Ebony Williams provides safe haven, transitions


UMSL alumna and Lydia’s House family advocate Ebony Williams speaks at the 2015 Girls Summit. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Healthy relationships were the focus of Ebony Williams presentation given at the Sue Shear Institute for Women in Public Life’s annual Girls Summit. On Nov. 20, more than 80 local middle school students gathered in the Millennium Student Center Century Hall to hear the University of Missouri–St. Louis alumna speak.

Williams told the young ladies, “An abusive boyfriend will try to isolate you from your friends and family. He might say, ‘We’re Bonnie and Clyde! We’re Beyonce and Jay-Z! It’s me and you against the world!’ But that doesn’t matter. You should not have to give up friends and family for a relationship. You should not lose yourself.”

Years of experience working as a family advocate with the Lydia’s House transitional residency program have taught Williams how to spot the early warning signs of a potentially abusive partner.

Williams is confident in her knowledge base today, but she wasn’t immediately sure of her ability to help women and children in need when she took her position at Lydia’s House shortly after earning a UMSL degree in social work.

“When I started at Lydia’s House, I was fresh out of college, and I didn’t think I really had what it took to help these families coming from abuse and hardships,” she said. “But I discovered some of the most resilient people that I have ever met in my life. They didn’t let domestic violence change their destinies. Their fight and drive pushed me to recognize the privilege I have so that I can pour my energy into the work at hand.”

And there is plenty to be done at Lydia’s House.

Williams provides clients with crisis intervention, transportation assistance, parenting education and information on a variety of educational, financial and legal resources. She will even clean transitional apartments and offer childcare services as needed, and she still finds time to manage the community garden.

“I don’t mind a long day, or a long night for that matter,” she said. “It simply makes me smile to hear a person say, ‘Thank you,’ or, ‘If you weren’t here, I don’t know what I would’ve done.’ It makes me feel the impact I’ve had in someone’s life, and I know I’ve had times where I was in need of resources, attention or someone to listen.”

The Sue Shear Institute’s LEAD program aided Ebony in developing the insight and tact to guide her clients with empathy. The semester–long program is offered in the fall of each year and focuses on civic engagement, networking and leadership.

“I learned things at the institute that you cannot get in any college class,” she said. “The program coordinators emphasized professionalism, team building, community activism and how to take the lead. All of these skills I gained while I was a part of the LEAD program.”

Toward the end of her Girls Summit presentation, Williams encouraged the young women in attendance to be self-assured, set a good example for others and find their voices.

“Too often we as women allow ourselves to be hidden,” she said. “We don’t take enough credit for what we have done, who we have helped and served. But in this day and age we are witnessing women come from behind and stand out. We can’t be afraid to let people know we have opinions, we are educated, we are qualified, we are proud.”

The UMSL Experience


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