September 8, 2016
Over the last few weeks, in preparation for a recent Office on Violence Against Women site visit to Idaho for the Legal Assistance to Victims grant, we engaged in conversations with many of you as part of the referral network for civil legal assistance for sexual assault survivors aged 11 to 24 – the age range of those at highest risk of sexual assault and rape.
Several of you shared your perspective on possible barriers that prevent teens and young adults who have been sexually assaulted from reaching out to programs for services – our victim-blaming culture, the stigma of rape, social norms of conservative communities that do not allow for conversations about sex, the family or adult focus of many of our services (and reflected in our name), the overwhelming need for services for individuals in abusive relationships, and an ineffective, and sometimes traumatizing, response by the criminal justice system.
During our Regional Movement Building conversations we will engage in conversations on ways to increase our access to services to teens and young adults who have been sexually assaulted or in abusive relationships – from teen and young adult peer advocates in high school and college settings to strengthening relationships with leaders and organizations working with marginalized communities that experience high rates of sexual assault. We encourage our member programs to have as many advocates, bilingual advocates, shelter managers, counselors and senior leadership as feasible participate in these generative conversations.
Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence
Nestled in the heart of the quaint downtown of Twin Falls, Idaho, a small group of women come together to support each other in their work to end violence. It’s weekly staffing with the Leadership Team, and the Idaho Coalition was invited in. Voices Against Violence (formerly Crisis Center of Magic Valley) new Director Donna Graybill, LCSW, Counselor Katelyn, Bi-lingual Court Advocate Marisol, Program Manager Michele, and Case Manager Michelle a.k.a. Popsicle set the agenda so they can coordinate the best care for clients. The coffee and camaraderie flow, without losing sight of purpose of the meetings: provide the best services for survivors, support each other, and reflect on organizational practices, including strengths and needs.
In a field rampant with burnout, the Voices team unanimously and enthusiastically claim they love their work, each other, and the support they feel from the team. That’s pretty special, when so much change has taken place, and we as humans tend to struggle with change. Donna, former clinician and now Executive Director, talks about the changes transpiring with Voices Against Violence, and it’s clear she does not shy away from challenge. Some changes were swift and immediate, and some are a work in progress. We are striving to examine our rules and processes openly and honestly. What is truly necessary? What is most empowering for survivors? Who are our community partners? How can we be more accessible culturally and linguistically? How can we make our space more comfortable and safe for survivors and their children? What do we as a team need to stay healthy and balanced in our work and lives?
Voices Team was thrilled to talk about progress in their court advocacy efforts. Now serving 6 counties, former police and probation officer and bi-lingual advocate Marisol, has made significant inroads with court personnel, slowly gaining access to being in courtrooms with survivors, to even being consulted by judges. These carefully cultivated relationships are crucial for survivors, to improve capacity of the justice system to effectively handle DV/SA cases. Beyond court advocacy, services provided by Voices are support groups for kiddos and for adult survivors. Trauma informed yoga classes available for survivors, and soon to be provided at the shelter. Expanded counseling services with help from MSW interns.
A quick visit to Voice’s emergency shelter brought feelings of comfort and talks of plans for more improvements. Minimal rules are important, says Donna. People need to feel at home, not like they are in prison. In fact, the only rules posted was a cute sign they found at a local store that basically summarized the golden Rule. Clearly, a lot of teamwork from Voices and their community partners has gone into making the shelter welcoming for children and families, with large play structure and yard, and new garden boxes (made by Donna).
What else would Voices Against Violence want us to know? Meaningful connections matter. They look forward to meeting and collaborating with colleagues across the state – more great people who understand the work and its impact. Community! “No partner left behind” was a funny, but accurate description of how The Voices Teams’ partners and spouses become an integral part of the work through various roles. Carpenter, researcher, entertainer, security expert, etc. And champions in the community can come from surprising backgrounds – like Voices’ recent staff retreat’s whitewater raft guide, or the staff of the mining company located in their building, who now attend their trainings occasionally. With a Voices Against Violence annual fundraiser on the horizon in October, there is promise in these unlikely allies’ support, not to mention the impact of raising the awareness of the importance of ending domestic and sexual violence.
To reach Donna and the Team at Voices Against Violence, call 208-733-2558 or find them online at https://crisiscenterofmagicvalley.org
In 2013, there were several amendments to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). These important amendments expanded services for individuals from the Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans community, Native Americans, immigrant survivors and college students experiencing violence. In our upcoming Towards Thriving Newsletters, we will highlight some of the amazing work that is being done under these new VAWA provisions.
College students are among the most vulnerable to dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month and presents the opportunity to focus our efforts on this population.
Campus safety provisions are usually a result of The Clery Act, a law named after Jeanne Clery, a 19-year old university student who was raped and murdered on her campus in 1986. The incident highlighted the vast number of campuses across the country who were not reporting crimes that occurred on their campus. With the VAWA Amendments, in addition to monitoring and reporting sexual assault crimes, campuses are also required to report on dating violence and stalking incidents. Additionally, campuses are also called upon to do prevention and awareness activities on dating/domestic violence and stalking. On June 23, 2016, the Department of Education released an updated Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, on how to implement these new Clery Act requirements. Campuses are required to make available a list of local resources as well as educational programming to all in-coming students. Tribal and community-based programs in Idaho are often called upon to assist local institutes of higher learning with these awareness and prevention efforts.
If your program is engaged in this conversation with your local campus, consider the following resources:
Or contact the Idaho Coalition and we are happy to assist you in your efforts!
At a recent OVW Voluntary Services training in Phoenix, Arizona, there was a lot of lively discussion on program rules vs. services. Generally, they’ve found that programs with the most rules often have the most restrictive and/or mandated services. This can be problematic for survivors who are escaping relationships where they have been bound by someone else’s rules, and for programs who then face the burden of enforcing these rules. The last thing we want to do is re-create power and control issues in our programs. However – this does not mean we throw the baby out with the bath water! Rules can be helpful – even with voluntary services. But as we continue to grow in the movement to end violence, I would bet every single agency, program, coalition and family could find at least ONE rule that is no longer needed and does not align with our missions. So OVW challenged us to think more about rules. Here’s more…
Less is More
Avoid making rules or policies in response to rare or occasional incidents.
We often create rules in the name of safety. But good intentions don’t always mean they work. For example, strict rules around substances may actually decrease survivor safety. And, safety can mean different things to different people. Ask ourselves and those we serve “does this rule actually increase safety?”
Review, Revise, Repeat
Of course we don’t need one more thing to do – but with fewer rules to spend time enforcing, we’ve got time to re-evaluate. Once a year (minimum) evaluate program policies and rules:
Last but not least, we learned about a pilot program in Missouri. One program implemented NO rules. Another went with minimal rules, and the third went with same rules as usual. Advocates at programs that went with minimal and no rules reported having more meaningful conversations with participants and staff, fewer conflicts, and less “us versus them” (policing). “It made me a better advocate” was a common theme when rules were reduced. It was so successful it’s been implemented widely across the state. The project was called How the Earth Didn’t Fly Into the Sun.
SAVE THE DATE!
Statewide Movement Building Conversations
Idaho Community & Tribal Domestic Violence Programs – November 2nd & 3rd, 2016
We are excited to announce that Lynn Rosenthal, Former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and most recently with the National Domestic Violence Hotline will facilitate our conversation and share her perspective on the essential role of community and tribal domestic and sexual violence programs to create social change.
EVERYDAY FEMINISM presents:
Healing from Toxic Whiteness to Better Fight for Racial Justice
This FREE online workshop is on Thurs, 9/15, at:
Invite Poetry into Your Life
In the May 12th and June 9th Radical Self-Care articles, we tapped into your creative side. You might still be wondering, how is art so essential to creating self-care for impact and sustainability? Art allows us to tap into our creative and FULL potential. It creates spaciousness from our daily habits and provides the opportunity to think differently and to discover new possibilities.
Today’s Challenge –
Even if you are not much of a poetry person, we bet there is one poem that spoke to you at some point! Rediscover that poem and read it out loud to yourself, your loved ones, and family. Got kids? Invite them to read it aloud with you. Can’t think of a poem? Share some inspirational quotes!
Visit the online store to view current Idaho Coalition materials available for order.
For store questions, please contact Lacey Sinn or call 208-384-0419 ext. 314.