Editor’s Note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we are a proud sponsor of Courage Connection’s Grease Sing-a-long benefit event. Today, we introduce you to Carmen Davis Kirby, who proudly serves on Courage Connection’s Board of Directors.
Carmen is a lifelong resident of Champaign County, co-owner and VP of T. Davis Electric Inc., and owner of Bella Mia Boutique. After decades of successful entrepreneurial ventures, community activism, and raising three children (now adults), Carmen is focusing her energies on the pervasive social issues of Domestic Violence and Homelessness in Champaign County. An alumna of Parkland College and longtime Junior League member, fundraiser, and supporter, Carmen is devoted to offering her retail/marketing experience and business management expertise to provide support to the homeless and victims of Domestic Violence right here in Champaign County.
See why we think Carmen Davis Kirby is a Chambana Mom to Know.
Q: Why is the issue of domestic violence important to you?
My daughter was a victim of Domestic Violence, and she is a survivor of Domestic Violence. Seeing my child hurt to her core and experiencing firsthand both the damage DV can cause, as well as the amazing healing and changing that can take place, has changed my life, my family, and my purpose.
Q: What does the name Courage Connection mean to you?
The name is really a testament to the strength of Domestic Violence victims and their advocates. It takes courage to leave an abuser and it really does require connections, too. Courage Connection helps victims find their strength and offers women connections to assistance they need immediately and desperately — whether it’s helping them file for an Order of Protection, making a plan to leave, or with short or long-term housing.
Q: How can family members and friends support someone who is in an abusive relationship?
Offer support without judgement. I can’t stress this enough. From the outside, it is very easy to see what you think should be done, but blurting that out and putting that pressure on someone who is being abused is simply going to make them feel criticized and judged by one more person in their life. Be direct and keep it simple, and make sure they know that you love them unconditionally. Be prepared to do this repeatedly until they are ready to make a change. (“I hate to see you hurt like this and I want to help. No matter what you decide, I love you and am here for you.”)
Q: What is one thing you wish every mother knew about teens and domestic violence?
I wish every mother knew how many other mothers there are who’ve faced this. We know that Domestic Violence isolates victims, but it also isolates their loved ones in a way. You don’t go to work and say, “Oh, last night my daughter was hurt by her boyfriend,” but people will talk about cancer, eating disorders, or even addictions — things that we didn’t used to discuss openly as a society. I hope we start talking about DV more openly so that other mothers know there is hope and help.
Q: As a “serial” entrepreneur – what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur?
Jump in. Learn along the way. Yes, planning is important, but passion is critical because when you love what you do, it isn’t really a job.
Q: What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family-owned business?
The biggest benefit is definitely working alongside my family and being able to see them daily. We all share the same values and work ethic, and that’s a bond that not everyone gets to share with their family. That’s my favorite part. Unfortunately, because we see each other at the office every day, we sometimes carry work with us outside of work — we need to try to carve out times that are just about family and let go of the business talk once in awhile.
Q: As a “veteran” mom – what one piece of advice would you give to the younger mothers reading this?
LISTEN to your kids. When they want to talk, drop everything and listen. I have two 21-year-old daughters and a soon-to-be 26-year-old son, but I still leave my cell phone on 24/7 and get texts/calls from them at all hours of the night. Late night conversations seem to be when they open up now (when they were younger, it was always in the car), and I want to be available when they want and need to talk about issues/situations that are important to them.
Q: What’s your favorite way to spend time with your kids?
Since my children are adults (my daughters are seniors in college and my son just left for the Army) and do not live at home, my favorite way to spend time with them is absolutely any way at all. Every second they are home, my schedule becomes all about them. We love cooking together, going to our lake house, hanging out with family and friends at our pool, watching movies and just being together.
Carmen Davis Kirby was nominated to be a Chambana mom to know. Nominate a mom to know today!