Campus News

Speaker: Real change comes from involvement

Academics need broader reach into communities to effect real social change, Julia Perilla said at the Women and Girls in Georgia Conference held on campus.

Perilla, an associate professor of psychology at Georgia State University and community activist, was one of the keynote speakers at the conference, the first of its kind put on by the Institute for Women’s Studies.

The theme for the first year was violence, and Perilla spoke openly about her work with Latino families who have suffered through domestic abuse.

“We have the ability to do a lot of good with the tools and privileges we have, but we must be mindful and be careful so as not to re-victimize the people we are trying to help,” she said.

“We have to keep in mind when we work with immigrants or with anyone, that first we should do no harm.”

Before founding Caminar Latino (Latino Journey), a resource and counseling group for Latino women, men and children, Perilla earned a doctorate in psychology. Though she started her studies late (she didn’t begin undergraduate work until 37), she insists that what gives her authority and power within her community is her role as a mother and grandmother.

“In my community, that’s what matters,” she said.

Insights like this led her to rearrange and repackage services and shelters available to victims through her group.

“When we look at our group and realize that people are under-utilizing our resources, there is a reason why they are doing that. If a resource does not fit with someone’s worldview, they will not use it. So we must be mindful of their world views and not try to impose on them too quickly our resources or desires for them to change,” she said.