This past fall, Center for Domestic Peace (C4DP) nominated Suzanne Jansen for Volunteer of the Year at the Center for Volunteer & Nonprofit Leadership’s Heart of Marin award ceremony for her substantial contributions to C4DP’s Legal Systems Advocacy Program (LSAP).
At the height of the pandemic and shelter-in-place, C4DP’s LSAP staff – which serves 440 individuals annually – faced challenges meeting the increased need for advocacy and assistance at a time when the team was down a staff person. During this complicated and trying time, Suzanne expanded her commitment to the organization by increasing her volunteer time with the LSAP team from 4 hours a week to several days a week, averaging 10-15 hours. Between April 2019 and October 2021, she volunteered a total of 955 hours.
Suzanne’s acts of kindness and generosity stemmed from her own lived experience of domestic violence. At age 10, her mother was murdered by her father. Out of this most painful, life-altering experience, Suzanne has reached a place in her journey where contributing to the effort to end domestic violence is a passion. Her decision to increase her commitment during this time reflects her commitment to be a “voice for change.” Knowing that reports of increased lethality of violence could escalate to increased homicides, Suzanne stepped up while managing her own concerns around COVID for herself and family. Intervening in domestic violence can make the difference between life or death.
Because of her work with the LSAP team, Suzanne has literally helped save lives. During the height of the pandemic, Suzanne assisted 371 times in different capacities, from reaching out to victims after a police report for help with safety planning and lethality risk assessment, to virtual court accompaniment in both criminal and civil cases, among other things. Many victims when faced with a domestic violence situation experience severe trauma emotionally and sometimes physically. This is coupled with having to face the police, file for restraining orders, and navigate an unfamiliar and intimidating system. Having a compassionate and caring legal systems advocate like Suzanne by their side increases successful outcomes for survivors exponentially. Suzanne is there to offer emotional support and extend empathy drawn from her own personal “knowing” that it is possible to survive domestic violence and find a pathway forward toward healing, safety, and freedom.
What inspires and drives Suzanne’s commitment to this work is her belief that we are making progress toward ending domestic violence and that it is up to all of us, especially the next generation, to all do our part in understanding it and ending it. We are deeply grateful to Suzanne and her contributions in our work to end domestic violence!