Thursday, October 29, 2015

Diversity in Police Force Can Aid Domestic Abuse Survivors

Interview with YWCA Bilingual Advocacy Specialist Beatriz Velasquez

We are nearing the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but our advocacy and support for survivors of domestic abuse is a year-round endeavor. At YWCA we recognize that each survivor’s story and experiences are unique, and we strive to highlight how issues like racism, heterosexism, and language barriers complicate the experience of domestic violence survivors seeking help.

 One issue that can factor into a survivor’s decision to reach out for help is whether or not they feel safe going to the police. The higher incidences of police brutality towards people of color has been at the forefront of our national discourse in particular this year, and it is one of the contributing factors towards the general mistrust of police officers by minority communities.

 One woman working with the Vancouver Police Department to improve diversity training in our own community is YWCA Clark County Bilingual Advocacy Specialist, Beatriz Velasquez. Beatriz has worked for YWCA for almost five years. In order to highlight the particular struggles faced by domestic abuse survivors in the Latino/Hispanic community, she advocates for them as a member of the Vancouver Police Department Chief’s Diversity Advisory Team (CDAT). The CDAT holds a monthly meeting where community members representing various local minority groups can share their thoughts and concerns with selected police officers, members of the Vancouver Fire Department, and representatives from the City of Vancouver’s human resources department.
Beatriz Velasquez

 Beatriz has personal experience in dealing with domestic abuse, and knows firsthand how hesitant many members of the Latino/Hispanic community are to reach out to the police. In some instances the distrust is encouraged by the abuser, telling their victims that if they call the police they will end up deported or in jail. In an interview with The Columbian earlier this year, Beatriz noted that “In my community, I can say 70 percent are afraid to make a (911) call. They worry about what will happen when an officer shows up.”

 Beatriz notes that in addition to the fear many in the Latino/Hispanic community feel towards the police, language barriers can also act as a significant roadblock in seeking help. This is an issue Beatriz has raised in her CDAT meetings, and feels positively that the Vancouver Police Department is taking her concerns seriously.

 “They are very aware of how important diversity is in the department,” she says, “ They are very open to listening to the concerns of the community, and listen very carefully when I voice my concerns. It has been a pleasure to work with them, and to see them as people who love their job, and their community.”

 This sort of unity, at the end of the day, is precisely why Beatriz continues to do the work she does, and why she is positive about the impact of the CDAT and other similar efforts in the future. “I believe that we can all be part of the solution through communication, understanding, and love for one another. We all may look different, but our intentions are the same: To make this world a better place for our loved ones.”

 Click here to read The Columbian’s full profile of the CDAT, and here for more information on domestic violence and YWCA’s SafeChoice Program.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

You're Invited to "In Her Shoes"

Join us Tuesday, October 20th to experience this free event which showcases the challenges and obstacles women in violent relationships often face. 

In addition to our ongoing efforts to raise funds for Purple Purse Challenge this October, YWCA Clark County is hosting the event “In Her Shoes” Tuesday, October 20th from 4-7pm.

 Described by our SafeChoice Program Director Stephanie Barr, "In Her Shoes" exists “to help people who have not experienced domestic violence better understand the experience of trying to survive and possibly leave an abusive relationship. It’s an interactive workshop where participants are given a true scenario and have to make choices about how to move forward with their lives.”

 Four different versions will be held with each staggered so that a different version begins every 15 or 20 minutes. YWCA offers each version, original, immigrant (offered in English and Spanish), teen and economic justice, in part to address the nuances and specific obstacles faced by domestic abuse survivors.

 “Each survivor has a unique story to tell,” notes Barr. “We think that even people who are familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence can learn something by stepping into the shoes of someone who may have faced barriers because of their age, country of origin, native language, sexual orientation, or economic status. There is so much to understand about the ways that other forms of oppression, such as racism and heterosexism, complicate the experience of domestic violence survivors who are trying to get help that truly meets their needs.”

 One of YWCA Clark County’s main goals in addressing domestic violence is to encourage our community to feel engaged and informed on how they can support survivors. The exercises and scenarios presented at "In Her Shoes" aim to do just that.

 Please consider joining us for this free and enlightening event this coming Tuesday, October 20th, and spread the word to family and friends on social media. Hope to see you all there!

Click here to open an "In Her Shoes" flyer containing all important information about the workshop.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Join the Purple Purse Challenge!

Help us Fundraise for Victims and Survivors of Domestic Violence through the Month of October. 

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and part of YWCA Clark County’s mission during this time is to bring attention to and get involved with powerful and worthwhile campaigns and events that need support. One such campaign is The Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse.

Aimed at “creating long-term safety and security for survivors through financial empowerment”, last year’s campaign drew over 140 community partners together in support of Purple Purse through fundraising from CrowdRise. In total, $2,500,000 was raised to help give survivors of domestic violence the financial knowledge, skills, and resources they need to escape the cycle of abuse.

One of the most common questions poised to survivors of domestic violence is “Why stay?” While the answers are complicated and different for each survivor, one of the top reasons women stay in abusive relationships is that they simply do not have the financial means to break free. According to The Allstate Foundation’s website, 98% of all domestic violence cases involve some sort of financial abuse.

Financial abuse can take on several different forms, but the main goal for the abuser is to isolate their spouse or partner from accessing financial independence, whether that involves preventing them from accessing banks or credit cards, monitoring their partner’s spending habits, restricting transportation, or impeding the ability of their partner to find employment.

This is exactly why one of the main goals of The Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse is to help domestic abuse survivors better understand and have access to their own financial resources.

This year, YWCA Clark County is proud to be one of over 160 nonprofits joining in the challenge. All the funds we raise will be used to provide survivors with advocates who help with safety planning, housing, employment, childcare and other critical services to ensure a safer future for the entire family.

Click here to donate through YWCA’s Crowdrise page. The person who raises the most money for our SafeChoice program will win an actual purple purse designed by award winning actress and Purple Purse spokeswoman Kerry Washington!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Join Us for Give More 24: September 24th, 2015

YWCA Clark County is happy to once again be partnering with Give More 24, a regional 24 hour online giving challenge organized by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington (CFSWW). This year the event will begin Thursday, September 24th at exactly 12AM and continue throughout the day.

Last year, through the generosity of our community, we were able to raise $2,514, and won an additional “Happy Hour” bonus from CFSWW for recruiting the most new donors from 5-7pm on the giving day. That’s a total of $3,514 that was able to be put towards YWCA’s mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

This year, we’re aiming higher, and hope that with your support we can reach $5,000 by the end of the giving day. So mark your calendars, and plan to give more to help women, children and families escaping domestic violence. Give more to provide advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, and support abused and neglected children in the court system. Our outreach is only as powerful as the support we receive from our community. Give more to help us achieve more.

If you haven’t already, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates, and to help spread the word on Give More 24 to friends and family. Together we can make September 24th a day to remember!


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Interview with "Girls on the Run" Founder Molly Barker

Empowerment, at its core, is about making people aware of their value. It’s about providing the skills, knowledge, and belief to people that they can handle and overcome whatever life hands them, and it is essential to the mission of YWCA Clark County.
Molly Barker

At YWCA’s upcoming 2015 Annual Empower Luncheon, we’re recognizing the work of guest speaker Molly Barker, founder of Girls on the Run. Molly was kind enough to take the time before the event, and answer a few questions about her work and the importance of empowering young girls both physically and emotionally:

Q: What inspired you to start Girls on the Run in 1996? What had you been doing previously?

Prior to Girls on the Run I held a number of jobs, all working with youth. I was also doing my best to figure out who I was. After years of struggling with my own feelings of self-worth and then witnessing the struggle young girls were going through, I decided to start Girls on the Run.

Q: How does Girls on the Run integrate building both the physical and emotional abilities of young girls?

Each lesson creatively integrates physical activity with games and lessons that focus on any number of tools and skill sets that girls can use to stand up for themselves, and stay true to who they are. The games are fun, engaging and physically active.

Q: What about physical activity, or running in particular helps girls to feel empowered and capable?

I've been a runner since I was 14. While running didn't save me from some of the struggles I encountered in adolescence and young adulthood, it did and still does provide a space in my day where I feel the most empowered physically. Running also provides a space in my day where I can just be unencumbered by stress. I just breathe, listen to my feet on the pavement or path. It's a spiritual sanctuary in a way.

Q: Why the focus on girls in 3rd-8th grade?

3rd to 5th grade girls are moving into abstract thinking. Life becomes a bit more confusing. The notion of absolute "right" and absolute "wrong" gets fuzzy. Girls on the Run wants to reach girls in this critical stage of development, so they have the tools to navigate these "grey" areas of life with a sense of confidence and self-awareness. Our program for 6th through 8th grade further enhances these skills, but puts a great deal of emphasis on having the girls lead the conversations and lessons. They can take on leadership roles and apply what they learn in real life situations.

Q: In what ways does Girls on the Run emphasize relationship building and teamwork? Do you feel those skills are particularly important for school aged girls to learn, in comparison to other demographics?

I think these skills are important for all people! However, developing these skills at an early age makes it easier to hold onto them as we grow up into empowered adults.

Q: What is your proudest moment from Girls on the Run?

It was watching my own teenaged daughter coach the program. She wasn't even born when I started Girls on the Run. The joy in her eyes and the joy in the girls’ eyes was something I will never ever forget.

Q: What are you looking forward to about speaking at YWCA’s Empower Luncheon?

I love speaking and meeting new people. I love the mission of the YWCA. I love hearing the stories of empowered girls and women.There is too much good here to list!

Q: Can you tell me a little about your new organization The Red Boot Coalition?

The Red Boot Coalition addresses the current heightened level of "us versus them" so prevalent in our country today. The program, led by trained guides, creates places where people listen with compassion and share with vulnerability, and by doing so create a new conversation where solutions are found and people feel safe, connected and loved.

Thanks again to Molly for answering our questions with such insight and enthusiasm. If you’re interested in hearing Molly speak or learning more about YWCA’s Empower Luncheon on September 16th, click here. Registration closes September 8th.

Monday, August 17, 2015

YWCA Congratulates Lauren Sheridan

We’d like to congratulate our SafeChoice Volunteer Support and Advocacy Specialist, Lauren Sheridan for receiving a scholarship from YWCA USA to attend the World YWCA Quadrennial Council meeting this October in Bangkok, Thailand!

Organized every four years, the World YWCA Council is the largest gathering of YWCA members from around the world. According to World YWCA Council’s website the event promises to be, “a collectively empowering environment for the 600-800 women expected to take part from over 100 countries. It is a place of celebration of women’s leadership and of building vision for the future.”

Adds SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program Director, Stephanie Barr, “It is a time for membership engagement, decision-making, reflections, and networking. Lauren will be an excellent ambassador for YWCA Clark County and YWCA USA.”

The selection process was highly competitive, with Lauren earning only one of six scholarships awarded by the YWCA USA Board of Directors.

We again congratulate Lauren on her achievement, and look forward to hearing about her experiences in Thailand later this year!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Why I Volunteer for YWCA Clark County

Rachel Pinsky (left) with YWCA Clark County Volunteer Coordinator Nichole Peppers (right).

By Rachel Pinsky, YWCA Clark County Volunteer

I moved to Vancouver a couple of years ago. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity to do some good work, meet people, and get to know the community. In the past, I have assisted survivors of domestic violence, which is what initially led me to YWCA Clark County. When I found YWCA’s website, I was amazed at all their programs. There is a domestic violence shelter and advocacy services, counseling for survivors of sexual assault, a child care program for low-income families, a court appointed special advocate program that assists children who have been abused and/or neglected, and an independent living skills program for children aging out of the foster care system.

My background is working directly with survivors of domestic violence; however, my schedule was not conducive to doing the training necessary to provide that kind of direct service. I worked with the volunteer coordinator, and she found a place for me in the Philanthropy Department. I had never worked in fundraising, but I knew this was a vital part of a non-profit agency, and I was eager to learn develop new skills. I have volunteered in the Philanthropy Department for two years. I have learned a lot about organizing and setting up events, procuring auction items, and all the things that go into successful fundraising. The director and staff of the Philanthropy Department have done an excellent job of finding interesting tasks for me. I also enjoy the way they work together as a team.

My schedule recently became more flexible and I went through the training to be a SafeChoice volunteer. The SafeChoice training was fascinating. I learned about the dynamics of domestic violence, empowerment-based advocacy, and many other things. Since completing the training, I am learning to be a court advocate for survivors seeking a restraining order.

There are many things I love about volunteering at the YWCA Clark County. It is a warm, supportive environment. The people that work there love their jobs and work together as a team. In addition, there are so many volunteer opportunities that it allows volunteers to learn and grow while they are helping others. I highly recommend contacting the volunteer coordinator, Nichole Peppers. She is a great person to work with and she will find you a volunteer position that fits with your schedule and your interests. I also encourage potential volunteers to try different types of work within the organization —YWCA Clark County does so many great things. It is interesting to try them all so you can find your true calling.

For more information about volunteer opportunities at YWCA Clark County please contact Nichole Peppers at 360-906-9112 or The next training cycle begins September 3rd.