Dear Friends of HAWC,

Before we leave last year completely behind, I have a question for you – What would it take to look back on 2021 and actually feel good about it? If you want to know the answer, read on! 

How you look at something determines what it means and how it operates in your life and in the lives of those around you. I am certain I could find you many studies on the brain to prove my point. I could probably even pull in some new-fangled discoveries from quantum physics about how the observer affects that which is observed but I’d really rather share with you the wisdom gleaned from the survivors we serve.

In their healing journey, survivors of domestic and sexual violence are often able to reframe their past trauma into a defining experience that teaches them about how courageous, powerful, resilient and smart they are. They summon a deep well of compassion for themselves and for their vulnerabilities. They come to see that during those most turbulent times in their life they were doing as best they knew how given the tools they had at their disposal and that once they had the support or resources to make new choices, they did so. The healing journey is not a linear one.

To be sure, the process of reframing a painful experience may not diminish the hurt nor minimize the emotional, financial, physical impact of what someone endured. Even still, survivors often find a way forward that empowers them to draw benefit from the experience. When that transformation happens, it is awe-inspiring. It is why we at HAWC do this work and why we know that violence need never have the last word.

Friends, we have all been through a trauma of sorts, living these past two years with the pandemic and its ongoing impacts. We would do well to take note of how even the most painful experiences can be redeemed, depending on how we hold them.

Friends, we have all been through a trauma of sorts, living these past two years with the pandemic and its ongoing impacts. We would do well to take note of how even the most painful experiences can be redeemed, depending on how we hold them.

With that, I invite you to look back on 2021 and see the ways in which you might have grown in grit and empathy rather than simply bemoan the toll.

When I look back on 2021 on behalf of HAWC, I see a community that has embraced and supported our organization during a time of dire need, as Covid contributed to a horrific spike in violence.  And let me tell you what I mean.  For example, almost 1000 new donors donated $700,000.  Wow. Thank you!  Because of your support and the ongoing support of our long-standing donors, we have been able to scale our operations to respond to the crisis in real time.  No doubt, your support saved lives.

In a year beset by challenges too numerable to name, we have continued to answer the courageous calls of survivors on our hotline, provide safety-on-demand in our shelter and at hotels, and offer counseling, legal services, and long-term housing for thousands of children and adults.  Despite the exceptionally challenging nature of this work and the ‘great resignation,’ HAWC expanded our team to 170 passionate, committed, and capable individuals working every day of the year 24/7 with a professionalism and confidentiality that our clients deserve.

As we turn our attention to 2022, I am excited to share with you that it will be 45 years since HAWC opened its doors with a few donated phones and some very dedicated volunteers.  Few could have imagined back in 1977, the HAWC as it is today.  The growth of our organization is both inspiring, yet bittersweet; it is a reminder that the public health crisis we know as domestic and sexual violence has persisted for decades.

I hope you will join us this year, as we observe our 45th anniversary with both hope and strong resolve.  We know violence is escalating.  We also know we can actively address abuse through both short term intervention and long term solutions.  Stay tuned, as we share plans for our expansion and transformation, and as we reimagine what it will take to have a violence-free community.  We are better, together.

I leave you “New Day’s Lyric” by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, which so powerfully reflects on 2021 and looks ahead to 2022.  Read it and you will hear trauma reframed and a renewed future made possible by a liberating shift in perception. You can also watch it here.

May this be the day
We come together.
Mourning, we come to mend,
Withered, we come to weather,
Torn, we come to tend,
Battered, we come to better.
Tethered by this year of yearning,
We are learning
That though we weren’t ready for this,
We have been readied by it.
We steadily vow that no matter
How we are weighed down,
We must always pave a way forward.

This hope is our door, our portal.
Even if we never get back to normal,
Someday we can venture beyond it,
To leave the known and take the first steps.
So let us not return to what was normal,
But reach toward what is next.

What was cursed, we will cure.
What was plagued, we will prove pure.
Where we tend to argue, we will try to agree,
Those fortunes we forswore, now the future we foresee,
Where we weren’t aware, we’re now awake;
Those moments we missed
Are now these moments we make,
The moments we meet,
And our hearts, once all together beaten,
Now all together beat.

Come, look up with kindness yet,
For even solace can be sourced from sorrow.
We remember, not just for the sake of yesterday,
But to take on tomorrow.

We heed this old spirit,
In a new day’s lyric,
In our hearts, we hear it:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
Be bold, sang Time this year,
Be bold, sang Time,
For when you honor yesterday,
Tomorrow ye will find.
Know what we’ve fought
Need not be forgot nor for none.
It defines us, binds us as one,
Come over, join this day just begun.
For wherever we come together,
We will forever overcome.


Until it stops, 

Emilee Dawn Whitehurst
President and CEO
Houston Area Women’s Center