Peace Over Violence: Los Angeles organization works to help those affected by violence

Intervention. Prevention. Education. Advocacy. The services offered by the Los Angeles agency Peace Over Violence (POV) are changing lives for the better every day. Patti Giggans, the agency’s executive director, calls Peace Over Violence “a highly developed sexual assault, domestic violence and youth violence prevention center.”

Giggans, who started a women’s karate school in the late 1970s, first joined POV as a self-defense instructor. She said that she applies the same simple motto to self-defense and to life in general. “Empower your spirit,” she shared. “Spirit first, techniques second.”

While Giggans values spirit above all else, it takes a special technique to oversee POV’s dynamic services and projects. Peace Over Violence has its headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, but its reach extends far beyond the office. The organization is in hospitals, police stations and courtrooms. Staff members accompany rape survivors to receive treatment, identify suspects and seek justice.

“Nobody should have to go through the trauma of sexual or domestic violence alone,” Giggans said. POV is in high schools, offering teen dating violence prevention curricula and organizing anti-violence clubs.

It is also in legislation; the agency initiated the “Sexual Assault Victim’s DNA Bill of Rights,” which states that every rape survivor has a right to know the status of her or his rape kit (the evidence that has been taken from her or his body and clothing). The bill arose after the 2002 rape kit backlog scandal, when it was discovered that rape kits all across the country had been untested and discarded. Now, under the bill, survivors have the right to know, at all times, the whereabouts and results of their rape kits.

“Peace Over Violence is not the average agency,” said Peggie Reyna, the project director of their deaf, disabled and elder services. Reyna, who started the agency’s deaf services program in 1989, was emphatic about the need to offer such services. “I said (to) Patti (Giggans), ‘I understand you don’t have funding for deaf services. But if you hire me you’ll get funding’… And that’s how deaf services started,” shared Reyna.

Her tenacity did not stop there. One day, when she was ordering business cards, Reyna added the words “and disabled” to their information. “When (the cards) came Patti said, ‘We have a new program?’ So I said that if we made it formal we could get some funding for disability services too,” said Reyna. “We became deaf and disabled services.”

Laura Ripplinger works alongside Reyna as the program coordinator of deaf, disabled and elder services. A former interpreter, Ripplinger said she came to POV because her heart is with the survivors. “Being an interpreter and working for so many years in that field, I constantly saw where survivors weren’t able to get the help they needed,” said Ripplinger. “I really didn’t want to see them get re-victimized because they weren’t able to communicate.”

For Ripplinger, POV is about “the look in somebody’s eyes when you see that first glimmer of hope that they never had … Just to know that there is somebody here for them, that they can be heard and understood and (guided) through whatever it is they need to do.”

Founded in 1971, Peace Over Violence recently celebrated its fortieth year of providing that “first glimmer of hope” to survivors of violence. POV, formerly known as the Los Angeles Commission Against the Abuse of Women, has expanded and evolved since its establishment by feminist founders.

“We were founded by feminists. We’re proud of that. And (proud) that we have feminists at our organization – all different kinds of feminists – there’s no one feminist anymore!” explained Giggans. “We utilize and respect the feminist perspective, but we have added other perspectives … no (single) perspective answers all of the questions about violence.”

This article originally ran in the Winter 2012 issue of Fem.

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