When Alejandra Castillo stepped into the role of CEO for the YWCA last month, she made it her mission to be about action.

“We have to understand in order to make changes in our community we have to be focused on policy, program, and budgets. All of this impacts the way our communities receive the type of support that they need and the way they impact on the individual level,”  says Castillo in an exclusive interview with theGrio.

Castillo is leading the charge in not only spreading the word about aid for those suffering from domestic violence, but also pushing for help from legislators on Capitol Hill.

“We are not just talking about [these issues], we have been advocates on the Hill proposing legislation, advocating the reauthorization of specific legislation that supports elimination of violence against women, but we also want to make sure that the appropriation dollars are there to support these programs,” said Castillo.

The former White House advisor is working hard to bring awareness of domestic violence, an often unspoken of or overlooked issue that affects one in three women, front and center.

“One of the first things we must do when we are addressing domestic violence is to pull it out of the shadows to be able to talk about it,” says Castillo.  “To give women the understanding they are supported, there are resources out there, they are not alone so they are not silent.”

“The shame of speaking about a partner or someone you know can lead to these situations where you find these casualties, and it is so heart wrenching, because it is not just the death of a woman; it is also the death of a sister, of a mother, of a daughter, of a community leader, of a friend.”

Castillo’s passion to help others doesn’t stop with domestic violence awareness. She is also dedicated in fighting against racism. As the first Latina CEO of the YWCA, Castillo says it’s one of the organization’s greatest missions.

“The YWCA has two specific missions: elimination of racism, and empowerment of women. I can’t think of two missions that are most paramount; particularly where we will found ourselves as a nation,” she says.

The responsibility to reduce the number of women and children suffering from domestic violence doesn’t fall on the victims and organizations dedicated to assisting them solely. It is imperative that society step in as well. 

“The way to support your local YWCA is volunteering- that will be the first step,” says Castillo. 

“The second step is being engaged with the operations of the YWCA. The third step is donating, but more importantly it is letting people know that we exist. We are here to serve the community.”

Support and talking to family and friends about what to do if someone they know may be suffering from domestic violence can also help in the fight to end this type of abuse.

“Our 215 associations will be very engaged in our Week Without Violence,” says Castillo.  “You will see a lot of events happening, gatherings, support groups. Most importantly, have these conversations a home. This should be a conversation that we are not ashamed of having among our family and friends.”

To find out you can donate, volunteer, or receive help from the YWCA click here.