WEAVE shares information about its programs and services with a variety of groups and audiences – civic clubs, churches, schools, etc. are all common gathering places where many have learned of WEAVE. Our supporters may not realize, we also provide presentations for inmates. Following is the experience of one of our employees who recently started presenting to the men incarcerated at the Rio Cosumnes Correction Center.
As the gate closed and locked behind me, I looked around the grounds of the prison now that I was standing inside its formidable boundaries. Just moments ago I was outside enjoying the morning sun. Now inside the gates for the first time, I was wondering what the experience to follow would be like for me. Luckily I knew I would only be there for the next two hours, not for years as some of the men that I would be talking to would be.
I had been invited to talk to a group of men incarcerated at Rio Cosumnes Correction Center about the work WEAVE does to promote healthy relationships and to explain the many services we provide to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. As the gym filled with over 45 men to hear my presentation, I could not help but notice that the audience was very reflective of Sacramento County’s demographic representing the various ethnic backgrounds and ages ranging from the early 20s to late 60s by my estimation.
As I started to show my PowerPoint presentation and explain WEAVE’s history, our philosophy, and myths that our community still harbors about sexual assault and domestic violence, a hand was raised to ask me the first question of my presentation. A soft-spoken man in the second row questioned my comment that only women could be survivors of domestic violence. I was quick to point out that was a common myth that the PowerPoint slide was referring to, that only women can be survivors, but that WEAVE knows that both men and women can be survivors of both domestic violence and sexual assault. I also informed him that WEAVE provides services to both men and women and that our survivors are available to everyone.
As the presentation continued over the next two hours, the audience was very respectful. Several members asked pointed clarification questions about our philosophy. I enjoyed the discussions as several men expressed their experiences growing up in abusive homes or being in abusive relationships. The questions they asked showed me that they were not only listening to the information I was providing, but they were relating to and trying to integrate the components of healthy relationships in their own lives. The mutual respect shown from the men and the honest conversation that occurred eased any concerns that I had about speaking to this group. By the end of my presentation several men asked how they could be volunteers or help fund our programs that we offer survivors in Sacramento County.
As the gate closed behind me for the second time, I found myself outside in the parking lot. I was happy that I had the freedom to go about my daily routine working at WEAVE and not be behind bars as the men I had just talked with were still experiencing. It had been a very pleasant and memorable two hours that had just passed and I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I was actually looking forward to going back every-other month so that I am able to speak to a new group of men.