My first memory of Tiffany Caban is not a flash of imagery inside of a criminal court or a race for the Queens district attorney’s office. It is a very personal memory. I was a newly employed advocate for domestic violence survivors at an agency called Connect NYC in their legal advocacy helpline, and Tiffany was an intern law student from New York Law School. She had worked fiercely, preparing a case to petition for immigration relief for a survivor who had been brutally attacked by her ex-spouse. The photographs of the survivors’ injuries left lasting first impressions for those of us who helped her. Immigration relief for survivors oftentimes requires numerous documents, statements, certifications and letters that will confirm a survivor's willingness and efforts to report the violence they were subjected to. When everything had neatly arrived to the office and Tiffany went over the check list with our supervisor, she heard the words: “This was your advocacy work, you know?” I saw her face light up with surprise, realizing that her work had just made a difference in the life of someone facing a system that is oftentimes very unfair. I remember that moment fondly because I was coming to the same realizations myself. The year was 2010 and our path of advocating for the communities and people we cared about had just started. When I think about the insight Tiffany can have as the Queens District Attorney, that is the moment I will think about.
Rashema Melson’s story is amazing. She just graduated from Georgetown University after facing a lot of life struggles, including homelessness. She speaks about how she coped with, lived and faced homelessness as one of this country’s most grueling struggles for black teens.
As a consultant my role changed drastically from that of a court advocate. I still felt I was speaking to a system on behalf of survivors of intimate partner violence. Recently my role as a consultant is placing me in a position to educate, change minds, and create culture. It is very different from engaging a system that already is to actively create teaching moments to change a system. However, change and growth is part and parcel of this work. How else are we going to eradicate gender-based violence? Change and growth in my path have not been easy and have not been without mistakes. What has helped me is to be humble, sit down with the people who started doing this work before me, read the foundational and theoretical work, and be close to the communities and people affected by intimate partner violence. And always, always feel a dedication and a responsibility to the people I am serving. Not as numbers and statistics, but the people I dedicated years to sit across and besides, hearing their stories every day, witnessing trauma, being a steward to witnessed pain.