Emory Report
September 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 3



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8, 2008
A voice for women

By Dana Goldman

Over her 51 years, Roslyn Sledge has been many things to many people: a survivor of abuse and single mother to her four kids, a straight-A student and college drop-out, an advocate for victims of domestic violence and, for the last two years, special project coordinator at the Center for Women at Emory.

Now, Sledge is being named one of AARP’s Remarkable People for her dedication to empowering women. She’ll soon share some of her story on TV One, an African American-owned cable TV channel, and its Web site www.tvoneonline.com.

Her response? “I’m just an average woman,” she says. “I’m not remarkable.”

The facts don’t bear out that story. Nineteen years ago, Sledge had just escaped an abusive relationship, and was on her own with her kids, who ranged from preschoolers to early teens. She’d graduated from an associate’s degree program with honors, and was determined to finish her degree while working full-time and caring for her children.

Her new job, as a counselor at a domestic violence agency, was great, as were her grades at the University of California, Berkeley. But combined with parenting, her schedule was too much, and she left Berkeley. “If I had been the type of student who’d settle for C’s, I’d have stayed in school,” she says now. “But I decided to focus on my family — and, by then, I had found out I had a passion for helping women.”

That passion for supporting women came out of her own new sense of empowerment. “Abuse is a slow process that steals and distorts your image of yourself,” says Sledge. “Once I knew there was nothing wrong with me that was causing my abuse, that made me able to show other women that abuse wasn’t their fault. I wanted them to understand it doesn’t matter what you said or what you did. There’s no excuse for the abuse.”

Despite the horror stories she heard from other women, Sledge found victim advocacy could be educational — and positive. “You can get so sucked into the sadness with people who don’t see hope. But I pictured the women in situations different than what they were in: happy and successful. I saw hope for them.”

Her clients, in turn, saw something special in Sledge. “They had more confidence in me than I had in myself,” she says. “It was life changing. I looked at the things I had been through so differently. I had never looked at myself as a strong person. But I saw strength in these other women and they saw the strength in me. The strength was already in me.”

Following many years of working with women, Sledge decided to try something new. She began a clerical job at New York’s Stony Brook University, in the division of lab animal research. The work itself didn’t excite her passions like domestic violence advocacy, but she loved working in higher education. That led her to look on Emory’s Web site for jobs when she moved to Atlanta a few years ago. The position in the Center for Women sounded perfect — and, she says, it’s lived up to her hopes.

After all, Sledge may not consider herself remarkable, but she doesn’t hesitate to use that word about others here at Emory.

“The women that come through the Center for Women are remarkable,” says Sledge. “I’m surrounded by remarkable women every day. They’re women standing up for the causes of other women, making sure one day women all over know what equality really means.”

Their inspiration has led her to do something she hasn’t done in 15 years: start working again toward her college degree. This semester she’s taking a class at Emory, with a different perspective than the last time she was in school. “My priority is to be happy, take care of myself, live life to the fullest, and enjoy being 50-plus and single. If that happens to mean I’ll have a few C’s on my transcript, so be it!”

After all, she says, “I’m doing this for me.” And, always positive: “It’s going to be great.”