For 50 years, the Center for Community Solutions has worked tirelessly to not only help tens of thousands of adults and children heal from domestic and sexual violence but also to prevent it. CEO and La Jolla resident Verna Griffin-Tabor said that while she's proud of the strides the organization has made, nothing would make her happier than being able to close up shop within the next 50 years.
"It would be nice if our services were not needed," she said. "But I hope that we do our part to see that prevention of unhealthy relationships is on every school campus and every college campus. Right now we're on nine college campuses. I'd love to be on all of them as fully integrated partners, and I'd like to see starting in elementary, junior high and high school there being curriculums about healthy relationships and boundaries. This is the way to create change."
Before becoming the CEO for CCS, Griffin-Tabor worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons with rapists and pedophiles, designed treatment programs for emotionally disturbed teens and ran group and foster homes.
While a career in family violence can be challenging, she says her confidence that it can be prevented is what drives her to keep going.
She's been the CEO of CCS now for 21 years.
"As a child, I always believed and felt that this could be stopped. I wanted to do everything in my power to do my part to create change because I knew it was possible. This violence is preventable."
Right now, nearly 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse and one in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend, according to Love is Respect. Griffin-Tabor believes that preventive methods — like teaching parents how to have conversations with their teenagers about healthy boundaries in relationships — are crucial to lowering that number.
But that's just one piece of the puzzle. The other, according to Griffin-Tabor, is pulling back the veil on how we, as a society, silence domestic violence victims.
"We might silence people who've been harmed by blaming them for the crime," she said. Examples include asking victims questions like "why don't you just leave," or "what were you wearing," or "were you drinking?"
"We are blaming a victim for the harm they endured when they didn't do anything wrong."
And finally, Griffin-Tabor says we have to make sure that when someone unfortunately does becomes a victim of domestic violence, that they get the best practice trauma-informed care that they can get. She wants victims to have the opportunity to heal so they can learn that what they went through does not define who they are.
"Healing is possible," she said. "We see it every single day."
Griffin-Tabor said she once met with a 14-year-old boy who wanted to donate $800 to CCS because when he was younger, he had been in one of the shelters with his family.
"He told me, 'I was treated, along with my mom, with such kindness and respect that I knew as soon as I could, I would do something to give back.' So he did a car wash with his football team to raise the money for us."
In honor of that spirit of helping victims and working to prevent domestic violence for future generations, CCS is celebrating their 50th anniversary with a gala. Held at 6 p.m., June 5 at the USS Midway Museum, 910 N. Harbor Drive, this event will "honor the legacy of a community dedicated to ending violence."
For more information about the event or to donate to Center for Community Solutions, visit ccssd.org.