By Whitney Akers, See the Triumph Contributor
For survivors of domestic violence or intimate partner violence, it is not always safe or easy to seek help, especially if a survivor belongs to a marginalized community. Many members of communities of color, people with disabilities, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTIQ) community, and older adults face barriers to reporting violence and accessing support services. Some individuals do not feel safe to report experiences of violence, and some individuals fear another layer of stigma being placed on them or their community if they report.
One survivor of domestic violence stated, “Because I'm deaf, everything had to be my fault. Because the others couldn't communicate with me without an interpreter, the burden was upon me to communicate...and my partner was the interpreter. She wouldn't let me request a neutral interpreter for our counseling sessions, etc…The few times I tried to talk with our priest or our counselor, (I experienced stigma in their assumption that) it was not possible—‘my partner was hearing, she loved me, I was deaf and somehow therefore to blame, I misunderstood’.” This experience represents one type of ability-specific communication barrier to accessing support.
Another survivor in the LGBTIQ community shared her experience which was also shaped by her career and the lack of a safe space to be open about her sexuality, “It was never actually classified as domestic violence for two reasons: 1, because Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was still in place in the military at the time, so I couldn't tell anyone we were dating much less that she was abusing me, and 2, and I think this is still the case, the military Uniform Code of Military Justice defines domestic violence as something that can only happen between opposite sex couples.”
Immigrant populations are another group that faces unique challenges to reporting violence and seeking legal help due to barriers such as fear of deportation, unawareness of support sources, language barriers, and diverse family dynamics. This link further explores the reality of many immigrant women:
How can we change our outreach to address this gap in services? How can we create safe spaces, or if we are immigrant women or women of marginalized communities, how might we access a safe community for ourselves?
By Girl on a Journey, See the Triumph Contributor
This month is Survivor to Survivor messages. I love this idea. It sometimes feels like the only other people in the world that understand my struggle are other survivors, regardless of our differences and our different circumstances of abuse. We should be here for one another, our common ground is not a pleasant topic, but we are a community none-the-less and we need each other. There are many survivors out there like me that have completely lost the community in their lives, trying to manage and hide their abusive relationship. Once we leave our abuser, judgement, fear and anxiety hold us back from rebuilding real meaningful community in our lives when we need it the most. I was feeling that I wanted to write something positive and was searching around in my brain for what to write about. Then, the other night, it just happened...something positive. It is simple and maybe a little silly, but I hope it can inspire positive moments and perhaps a smile for others as I struggle to create them in my own life, one step at time.
Tonight I decided not sit here and allow my anxiety to ruin my night when the kids left for the evening to see their dad. I can’t afford to go out to eat so I decided to go to the grocery store...which is a feat in itself because, although I love food, I hate the grocery store. Tonight, for a change though, I tried to enjoy my time there. I made eye contact with and smiled at fellow shoppers and meandered around and shopped contently. I initiated conversation with the lady that works the self-checkout area who I know is pregnant and expecting soon. We swapped birthing stories and I was able to wish her all the best. It was a simple, but meaningful connection and felt really nice. When I got home I took my time carrying my bags in without feeling negatively about the task or how cold it was and chatted on the phone with my mom. When I got off the phone, I turned the oven on, unloaded my goodies, and prepared to make a lovely salad with a nice loaf of Italian bread with a bottle of red wine to top it off.
Once the bread was in the oven, I grabbed a plate and poured the olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip the bread in. I almost skipped chopping fresh herbs for my concoction and then I thought, if the kids were here you would do it. I really love to cook and chopping and preparing food is a form of therapy for me. It has been my refuge for many years and besides my children, one of the few joys I had in my life. I decided it was ok to do it just for me. So away I went chopping...fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and a couple of cloves of garlic. Hey...I’m single now, right? I can eat all the garlic I want (sorry family and friends). Add a little salt and pepper and yummo...delicious appetizer. I really enjoyed it, but I mostly enjoyed the relaxed state of mind I had, just me, myself and my environment. I was present in the moment and I struggle with that. I’m beginning to consider that perhaps my healing and recovery might be about making these small positive choices more often in my life. Taking control of my own heart and experience.
The rest of the evening continued on beautifully, my salad was delicious and my positive state of mind held through the clean up process. I read a new book I received from my counselor for a while and then decided to write. I was eager to see my children when they came through the door, but I had actually embraced and enjoyed a nice quiet evening to myself for the first time in a long time. It only emboldens my hope and courage and that is the main objective right now. So, cheers to a successful evening, may there be many more in my future!
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