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?