March's MVP: Kristin Dubrowski

A Guardian ANGEL.

March's MVP: Kristin DubrowskiKristin Dubrowski is the executive director for CODA (Citizens Opposed to Domestic Violence), a non-profit organization that seeks to prevent domestic violence through education and care for individuals and families in Beaufort, Colleton, Jasper and Hampton counties.

Their comprehensive services include a 24-hour hotline, counseling, shelter, legal services and community education programs. On March 30th, CODA will host “Carolina Spring Fling,” a shag dance fundraiser featuring live music, dinner and an auction.

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Hilton Head Monthly: How did you get started in this line of work?
Kristin Dubrowski: When I was an undergraduate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I volunteered for a domestic violence and sexual assault hotline. I got my bachelor’s degree in women’s studies then went to work at a domestic violence shelter in Denver, while getting my degree in non-profit management.

HHM: What were those early experiences like?
KD: It was very challenging in the beginning to not take it all home with me. When I started volunteering with the crisis hotline, I was so afraid to answer the phone because I thought that victims wanted me to have all the answers. Later I realized that what they really need is for someone to hear them, to validate their feelings and let them know they’re not alone.

HHM: Having worked in various parts of the country, how can you describe the local situation in terms of domestic violence?
KD: It’s challenging, because we are covering four counties with a lot of isolated rural areas and it’s hard to get the word out. Domestic violence crosses all socio-economic lines, but usually the folks who seek our services are the ones who don’t have other resources. Most women have either experienced domestic violence themselves, or have been close to someone who has. It’s just something we don’t talk about a lot because it isn’t fun.

HHM: Do you feel like you’re making a difference?
KD: Yes! I know we are because women tell us we are. They come to the shelter as a last resort, then I see them having those light bulb moments of “Oh my gosh, this really isn’t my fault.” Women come here in tears, unable to do what they need to do on a daily basis and, within just a few days, they start to feel better about themselves. We see a lot of changes in the kids too; they just blossom.

HHM: What is your outlook for the future?
KD: I’m feeling optimistic because I think this is an issue that is getting more and more attention. But we can’t do it alone; we need the support of other agencies, as well as the community. Domestic violence is not okay; it’s not just something that happens behind closed doors. If you rob a bank, you go to jail. So what should happen to men who beat their wives? It’s a crime, and it needs to be dealt with. But I am optimistic because I know we are having a positive impact.