Domestic Violence Across Cultures Addressed
By Sarah Steele Wilson
Aug 31, 2012, 16:21
Domestic violence is something that anyone, of any race, creed, gender or sexual orientation can experience. That fact is something that the Petersburg Domestic Violence Task Force underlined with their full day training “A Multicultural Perspective: Domestic Violence Impacts all Communities.”
The James House supported the task force in planning the event, which was held at The First Baptist Church in Petersburg.
“There are not too many trainings around about cultural competence and how to deal with different communities,” said Elvira De La Cruz, director of programs and services for the James House, explaining the idea behind the training.
In the morning, she said, the group learned about how to work with immigrants experiencing domestic violence.
She said that Christopher Bernhardt, a lawyer from Hunton and WIlliams who takes cases through the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, talked about his experiences working with immigrants dealing with the U.S. Legal System since 2007.
“The big message that we learned this morning about working with immigrants was that we need to make questions, and explain to people why we are making these questions, and that will help the people that we are trying to help make a better connection with us,” De La Cruz said.
She said that explaining to people why you are asking certain questions, and explaining details that many Americans might take for granted, is essential to communication. She gave the example that those new to the United States might not know what someone trying to help them secure a driver’s license means by the DMV.
“We need to educate immigrants in the American system,” she said.
De La Cruz said the Tri-Cities has a large immigrant population that is growing.
“We have a lot of immigrants who are affected by domestic violence and many times, when service providers encounter people from other cultures, they don’t know how to handle the situation,” she said.
That same problem exists for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, a topic discussed in the afternoon by Lee Steube, Youth Programs Director for Richmond Organization for Sexual Minority Youth.
He addressed the issue of domestic violence within the LGBTQ community as well as the barriers are to members of that community seeking services.
“This is something that we definitely need to be thinking about, ...” he said. “They definitely need the services you folks are providing.”
Steube talked about the contributing factors experienced by LGBTQ youth that might lead to being in abusive relationships as adults. For instance, 84.6 percent of LGBTQ youths have been harassed at school and two thirds of LGBTQ youths don’t feel safe at school.
“This is building up a history of feeling unsafe in places where you’re supposed to feel safe,” Steube said.
At the same time, there are barriers for LGBTQ individuals who try to seek help in situations involving domestic violence. Many resources that exist for domestic violence victims do not have policies in place to work with LGBTQ indivudals, while many organizations that work with the LGBTQ community are not well prepared to deal with domestic violence, he said.
“We’re not integrated in serving these populations,” he said.
Steube addressed best practices for people who work with domestic violence victims to follow when dealing with members of the LGBTQ community.
The afternoon also featured a speech from Maria Isabel Frangenberg, Latino Community Liason for the Center for Family involvement atthe Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University spoke about the role cultural brokers play within organizations.
As a cultural broker, Frangenberg works mainly with members of the Latino community, acting as a mediator between that community and her organization and serving as a guide within established systems.
“You’re bringing two worlds together,” she said.
Members of the Latino community struggle with fear and isolation, in addition to language barriers, when they try to seek help for domestic violence.
“These people might be fearing the justice system or the immigration system, so they don’t seek help,” she said.
Cultural brokers, with their understanding of both the cultural groups they are attempting to serve and the system those groups need to navigate, can help connect people to the resources they need.
“Cultural brokering truly means understanding the plight that’s going on in that particular community,” she said, noting that cultural brokers exist to help organizations work with groups aside from Latinos.
She said that occasionally, people will assume that a particular cultural group does not need help because they are not hearing problems or requests for assistance from that group. Frangenberg said that silence can stem from the fear, isolation and language barriers she mentioned earlier. It’s a silence cultural brokers can help break.
“It’s a long-term job, but it’s the bringing of the two systems together so they can work and people can have a voice,” she explained.
Frangenberg also discussed the difference between cultural brokers and interpreters, who act simply as objective translators. She said that sometimes people assume the two roles are the same.
“It is very important to have a cultural broker be separate,” she said.
She said the role played by cultural brokers, and the difference between cultural brokers and interpreters, is something that needs to be explained to more organizations.
De La Cruz said the program also featured an appearance from Del. Rosalyn Dance, who spoke to the group in the morning.
De La Cruz said she was happy with the turnout, which included many members of local organizations devoted to helping victims of domestic violence, but hoped to see more people join the Domestic Violence Task Force in the future.
“We need more people involved because we need to spread the word that domestic violence is not right,” she said.