Saturday, February 25, 2017

Survivor Jailed After Filing Protection Order

By Michelle Polek

A woman who is also an undocumented immigrant was recently arrested in El Paso, Texas. The impetus for her arrest? She had been seeking a protection order to keep herself safe from her abuser. The survivor’s lawyer noted that it was very possible that the woman’s abuser had provided the tip to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that she would be in the courtroom that day.

When I read about this for the first time, the words swirled in front of me. My stomach dropped. Anger and helplessness swelled on behalf of all the program participants we work with: the survivors who are navigating fear of the immigration system on top of the daily trauma that violence brings.      
Domestic violence is an issue that affects all communities. The intersection of domestic violence and immigration status, however, creates additional obstacles for survivors – and more tools for abusers
to exploit.

Threats and intimidation around deportation are ugly but coldly effective ways that abusers hold power over survivors. If the abuser has legal status and is a survivor’s only means to obtaining status, abusers may withdraw or threaten to withdraw that support. Survivors are often isolated in their new country without a support network, and other immigrants in the community may fear becoming involved with helping survivors – threats of deportation can extend to them and their families, too. Regardless of their own legal status, abusers may threaten to report undocumented survivors to ICE, creating a climate of fear that at any moment, the survivor might be arrested and deported. And abusers often triumphantly keep their children.

The children of survivors also suffer when the threat of deportation is so tangible. They may themselves be undocumented and included in the abuser’s threats of deportation. They may be living daily with the anxiety that at any moment, their parent will be taken away.

There’s no reference to children in the El Paso arrest. However, this survivor has another important layer of oppression to her experience: she is a transgender woman. I mention this aspect of her identity because it is important to recognize that transgender women (particularly transgender women of color) experience violence at a disproportionate rate, including in their relationships. In 2012, 14 percent of all victims of domestic violence homicides were transgender women of color.

I am grieving the fact that, in this moment, I feel that I can’t ethically encourage undocumented survivors to seek protection orders as a way to stay safer. This arrest has created a wave of fear that is echoing across families and networks of survivors and communities with undocumented loved ones. When we make conditions unsafe for survivors to report violence, we are empowering the people who are perpetrating that violence. We are sending a clear message to survivors that their safety is not a priority to us.
This is unacceptable.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, SafeChoice is here to help. Our hotline is available 24/7 at 360-695-0501. You can walk into our community office (located at 3609 Main Street) to meet with an advocate from Monday-Friday, 9am-3pm. All of our advocates have immediate access to translators over the phone. We also have a Spanish bilingual advocate, Beatriz Velasquez, who can be reached at 360-906-9148.

Decline to Sign on I-1552

by De Stewart

Community wellness and safety depends on us protecting the most vulnerable members of our society, those who experience the highest levels of discrimination. For this reason, Washington state has had anti-discrimination laws in place for over 10 years.

A vocal minority wants to overturn our anti-discrimination laws, claiming people will “pose” as transgender to attack women in public restrooms, yet there has never been a reported instance of this happening. However, there are many documented instances of transgender individuals being bullied
and physically harmed in public restrooms.

It is already illegal to use a public restroom for the purpose of peeping, stalking or sexual assault. YWCA Clark County, Washington State Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, and the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence oppose the initiative, stating it will make restrooms less safe for all.

Privacy is another concern. Privacy is important to everyone, and it can be obtained by closing the door to a stall or installing curtains on showers. Opponents of equality prey on fear to justify discrimination against transgender community members; our family members, classmates, friends, and co-workers.

Action: You can reject I-1552 when you sign petitions such as the one at stating that you decline to support any measure that would threaten anti-discrimination laws.

Accepting Nominations

Nominations are being accepted until May 5th, 2017 for the  Val Joshua Racial Justice Award and Youth Social Justice Award. These awards are presented annually to those who have demonstrated leadership working toward eliminating racism and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people.

The Val Joshua Award was originally given to Val Joshua in 1989 to recognize her life-long commitment and work toward eliminating racism. Honorees will receive a distinguished award and the Youth Social Justice Award recipient will be given a $500 scholarship. A community celebration will be held to honor the recipients on June 7th, 2017.

For more information and to nominate someone today, visit: or call Stephanie at 360-906-9143.