In the spring of 2012, Kemi Mustapha, a staff member of Bay Area Legal Aid (BALA), contacted W.O.M.A.N., Inc. about a project she was working on. Kemi noticed that, even though Africans and African-Americans participated in all of BALA’s legal programs, only a small number of survivors from these communities used BALA’s domestic violence services. As we know, domestic violence occurs in all communities regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic class, immigration status, sexual orientation, religion, and level of education. So Kemi decided to organize an inter-agency discussion around this issue. This is how the Domestic Violence Services for African and African-American Survivors Workgroup was created in July 2012.
W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s Latina Program Manager, Paola Souto, participates in these meetings organized by BALA, along with the Riley Center, the SF Domestic Violence Consortium, Glide, the Survivor Empowerment Project of the Sheriff’s Department, Victim Services at SF District Attorney, and the Bayview/Hunter’s Point Community Center.
The objective of the workgroup is to improve access to domestic violence services for African and African-American survivors in the Bay Area, taking into account the unique obstacles faced by these communities, such as institutional oppression, racism, and lack of specific resources and agencies.
To accomplish this objective, the group developed a series of steps, starting with a BALA outreach campaign targeting the African and African-American populations. The idea was to help survivors from these communities feel more comfortable accessing domestic violence-related services at different agencies. With the input of the workgroup, Kemi created an outreach flyer and started holding legal clinics at the YMCA – Bayview, where survivors can receive pro-bono legal advice around issues of domestic violence. The location was selected after researching places where these populations were already receiving services or attending events. In addition to the Bayview, Kemi is planning on holding legal clinics at Glide too.
Another of these steps was to help Kemi organize focus groups with African and African-American survivors in January 2013. This was a key part of the project, as Kemi wanted to get feedback directly from people within these populations who have (or haven’t) accessed services at anti-domestic violence agencies. The focus groups were successful in providing Kemi with more information about what survivors might want and need, and their perspectives on domestic violence in their communities.
After analyzing the findings of the focus groups, the workgroup came up with an action plan, which included training Domestic Violence advocates to work with African and African-American survivors. This is what led Kemi to our agency last month to meet with Lily Krutel, W.O.M.A.N., Inc.’s Community Development Manager, Paola Souto, and Jenny McKenzie, the Riley Center’s Community Office Program Manager. We discussed different ways of improving the services of our agencies to better meet the needs of African and African-American survivors. It was a productive meeting and we scheduled an on-going education session at W.O.M.A.N., Inc. for our volunteers and a training for W.O.M.A.N., Inc. staff and MFT Interns and Trainees. Kemi will provide training for Riley Center’s staff also, and Lily and Jenny will discuss the possibility of Kemi participating in a panel with the Community Learning Collective of which they are both organizing members.
Other item in the workgroup’s action plan is to bring domestic violence service providers, different organizations, and community members together to start a dialogue about needs and services available. The workgroup is considering the possibility of participating in different community events where African and African-Americans will likely be present, such as the Community Fair and the Family Connect, both in the Bayview, where anti-domestic violence agencies could share information about their services and offer workshops. We are also planning on offering presentations and workshops at community centers, schools, and other places where the targeted communities frequent.
Participating in this workgroup has been important to W.O.M.A.N., Inc.. because we strive for serving underprivileged communities. We believe every survivor deserves to have access to quality services and if we see a gap, we feel as a field that it is our responsibility to work towards bridging it.
We’ll keep you posted on new developments!