Marcella Smith is a Mother, Writer, Social Worker, Domestic Abuse and Social Justice Activist. She is an exemplary Black woman who not only stands in her truth, but one who is courageous enough to use her past traumas as a tapestry of testimonies for women like her to know their (inner) power.
Marcella has turned her trauma into triumph and by doing so, is in the process of creating her non-profit charity Don’t Touch Me! I Survived.
What inspired you to get into the field you are in?
My journey to becoming a Social Worker was a long and difficult one. Many life changing factors contributed to my decision. Firstly, I would like to say that, originally I had wanted to study forensic science and criminology. I had been successful in being accepted onto the course however, circumstances attached to the abuse I had experienced prevented me from beginning the course. My past personal experience with historical abuse, being raised by a mother with alcohol dependency and domestic abuse heavily contributed to becoming a social worker. Many Social Workers are like me. They come into this field after experiencing trauma, overcoming it and wanting to help others. Other inspirations came from my brother’s mother being a foster carer for many years and watching how much she gave back to society in what she did for a living. Other factors were that I wanted to break the cycle for the females in my maternal family. None of the women in my family have a degree, unless you count my grandmother who’s vocation was nursing. I wanted a degree and I wanted to prove to my children that no matter what, don’t give up. Aged 42 and four children aged 26, 22, 17 and 9 and a granddaughter later, I am now qualified and l will be starting my first role in my field.
As a WoC working in a sector that deals with copious amounts of trauma, how do you take care of your mental and emotional wellbeing?
Each social work role is different. Child protection is probably where you may experience increased levels of the aftermath of trauma when safeguarding a child. Other roles such as youth offending officer and dual diagnosis care such as substance misuse and mental health worker, again may witness the aftermath of self-harm. Either way it still heavily depends on an individuals strength and resilience and how they take care of themselves.
As a social worker we are entitled to supervision time with an advanced practitioner or manager within the team that is assigned to you. This supervision time is a space where you can discuss your caseload and any concerns you may have. This time can also be used to develop your analytical skills and relating your practice to evidence-based theories, models of practice and ensuring that your decision making is child or person centred and is in the best interests of the client.
Your charity Don’t Touch Me! I Survived focuses on providing not only a safe space for WoC who have experienced domestic violence/abuse, but it also gives them permission and resources to put themselves first. Why did you decided to become an advocate within this sector?
Creating Don’t Touch Me! I Survived first came about from beginning my podcast to break the taboo of speaking about domestic abuse in Black communities. Also to raise awareness on the journey from surviving to thriving. Domestic abuse and historical abuse is still a very taboo subject in Black communities with huge amounts of misinformation, silence, intergenerational trauma, not enough help-seeking services that recognise the needs of Black women and the blame narrative.
Historically within literature about enslavement of black people, the atrocities that were inflicted upon our ancestors has trickled down in us generation after generation. Speaking up about domestic abuse as a Black woman helps other Black women know that they are not alone and that there can be a better life after trauma.
What does self-care look/feel like to you?
For me personally, ongoing therapy, meditation and regular exercise. Being kind to myself and rewarding myself when I have achieved a new goal. Long baths with scented candles, long walks and positive affirmations. I have spent my entire life in hypervigilence mode and the anxiety from it would cripple me to the point of not eating. So being strict with exercising and meditation has helped reduce a lot of my anxiety.
What 3 things would you say to your younger self, knowing what you know now?
Believe in yourself, go after your dreams and read as many books as you can.
Which WoC inspires you the most and why?
Kandi Buruss because of her business ethic and how she accomplished all she did as a single mother before marrying Todd. Underneath all that professionalism there is also a certified freak.
What advice would you give to WoC who are currently in a domestic abusive relationship?
It can be very difficult to make that first help-seeking step as women are encouraged to flee abuse and leave everything that they have ever known such as their home and personal belongings. This can be difficult for children too. I would advise women to make a safety plan ahead of beginning their help-seeking journey. In that safety plan, there should be one friend or family member that you trust and that you can use as a haven for your children if you have any and that can hold onto your safety plan to ensure it cannot be found by the perpetrator.
Ensure that you include the children’s school in the safety plan and let them know of your intentions to begin seeking help. This can assist in preventing the school in calling the father of the children if they have not turned up to school because the woman has fled to safety in a refuge. Make contact with a domestic abuse organisation for further advice and support in reaching safety.
If you are experiencing an imminent threat, call 999 in the first instance.
If you could change one law pertaining to your current field of work, what would it be?
That domestic abuse be managed by a multi-agency organisation where social workers for children and adults are all in one building, inclusive of specialist trained professionals who have experience of working with women who have been sexually assaulted or abused. Linked services with domestic abuse charities and survivor-led group and individual therapy. A surviving to thriving plan that incorporates the next steps for women in relation to housing, employment, education and training and financial support in the form of grants for the next steps in their lives.
Therapy for children also and family group therapy to build back lost parenting capacity due to experiencing abuse. Designated female police officers or specialist domestic violence advisors to attend all reports of incidents with domestic abuse where possible. Meaning, police stations should have links with an emergency call out hub that has equipped professionals that can attend the scene or are given notification of the intended call out.
What does sisterhood mean to you? What does an ideal “sista” look like?
Sisterhood is being in a circle of women that are supportive in your wins and your losses. A place where non-judgement and acceptance of differences is normalised. An ideal sista to me is just a woman that see’s herself and knows her worth and knows that she is enough.
What affirmation or quote would you like to share with your fellow sistas?
Everything you want in life sits on the other side of fear. Do not fear change, fear what you may become if you don’t challenge your fears.
To connect with Marcella for more information about her charity Don’t Touch Me! I Survived you can email her on firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter by clicking here.
To listen to the Don’t Touch Me! I Survived podcast click here.