Interview with Ann Kita: YWCA Director of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services

Ann Kita is the Director of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services at YWCA of Greater Flint.  She has over 20 years of experience working in complicated systems involving children, family, and victims of crime. Kita is killed in Mediation/Conflict Resolution, Strengthen Based Interventions, Community Collaboration, Systems Change, Program Development & Outcome Evaluation, Staff Development, & Grant Writing. She is also an expert Witness in Domestic Violence (Intimate Partner Violence) and an Adjunct Professor at Saginaw Valley State University.

Below is our interview with her in honor of and to raise awareness of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Q: How did you get your start in the field?  

A: With a Bachelor’s degree, I began my professional career working as a foster care worker, then gained employment through the Genesee County Friend of the Court as an enforcement officer, parenting time specialist and a custody evaluator. After about 10 years of professional experience, I decided to get a Masters Degree in counseling.  I was in a stage of my life that after graduating with my Masters I chose to stay home with my children for about 7 years.  When it came time for me to enter back into the work force – I applied to the YWCA and was hired as an Outreach Counselor for the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS). Since 2011, I was promoted to Crisis Counseling & Outreach Coordinator and then as of October 2018 – I was promoted to the Director of DVSAS 

Q: What made you choose this field? What about it drew you to it? 

A: Honestly, I did not search to serve this population.  For the little knowledge I gained in school and other professional trainings prior to working at the YWCA, I found it very difficult to understand survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. With specific training (focus of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault) and working with survivors, this is a population that is not understood by general society.  I am very honored to advocate on their behalf. 

Q: What are your overall job responsibilities? 

A: My overall job responsibility is to assure that the services offered to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are applied in a client centered approach through staff, ranging from Residential Advocates assisting survivors in Safehouse, Victim Advocates and Counselors/Therapists.  This is done through best practices: policy and procedures to ensure the confidentiality of the survivors are upheld, and to inquire change where change is needed in systems that victim blame and/or do not focus on survivor centered perspectives. 

Q: How do you deal with some of the more troubling or extreme situations?  

A: I am very thankful for staff, my leadership team and my CEO who guide and provide a safe space for me to debrief.  In addition, I am extremely thankful for my husband and my three children who give me great joy.  I make sure no matter what time it is in the evening – as a family we sit down to dinner together and connect.  We love sports, and just spending time together!  This is my blessing- my family!!

Q: How do you provide peace for the victims?  

A: I believe them, no matter what!  I support them, no matter what!  

Q: What do you recommend victims do after what happens to them? What should their first step be?  

A: I hope and pray they know that they have emotional support from the YWCA.  We cannot promise anything, but understanding that we never to know what it is like to walk in their shoes, we understand the dynamics of the violence; we can offer a safe environment allowing them to be empowered in gaining how they prefer to live again. 

Q: How can people, such as family and friends, provide support to the victim so that they feel safe? 

A: Family and friends are a blessing.  A lot of times, the assailant has maneuvered family and friends to give up on the victim.  So when family and friends are still willing to be involved to help the victim, the best practice they can do is to remain patient.  As difficult as that is, in my opinion, that is best.  A victim/survivor needs to make their own decisions and a majority of the time, it is not the decision a family member or a friend would want for the survivor.  Family and friends want to fix the problem.  I offer to family and friends, domestic violence is an intimate relationship that took time to get into and now it will take time to get out of it. There are a lot of emotions going on, and the assailant is not a “monster 24/7”. A part of leaving the relationship is grieving the loss of the relationship that it did not turn out the way the survivor thought it was going to turn out.  In addition, when in doubt from a family or friend perspective, I advise for them to have the survivor connect with the YWCA! Family and friends are eligible to gain emotional supportive services ( they are secondary victims).  Domestic Violence/ Sexual Assault does not hold any boundaries — this type of violence is a community issue. 

Q: What are your involvements with the court? 

A: The YWCA is blessed to have victim advocates located with in the Genesee County District and Circuit Court systems.  They work with law enforcement, Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, prosecuting attorneys and with court advocates to assure that survivors are receiving all the support they deserve.  

Q: What do you hope the next coming years bring for progress in your field (ex, women’s rights)?  

A: When a survivor of intimate partner violence (domestic violence) and or sexual assault (no matter what age of the survivor) – ALL systems ( medical, law enforcement, schools, courts, etc… ) recognize the complexity as to why a survivor reacts, responds and believes what they believe. Genesee County has a lot to be proud of:  we have fabulous community partners. We have established the Genesee County Sexual Assault Response Team and I am very hopeful that Genesee County will eventually have in the near future a domestic violence court.