Donor Highlight – Stephanie Burns

Image1) What is your name?

Stephanie Burns

2) How did you first learn about W.O.M.A.N., Inc.?

I know I shared this story with you, so I’ll work to keep this one as short and simple as I can :).

In spring of 2010, I met an individual by the name of Brandon Brown, with whom I shared my vision of creating an event in honor and celebration of women survivors. In response, he told me that there was someone in SF that I had to meet. He put me in touch with a good friend of his from high school, Lija McHugh, who’s on the W.O.M.A.N., Inc. Board of Directors. Lija and I met in August of 2010, I shared with her my idea and the inaugural Surviving & Thriving was hosted on October 28, 2010.

What’s truly amazing about the inception of this event is that the vision was initially focused on creating a one time event honoring women survivors of sexual assault. Thanks to a chain of serendipitous events and a few incredibly dedicated and phenomenal individuals, Surviving & Thriving was founded in honor and celebration of all of the Phenomenal women in our lives, and the proceeds extend to both W.O.M.A.N., Inc. and SFWAR. The result has been a community of artists, organizations and individuals committed to changing the landscape of violence against women and one heck of a celebration honoring the strength, courage, and grace of the women who have encouraged and inspired us!

3) What inspired you to support W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s anti-violence efforts?

My inspiration has been twofold – stemming from the influential women I’ve encountered and my experiences as a survivor. Throughout my life, there have been many Phenomenal women who have encouraged and inspired me, and it has been these women – and all the phenomenal women in our lives – who are honored at Surviving & Thriving.

As a survivor of sexual assault, I also wanted to benefit an organization providing support for and encouragement to women who are facing the disempowerment and disconnection that comes from such an experience. Through my healing and that of others, I’ve learned that there are many common threads between the experiences of sexual assault and domestic violence. Both are pervasive, life-threatening and dehumanizing and require immense amounts of strength, courage and grace to overcome.

What served as a catalyst to my healing was being part of a community and understanding that I wasn’t alone. From those realizations came forgiveness and freedom. Surviving & Thriving increases awareness and education about W.O.M.A.N., Inc. and SFWAR, and as importantly, creates an extraordinary community of women and men who are supportive, caring and responsibly addressing the challenging social issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

4) What is the impact you hope for your support to have on the community?

As Maya Angelou so eloquently shared, ‘Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.’ My hope is that through this event, survivors will recognize the courage that they possess both as survivors and as thrivers. They will recognize that their strength lies in allowing themselves to be vulnerable and in sharing their experiences, and with time, they will heal and see themselves as the Fearless and Phenomenal women that they are.

For Surviving & Thriving, my hope is that the event will continue to develop a community that is courageous, that advocates for women, that stands together and says, ‘Enough is enough!’ A community that understands that when we harm or violate another human being, we hurt ourselves as well. By speaking up and speaking out, we will change the landscape of violence against women.

5) Can you share one fun fact about yourself?

Growing up, my first pet was a ladybug named Rose. When I was in 3rd grade, my parents decided to move to another town. After selling our house, they explained that Rose was not part of the agreement and would be staying behind. In my mind, all ladybugs to this day represent change and good luck – and are named Rose.

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