4. Expand Community-driven Programming in

Culturally-Specific & LGBT Communities

 THE DIVERSITY OF

OUR STATE IS UNTAPPED  POTENTIAL.   

Every Wisconsin community should be able to draw upon the power of its cultures and identities to address domestic violence. 

The diversity of our state is a strength. Providing meaningful and effective services for every victim necessitates that every community have a role in shaping and offering services that are relevant to its members. In addition to continuing to invest in core services that are geared to culturally-specific and underserved populations, Wisconsin should expand support for community-driven services for victims from culturally-specific groups, from underserved populations and who are Lesbian, Gay Bisexual or Transgender individuals.

 

The diverse communities of our state are resilient, possessing the wisdom and potential to foster safe and healthy families. Services for victims and their children are most effective when they tap this potential, when they are by, for, and of the communities they serve. Survivors feel most comfortable coming forward to get help when they share common values, experiences, native tongues and traditions with the advocates they confide in. And, advocacy for victims is stronger when it organizes and leads a community’s response to domestic violence from within.

 

In Wisconsin, we have a solid tradition of fostering by, for and of culturally-specific and underserved groups. We need to build on this foundation and expand community-driven services to culturally-specific and underserved populations along several dimensions

In Wisconsin, we have a solid tradition of fostering by, for and of culturally-specific and underserved groups:

Asha Family Services - Since 1989, Asha Family Services has been providing culturally–specific domestic violence services to the African-American population in Milwaukee. Staff provide intensive case management and advocacy services for victims to access a variety of community supports and services. Asha Family Services also fulfills a unique need in the state by providing services to women who are incarcerated or recently released from the criminal justice system. Not only are many victims of domestic violence, but they must also recover from the impact of incarceration and readjust to society. Asha provides these women with support groups, case management, education, and systems advocacy.

The Latina Resource Center, a project of United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS) in Milwaukee, provides onsite comprehensive bilingual, bicultural services to Latina victims of domestic violence and their families. The organization's goal is to promote and enhance the safety, dignity, and independence of Latina women through the collaborative provision of community services, support groups, counseling and other resources.

The Refugee Family Strengthening Project (RFSP) has been in existence since 1994.  The Project provides culturally- and linguistically-competent services to Southeast Asian and Russian-speaking refugees and immigrants at fifteen sites throughout the State of Wisconsin.  The RFSP provides a variety of services, including crisis intervention, safety planning, advocacy, accompaniment, education, and leadership development for survivors.  All services emphasize safety, healing, empowerment and resilience. In addition, advocates provide education in the community on the dynamics of domestic abuse and needs of survivors from their respective communities.  A statewide bilingual (Hmong-English) hotline links victims, families, and service providers with skilled, trained staff.

The Lac du Flambeau Statewide Shelter provides safe shelter and supportive services specifically designed to meet the needs of Native American women from all eleven tribes in the state.  The program goals are: 1) to educate the community about domestic violence and sexual assault in order to reduce violence against women in Native American communities; 2) to promote physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being; and 3) to encourage cultural and spiritual awareness by incorporating Native American traditional values, beliefs and attitudes into programming. Services provided include a 24-hour crisis line, individual counseling, support groups, legal and other advocacy, transportation to the shelter, community education, and transitional living.

 

In addition, all tribes in Wisconsin receive funding through the DCF Tribal Family Services Program to provide core domestic abuse services.

 

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A DCF grant currently supports Diverse and Resilient, a state-wide organization that provides training, support and educational materials on effective services to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) Populations or victim service providers. The organization also trains community health promoters to distribute information on safe and healthy relationships to LGBT people statewide.  DCF also supports the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center to provide crisis counselling, safety planning, advocacy, and case management for LGBT survivors of violence in the greater Milwaukee area.

 

As discussed in another section, survivors, advocates and community partners identified Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender victims as particularly underserved. Survey respondents likely identified an acute need for LGBT specific services because of the compounding effects of the ignorance and stigma surrounding domestic violence in LGBT relationships with the lack of services that are attuned to LGBT victims’ unique challenges and needs.

 

While statistics vary slightly, domestic abuse in LGBT relationships occurs at roughly the same rates as it does in heterosexual relationships, despite commonly held beliefs to the contrary. A 2010 study found that 29% of Wisconsin LBT women have been hit, slapped, or kicked by their partners in their lifetimes. Even more, 77% of LBT women said they knew someone who experienced abuse in an LGBT relationship and they were uncomfortable offering help to that person.


Barriers to help-seeking for LGBT victims include: fear of being outed; a lack of support among family or friends; fear of being socially isolated in relatively small, tightly-knit circles of friends and peers; and relatively fewer service agencies that are capable of helping victims address these complex sets of challenges. Some of these obstacles can be especially high in Wisconsin’s rural communities, but they exist across our entire state.

Every Wisconsinite—regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity—should be free from the fear of domestic abuse.

Recommendation:

  • Support community-driven services for culturally-specific and underrepresented populations, including services to LGBT communities throughout Wisconsin. These services should be by, for and of communities they serve.