically neglected in this population around post-traumatic stress disorder, concussions and traumatic brain injuries,” Dr. Garay said.

Sojourner is spearheading this research to make a global impact. 

“The best way to inform on a larger scale is to involve academic enterprises and so we’re forming an academic enterprise that will complement the services that we provide,” Chief Advancement Officer Teri Hauser said.

Hauser says they’ll be able to disseminate their best practice models in a scholarly manner.

“We’re not just doing community outreach, but we’re collaborating with some of the country’s top academic leaders to inform,” she said. “We know we can make it better here, but we want to make sure that this model can be replicated everywhere.”

As Sojourner makes the transition to a paragon of excellence in the field, it will continue to foster a safe environment for women leaving abusive relationships and set them on the path to self-sufficiency. You can donate to Sojourner Center by purchasing items on its DollarDays Wish List.

Help domestic violence shelters by nominating them for our $5,000 merchandise giveaway here.