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Guiding Light

By Kayleigh Donahue Hodes

Photo by Jay Reilly

10.24.17

The woman at the head of San Diego’s only rape crisis center is sending out a call to action: Community involvement is the key to overcoming domestic violence.

FOR THE LAST 19 years, Verna Griffin-Tabor has worked at the Center for Community Solutions, San Diego’s only rape crisis center. With nine locations throughout the county, three emergency shelters, and an emergency hotline to helm (she’s now the CEO), it’s safe to say that a bad day on the job for her probably tops most others. “But I work with some of the most talented, compassionate people—therapists, attorneys, counselors—and I get to see some of the most courageous people walk through our front door,” she says. “Their amazing strength and brilliance inspires me every single day.”

Griffin-Tabor’s main message is that domestic violence is an issue that’s preventable. “If we support families to look at the underlying oppression that allows the issue to exist, as well as educate young people sooner on how to talk about these topics—what healthy boundaries are, how certain questions blame the victim who did nothing wrong—hope and healing are possible,” she says. This is why the CCS not only helps survivors in the moment (when someone calls police, they are notified and send someone to be with them at the hospital), but is also trying to prevent these situations from ever arising. This year they have a presence on the community college campuses in the county as well as at San Diego State University, where they recently held a training session for the baseball team to talk about how to know when someone is in harm’s way.

Every year the CCS touches 23,000 San Diegans, and partners with groups throughout the county to hold charitable events, most recently holding a Rock Goddess Tribute Night, where female musicians covered Grace Slick, Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, among others. Next month is the Bridging Hearts initiative, where CCS matches donors with individuals or families for personalized holiday gift giving. “We’re constantly trying to fundraise so when someone has the courage to call us, we want to make sure we respond effectively and responsibly,” Griffin-Tabor says. “But it’s also so important for the community to know that they can even make a difference just by considering their everyday dialogue surrounding survivors of domestic violence—I’ve seen what happens when people get respectful best practices, and I know what can happen when we get on the front end of this.”