Deborah DeBare

How do we build resilient girls? How do you build resiliency in your own life?

Deborah DeBare, executive director of the Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, has been there for nearly twenty years. Prior, she spent five years at Domestic Violence Resource Center, four years at RI Rape Crisis Center and two years working for State of Rhode Island in the Department of Mental Health. A Brown University graduate with a B.A. in American Civilization, DeBare also holds a Master in Management of Human Services from the Heller School at Brandeis University. DeBare has been involved in numerous boards and task forces, including National Network to End Domestic Violence, RI Coalition for the Homeless, RI Emergency Food & Shelter Board, National IPV Prevention Council, and United Way Community Investment Advisory Council.

photo by Agapao Productions

I don’t think we realize how significant and formative early life experiences can be, until the years and decades give us the wisdom of perspective. For me, I believe that my teen age years on the basketball court unknowingly and unintentionally provided me with a set of life skills and values, including attributes such as resiliency, determination, teamwork, focus and the importance of pure fun. These skills have been put to use, and tested time and again in my work to end violence against women.

I’ve learned to pivot with only a moment’s notice. I’ve learned how important it is to have a strong defense, as well as an aggressive offense. I’ve figured out when to box out, and how to build a strong bench. I’ve benefited from great coaching and mentoring, and tried to give back in these areas. And one of the best lessons I’ve experienced, on the court and in the workplace, is that even when you get elbowed or fouled, or knocked to the floor, you need to get yourself right back up on your own feet and get back in the game. That’s the grit that builds resilience, and it’s that type of resilience that has bolstered me for the long term work of ending violence against women.

To build resilient girls we need strong women as role models; we need to encourage girls to take risks and to try new things. We need to teach them to pivot, to stand strong and to rely on each other since the whole team is always stronger than the individual alone. We need to show them that even if we are “double-teamed” there are various ways to get out of a jam.

When I think of the resiliency that is needed for the “long haul,” to truly build a society based on gender equity where our girls will not have to live in a world that accepts violence against women, I draw my inspiration from the victims of domestic violence who have had the courage to step up and speak out on this issue. The progress we have made, the resiliency of the domestic violence movement, and my own personal resilience is a testament to these courageous survivors.