Tuesday, June 30, 2015

LGBTQ Advocacy and Support at YWCA Clark County

Like so many across the country, YWCA of Clark County rejoiced in Friday’s SCOTUS decision declaring a constitutional right to marriage equality across the country. We’ve long embraced diversity, and stood for the fair and equal treatment of our LGBTQ citizens.

While we see this victory as monumental, we know the fight for full equality continues, and vow to stay vigilant in our advocacy and support. One way we do that is by making sure LGBTQ people always feel welcome, safe, and respected at YWCA of Clark County.

We reached out to Ariella Frishberg our Domestic Violence Prevention, Outreach, and Advocacy Specialist to help highlight the ways in which YWCA provides a safe space for our LGBTQ citizens of Clark County.

On YWCA’s staff dedication to equality:

AF: All of our advocates are trained on how LGBTQ folk are affected by domestic violence, so we are all equally able to assist an individual who identifies within that umbrella. As the LGBTQ advocate, I teach the trainings on domestic violence in the LGBTQ community, and work with other colleagues to make sure our services are as inclusive and welcoming as possible. I am also able to focus some of the outreach I do to the LGBTQ community specifically, by organizing YWCA’s involvement with Pride and presenting at local gay-straight alliances.
On our LGBTQ Community and Domestic Violence training:
AF: During our volunteer training cycle we have a three hour training devoted to domestic violence and marginalized communities. An hour of this training focuses on how domestic violence manifests in the LGBTQ community. In the training, volunteers and new staff are acquainted with vocabulary they may not be familiar with and introduced to some of the extra challenges and obstacles that LGBTQ survivors of violence face.
On some of the specific obstacles faced by LGBTQ survivors of abuse:
AF: There are a lot of reasons why someone might not leave an abusive relationship, and when you come from a marginalized community those reasons can be compounded by the oppression you already face. Examples are an abuser threatening to out the victim to friends or family if they leave, fear of not receiving services at domestic violence agencies because of their gender or sexuality, fear of isolation from an already small, very connected community, and fewer support networks to fall back on if they come from a family that isn’t accepting.
On our gender inclusive SafeChoice Domestic Violence Shelter:
AF: Gender inclusive shelters are becoming more common, but we are still the only one in Southwest Washington. One of the things that changed when the shelter became inclusive was that we have advocates on staff 24 hours a day, instead of just during the day. We also adapted the shelter so that each participant has their own room, instead of participants sharing rooms. One of the first things participants agree to when they come into shelter is an understanding that the shelter is gender inclusive and that we do not tolerate discriminatory language and behavior. Because staff are there at all times, participants are able to come to the advocacy office for support if a problem does arise. It’s important to us that everyone feel safe at our shelter.
Many thanks to Ariella for sharing her insight, and for being a powerful advocate for everyone who walks through YWCA’s doors!

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