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!