Many people never discover their true life calling, but it’s safe to say that Gayle Guest-Brown has found hers.
After an extensive three-month search, Guest-Brown was selected by the board of directors of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition to be the organization’s new executive director. Guest-Brown came on board Oct. 29 and replaced Niko Johnson, who moved to Germany with her husband and children.
“This is truly my mission, my passion,” said Guest-Brown. “I immediately connected with the vision of DVSAC — a community united for the peace and justice for the safety and well-being of every individual.”
Now living in Roseville, Guest-Brown has been working as an advocate, educator and speaker in domestic violence intervention and prevention in the Sacramento area for more than 10 years. She has founded and managed several prevention campaigns in collaboration with the faith community, including “From Bruised and Battered to Blessed Ministries,” “Men of Integrity & Influence” and, for teens, “Mixed Blessings.”
In addition, she has presented at statewide domestic violence and sexual assault conferences. She was recently honored as a “2012 Northern California Exceptional Woman of Color” by Sacramento’s Hub Magazine.
Guest-Brown holds a master of business administration from the University of California, Davis, and a project management professional credential. After more than a decade of doing prevention work after hours, she opted to leave her successful career at Hewlett-Packard — ranked No. 10 on the Fortune 500 list — to pursue her passion for ending violence against women full time.
The DVSAC board of directors quickly recognized Guest-Brown’s business acumen as an asset to the coalition. The position requires a combination of leadership skills, financial knowledge, fundraising, public speaking and media management, as well as personnel development and management.
When it comes to victims of violence and abuse, Guest-Brown is more than an advocate — she is also a survivor. More than 15 years ago she found herself in a marriage with escalating tension. After joining a support group, she began to understand the abusive cycle she was in.
“I started to realize I was in danger,” she said. “I loved him, but I love me too — I was not going to let him destroy me. It was easier for me to get out because I was financially independent and didn’t have kids — I can understand how trapped women feel when the man is the sole breadwinner.”
That experience started her down the path to where she is today.
“Over the years, I’ve seen the abusive cycle in those around me,” Guest-Brown said. “I lost a co-worker who was being stalked. She disappeared and has never been found. These kinds of things have crossed my path many times. I was spiritually called to do this kind of work.”
She says hope lies in prevention, in teaching young people about boundaries and healthy relationships.
“We need to teach young women how to recognize abusive relationships and teach men how to share power,” said Guest-Brown, who has since remarried. “Men need to learn it’s OK to break the code, to say to other men, ‘That’s not cool. That’s not OK.’ DVSAC has one of the best prevention programs for young people. That’s where the hope is, and that’s where we can truly stop the generational curse of domestic violence.
“Once your eyes are opened, you can’t close them again.”
To contact staff writer Cory Fisher email email@example.com or call (530) 477-4203.