In responding to survivors of sexual and domestic violence in communities of color and immigrant communities a different approach from our traditional models is needed. Survivors for the most part don’t call the police, don’t want protection orders and don’t want to go to shelters. If they do decide to go to shelter they want to bring their children with them, including their teenage sons. Some need to bring their extended family. Many programs are not set up to accept teenage boys or extended family members. They often don’t call crisis lines or contact advocacy organizations unless these are designed for them – in their language, with an understanding of their culture and welcoming of their spiritual and personal beliefs.

To assist sexual assault survivors better you need an understanding of their culture as well. Knowing her view about sex and sexuality is very important. You need this information to help her with a safety plan.

A bilingual staff member is not enough. An advocacy organization needs to know their communities. To learn you need people from that community informing it. They should be working for the organization. They should take non-traditional approaches to respond to families who are survivors of violence.

Being in the community in ways that help all community members helps engage people with your organization. This has to be constant and ongoing. These efforts need to be informed by the communities you are serving. You can use focus groups of survivors in the communities you want to serve better.

Some groups around the country have engaged in the following efforts:

1. Focus groups with women and families in these communities also help. Setting up a strategic plan to respond to what you heard in the these focus groups.

2. Surveys have also been implemented.

2. Engage the community in peer education among women, among men and among adolescents.

3. Provide access to information to what community members want and need. This goes beyond domestic and sexual violence advocacy. It may be helping them find out about economic support programs, criminal justice process, and other information that community members mention in the focus groups.

When you are able to do this then more survivors from those communities will come and call your programs for help. They will do it because when they go to their supports in their neighborhoods, those people will know about your work and will recommend that the survivor call your organization.

This is where the real work starts. If your organization is informed by the community and you respond in a way that takes in the community beliefs and culture, you will get more and more people from that community. Word of mouth will make or break your efforts. So you need to have the services respond to their needs, and not just follow a traditional model.


The Sum of My Parts Now Available

This memoir follows Olga as she splits herself into “parts” and develops dissociative identity disorder with the abuse, and then struggles to merge these parts and overcome the disorder in adulthood.

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A Survivor’s Story Now Available

Olga’s critically acclaimed first-hand account of the impact of violence in her life is available in both English and Spanish.

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