MV Times recently featured Pricila Vilaca, a domestic violence and rape crisis counselor for Connect to End Violence in the Community section of the November 18, 2021 print edition. Full article below:
When did you move to the Island?
I arrived in the United States in April 2004 and came straight to the Island because I already had family here, and I stayed here until December 2007. It was challenging at first as I did not speak English. I am very communicative, and I like to talk – it was very frustrating for me. I remember getting a mini yellow pocket dictionary and I took it wherever I went. I tried to practice as much as I could, and when I could not, I resorted to it. I became fluent in English and fell in love with the language.
I came back to the Island again in March 2018; starting over again is difficult because I now have two children who are the loves of my life, and at the beginning, I was afraid of how things would go, how they would adapt, but thank God, they adapted very quickly. I love sharing with them the privilege of living in the United States.
What is your current position?
I started working on Connect to End Violence this year. I had previously worked for Martha’s VIneyard Community Services, [and] now I am at Island Wide Youth Collaborative (IWYC), another department. After a year away from the agency, I came back to Connect. It’s been a wonderful experience working on Connect every day, and I learn something new. Program director Jen Neary is a competent woman and has been in charge of this program for several years. She is masterful in everything she does, and she supports me in everything, in all my ideas, takes away all my doubts, and always makes sure that we are all okay and my co-workers have become my friends. And it turns out that we’re all one big family, we support each other a lot, we love what we do, and for sure that’s the big secret of Connect being a successful show!
I put my heart into everything I do, give my all, and working with domestic violence is very challenging; it requires a lot mentally, psychologically, and emotionally. Even though it’s something challenging, I love it because having the feeling that you can be a balm for someone’s pain is priceless; that’s what matters at the end of the day.
My position is domestic violence and rape crisis counselor, and our mission is that they don’t feel alone, because they’re not alone. We are here to help. That’s our motto. Connect to End Violence is a dual domestic violence program and rape crisis center, offering free and confidential services to individuals who have experienced or witnessed domestic or sexual violence, as well as loved ones, friends acquaintences, or colleagues that may also be affected. Our services are available for all genders, abilities, sexual orientations, ethnicity, demographics, etc. All services, including bilinguals, are available.
You recently became a naturalized citizen. How was that experience?
Becoming an American citizen was, without a doubt, one of the most incredible experiences I have had in my life; I’ll never be able to put into words what it meant and what it still means to me. I love this country so much. There’s not a day in my life that I don’t thank God I’m here. I haven’t gotten used to it. I don’t think it’s normal. I’ve always felt honored to be here and enjoy all the best that this blessed land has to give us. I’m so grateful for the privilege of being able to live here, raise my children here. I feel at home. On the day of the citizenship ceremony, I cried so much, and I thanked God so much for the privilege of becoming an American citizen. It’s an unparalleled feeling! I prayed to God that somehow I could contribute and give back to this country.
What has been the biggest lesson for you lately?
I believe the most important lesson is about empathizing with the suffering of others; sometimes, the only thing that person wants and needs to hear is that they are not alone. I believe when we are together, our community thrives. We help the Brazilian community when we open our doors and show that regardless of your status in the country, we have no connection with immigration. We will never expose any of our clients. Everything about [MVCS’] services is highly confidential. You don’t need to suffer silently and alone, we are here to help all victims and survivors, regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, demographics, color, race, or religion.
Germani, J. (2021, November 18). Community: Brazilian Faces. MV Times, p. B4.