More domestic violence provider survey results

Por en English 01/20/13 11:46am
A domestic violence survivor (Chicago Tribune Photo by Stacey Wescott)

Here at Hoy, we’re working on a series on domestic violence in immigrant communities.

We’ve pledged to keep you, our readers, informed of our findings as we go along.

To start, we’ve been looking at the resources that are out there for victims of domestic violence.

Nearly two weeks ago, we reported that the Department of Human Services’ website contains out-of-date and consequently false information on its website.

Last week, we published preliminary results from a survey of domestic violence providers in the state.

At the time, we’d learned the following from engaging with seven different agencies:

1) Times are tough for domestic violence providers

2) There’s more bilingual activity in the agencies than on their websites

3) Few agencies count the number of immigrants they serve

4) Although there’s a strong commitment to outreach, little of it is specifically directed at immigrant communities

5) Social media is not a strong area for providers

6) Many immigrant groups lack a specific provider — like survivors of violence from Africa or the Pacific rim.

This past week, we’ve surveyed 13 more providers to get a better view of what’s out there for immigrants.

(Two providers, H.O.P.E. of Rochelle and Oasis Women’s Center, declined to participate in our survey.)

Here’s some of what we learned:

I. Race, ethnicity and immigration are often blurred 

One of the questions we’re asking providers is, “Do you track the national origin of your clients? If so, how many immigrants do you serve from countries outside the United States per year?”

To the first question, many answer “Yes.”

But when we follow up, the answer is different.

For instance, Kathy Doherty, executive director of Between Friends, told us her group sees roughly 1/3rd African American, 1/3rd Hispanic, “a little bit less caucasian” and a small percentage of Asian American. She offered to follow up via email if we wanted more specific information from their database about immigrants.

Here’s the message she sent us:

“I thought we tracked our immigrant population more specifically but the best we can do is the following:

39% of the clients we serve throughout the agency are Hispanic and 20% of our clients have limited English speaking ability and are (Arabic, Spanish, or  French speakers).”

This is not to criticize Doherty or Between Friends in any way, but it’s an example of what we’re seeing: Many agencies answer affirmatively to the question about tracking national origin, but tend to be referring to race and ethnicity instead.

There are some groups that do track immigrants explicitly. Apna Ghar does keep information on the immigrants, with an employee of the organization explaining that about 80% of their clients are immigrants, primarily from south Asia.

But we’re finding that those victims aren’t being counted in a structured way.

II. Federal restrictions limit on resources available to the undocumented

One of the things we’ve learned and plan to pursue further is that some transitional housing units are restricted to immigrants due to rules laid down by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Pat Davenport, with A Safe Place, said the organization maintains a campus in Zion with 40 apartments for victims of domestic violence.

Twenty of those units are open to victims of domestic violence, regardless of their citizenship.

The other housing, however, is off-limits to undocumented victims of domestic violence due to federal funding.

“They will not allow anyone unless they are citizens to stay there,” Davenport said.

III. For many, young people are a focus of outreach 

Several organizations send staff to schools in their service area to teach young people about domestic violence.

“We do a great deal of education in the schools and try to get information home to families through that way,” said Margaret Morrison, Executive Director of ADV and SAS.

Rosemary Cain, executive director of Freedom House, said she has advocates who go out into the community.

“We have a prevention educators who go out to the schools,” Cain said. They also go to the police, restaurants and other places to post fliers and spread the word about their organization.

Others who cited going into the schools include Mid-Central Community Action and Family Shelter Service.

Doherty, with Between Friends, told us her organization saw about 4,000 youth — primarily seventh and eighth graders — in prevention trainings on domestic violence.

“We see prevention just as important as working with people who’ve been impacted by domestic violence,” Doherty said. “Prevention is the key to ending the cycle of domestic violence.”

IV. Transportation is a problem in rural counties

Fulton-Mason Crisis Service serves Fulton and Mason counties, said Martha Daly, the agency’s executive director.

It’s a very isolated and rural county, Daly said, and she cited “transportation” as one of her agency’s big challenges. That was echoed by Morrison with ADV and SAS.

“There really isn’t any public transportation to speak of in Lasalle and Livingston counties, and they’re two of the largest in the state,” Morrison said.

When I spoke with Morrison, she told me she’d had a lady come in whose friend would help drive her somewhere “but they had no gas.”

The agency helped them with gift cards for a local service station, but sometimes it’s more difficult.

“We’ve had people say, ‘Oh they can call a cab,'” Morrison said. “Several of our communities have no cabs. Not only is there not a bus service that goes around the county [there are no cabs].”

V. Testifying still challenging, painful for victims

One of the challenges mentioned to us by domestic violence providers is sort of the classic problem faced by victims of abuse: the system isn’t always kind to those seeking help.

“One of the biggest challenges is that it’s the criminal justice system, not the victim justice system,” said Carmen Figanbaum, with the Mid-Central Community Action.

Figanbaum said victims are “almost always re-victimized when they go back to court.”

We have, at this time, contacted all 62 domestic violence providers in the state, and will continue updating with more results.

We will at some point be making our survey data more readily available for readers.

We welcome your input.