How Domestic Violence Impacts the A/PI Community

by Mariam Rauf

Outreach Program Manager, Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project

Every now and then, we are asked whether domestic violence can be stopped. Yes. It can and will be stopped. If we didn’t believe in ending domestic violence, we would have removed it from our mission a long time ago. We envision a world without domestic violence. We believe in every person’s right to feel safe in relationships. We believe world peace starts at home.

The Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP) has served survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault for 20 years. DVRP’s mission is to address, prevent, and end domestic violence and sexual assault in the Asian/Pacific Islander (A/PI) community in the DC metro area, while empowering survivors to rebuild their lives after abuse. Our work is grounded in survivors’ experiences, needs and priorities. We don’t tell them what to do; they tell us what they need to be safe. We have survivors on staff, on our board, and also as advocates and volunteers. Collectively, we speak over 20 A/PI languages and have access to many more through our community partners. Our response is holistic and culturally and linguistically specific to our clients.

How do we work to end domestic violence? By starting the conversation in our communities. We discreetly incorporate key elements of DV 101 into our community trainings and tea talks regarding healthy relationships. But we don’t start talking about domestic violence immediately. We discuss root causes, including the expectations and societal pressures of gender roles and how they can do more harm than good. How does society expect women and girls to act? How are men and boys expected to behave in relationships? Once we analyse these expectations, we examine how these attitudes can prevent women and girls from speaking up about acts of violence, and how men and boys are not encouraged to share feelings of vulnerability and fear. Our discussions aim to drastically shift attitudes on gender roles. We can take what we have defined as “normal” gender behaviors and upend them. We hope that girls can begin to reclaim their bodies and voices. We also hope that boys embrace aspects of their character which society typically labels as feminine. This transformation in our personal attitudes and communities can initiate the end of domestic violence.

DVRP leads grassroots discussions of gender roles and healthy/unhealthy relationships with individuals from all walks of life, including community leaders, mainsteam service providers, student organizations, young professionals, and the elderly. We will talk to anyone who wants to build stronger communities by freeing homes from violence. Earlier this year, we surveyed over 250 Asian American Pacific Islander DC residents on their knowledge of domestic violence and resources available in the District for domestic violence survivors. Over a third of the survey respondents said domestic violence was “extremely common” or “very common” in the A/PI community. Over a third also said they knew someone in a domestic violence situation. However, no one we talked to (in private or in public) has said it’s okay to treat a partner or family member in a violent, abusive manner.

There are underlying dynamics that perpetuate violence in our communities. Working with the A/PI demographic, some of the prevalent contributing factors include:

  • Privacy. Family matters should not be discussed publicly. The notion that privacy should be maintained regardless of the severity of what is happening in the home allows family abuse to continue without intervention or support from those outside of the family.
  • Taboo. Discussing relationships and sexual behavior is inappropriate. Consequently, topics related to sexuality are forbidden. When we collectively refuse to address sex, we allow sexually violent behavior to thrive in the vacuum of silence.
  • Shame. Family honor is superior to the individual. Many of us go to great lengths to preserve that honor by avoiding anything that might shame the family.However, prioritizing family honor over survivors’ wellbeing, silences them and keeps them in potentially life-threatening situations.
  • Victim Blaming. It’s the victim’s fault. We ask survivors what they were wearing, what they did or say that caused the abuse. When we exclusively focus on the survivor, we release the abuser from any accountability for his/her actions.

The path to ending domestic violence involves directly confronting and changing our beliefs and assumptions about traditionally sensitive topics. We encourage everyone to be an ambassador for the cause: Start informal or formal conversations in your community about domestic violence. Provide a safe, confidential space for survivors to open up and share their stories. Listen to survivors. Believe them. Don’t judge or tell them what to do. Don’t forget that a survivor is most at danger when s/he decides to leave an abusive relationship. Hold abusers accountable. Take a stand and show that domestic violence is not accepted in your community. This is how we end domestic violence.

Mariam Rauf is the Outreach Program Manager at the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Program Resource Project (DVRP). 

YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit and join the conversation with #EndDVnow.

Posted in Domestic Violence, Empowering Women, Violence Against Women, Week Without Violence, Women of Color | Leave a comment

Ending Domestic Violence in the Muslim Community

AishaRahmanBy Aisha Rahman, Esq.

Executive Director, KARAMAH

I want to tell you about the case that changed my life. Five years ago I started my legal career at a legal services organization in my small, southern hometown. To say that I had led a sheltered and privileged life would be a gross understatement. I am chagrined to admit that had I not gotten a job representing DV survivors, I would not be aware of the horrors, battles and barriers that 1 of 4[1] women deal with. My naivety extended most acutely to my own faith community. I grew up in a safe and loving Muslim community. Divorce in our community was almost unheard of and stories of abuse were never shared. When I decided to take a job in my hometown, I was sure that I would never encounter my community professionally. I was wrong.

A year into my job, I inherited a case that highlighted the many barriers women of color, particularly immigrant women, face. My client was a Muslim woman. She married a Muslim man in a European country. He was successful—with a high-ranking job and a matching paycheck. She, too, was educated. Their love story was transcontinental. After their wedding, she came to the US with her husband on a student visa. That’s when their fairy tale ended. The husband began his onslaught of abuse, often physical, more often psychological and emotional. His reign of terror did not extend only to her. When he learned that she was having a daughter, he vowed to kill her. During the pregnancy, the umbilical cord was around her baby’s neck. Her husband told her that this was a good thing—it was the noose that would kill the baby so he wouldn’t have to.

She came to me seeking a divorce. She had already been denied a protective order. He was more believable than her. She testified in broken English, and he was a professional—an upstanding citizen. That is when I learned about language access and his privilege—barriers she had to overcome for people to believe her story. When the case began, her husband challenged their marriage. He said in open court that they had never been married. As a devout woman, she was concerned about social stigma surrounding pregnancy out of marriage. Her husband’s denial of their marriage diminished her. Shortly thereafter, the husband moved out of the house. He had no obligation to support her or their child—no court order securing their maintenance. When asked if he was the father to establish paternity, he denied it. The DNA test proved he was the father of the child but only after several weeks. She waited for the DNA results for weeks without any financial support. Around this time, he stopped paying her tuition. Now her legal status was questioned—she became undocumented. She had never called the police out of fear and distrust of law enforcement—another common issue among women of color. Because she had never called the police, she was not eligible for a U Visa.

To attain a VAWA visa, she had to be declared married. The court decided that her marriage ceremony lacked certain requirements to be recognized as “legal” in the country in which it occurred. My client was denied a divorce on the basis that she was never married. All of her belongings, her home and all its furnishings, were deemed to be his separate property. He brought a moving truck to the house and took everything—leaving her in an empty home with nothing except her baby’s car seat. He took the car.

At the time, I was at a loss as to how to help her. She did not have the ability to work—she had no legal status in the US. She had no financial support except for the promise of future child support. She had no family in the US and was isolated from her entire community. She was embarrassed—not wanting to be judged as a failure.

After exhausting all options, I took her case to KARAMAH. Luckily, KARAMAH’s founder Dr. Azizah al-Hibri was lecturing in my town at the time. As an Islamic scholar and lawyer, I knew she could help my client get an Islamic divorce—if for nothing else than for the peace of mind that she was no longer tied to her abuser. We are still helping my client…her main concern now is that she does not want her daughter to be stigmatized because a court said that her parents were not married. These, and countless stories just like hers, are what fills our days at KARAMAH. Many think that DV cases are simple—your client is abused so you go to court and get a protective order or a divorce. The story that is not often told is the one of my client. Simply having access to justice is in itself a privilege that many women are denied.

Aisha Rahman, Esq. is Executive Director of KARAMAH and also serves as the head of the organization’s Family Law Division. Ms. Rahman received her higher education at Emory University and The University of Tennessee College of Law, where she was a staff editor of the Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy and headed the Muslim Law Student Association. Ms. Rahman came to KARAMAH from legal services where where she was a staff attorney litigating cases on domestic violence. In her hometown, Ms. Rahman chaired the Social Justice Committee of the Shura (consultative council) at her local mosque.

YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit and join the conversation with #EndDVnow.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Domestic Violence, Empowering Women, Violence Against Women, Week Without Violence | Leave a comment

Women of Color and Barriers to Safety

KristelynBerryby Kristelyn Berry

Senior Office & Safety Net Coordinator, National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV)

When help is needed, who are the first people that we think to call? Most don’t hesitate to call first responders – the police, firefighters, and Emergency Medical Services. However, communities of color, and specifically women of color, face different challenges and may not seek necessary assistance for reasons that are unique to their communities.

Women of color, especially Black women, may not seek help because we are expected to be strong. The “Strong Black Woman” narrative is played out across communities all over the world. Despite whatever atrocities we may endure, we are often told to remain strong, be the head of the household, and take care of everything. This façade of strength makes it even more difficult for women of color to reach out for help for fear of failing their families or being or appearing weak.

Communities of color are frequently tightly woven together in a number of ways including language, culture, and/or sharing the same nationality. Due in large part to these factors, support systems are important for survivors. If the community that the survivor is a member of disagrees with her decision to seek help, or discourages her outright from leaving her abuser, that can be detrimental to that survivor’s network of friends and family. Further, if the survivor decides to go forward with pressing charges against her abuser, the survivor could be exiled from the community. Choosing between one’s community and one’s safety is an extremely difficult decision to make.

There is also often a deep distrust of law enforcement in communities of color, due to historical racial and cultural biases. Moreover, if the police are called and the abuser is taken into custody and charged, there is also the fear of retaliation and further abuse upon release. It is also important to note that men of color are imprisoned at much higher rates than White men and face higher rates of abuse and mistreatment while in police custody. These factors impact how survivors interact with police, and whether they even call the police in the first place.

While this is not an exhaustive list of the perils that women of color face while contemplating fleeing their abusers, it does provide the basis for beginning to understand their plight. As we continue to identify these factors, we will also work tirelessly to ensure that women of color have access to the resources and information they need in order to make informed decisions about their safety.

Kristelyn has dual roles as Office and Safety Net Coordinator with NNEDV. As the Office Coordinator, Kristelyn provides initial technical assistance for survivors of domestic violence, assists in the work of the Finance team, maintains listservs, and provides support to all projects. As Safety Net Project Coordinator, Kristelyn works collaboratively with the Safety Net team to provide initial assistance for survivors who have questions about relocation and technology stalking and harassment. Prior to joining NNEDV, Kristelyn received her B.S. in Human Services from Old Dominion University, and completed her Master’s in Social Work with a concentration in Social Change from George Mason University.


YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit and join the conversation with #EndDVnow.

Posted in Empowering Women | Leave a comment

To End DV Now, We Must Eliminate Racism

QudsiaBy Qudsia Raja, Advocacy and Policy Manager for Health and Safety

As a woman of color working in the movement to end violence against women, it is far too frequent that I hear conversations about domestic violence veer into clear racial bias. For example, police officers have an even higher occurrence of domestic violence than NFL players, but the public dialogue focuses almost exclusively on Black athletes and other celebrities of color. Similarly, the media often casts immigrant men whether Latino, Arab, South Asian, or otherwise as inherently oppressive and prone to violence against women – we see this far too often in our political discourse in particular.

This misguided and racist dialogue truly distracts from the very real systemic and cultural barriers that keep women from leaving abusive partners. Communities, service providers, and policy makers can take a variety of practical and helpful steps to ensure that all women have pathways to safety.

At YWCA, an organization dedicated both to the elimination of racism and to women’s empowerment, we look daily for these types of solutions – whether  through our federal policy and advocacy work, or our safety programs serving over 500,000 women and families in YWCAs across the country. Domestic violence impacts a quarter of all women, but women of color face heightened challenges in leaving their abusers:

  • Native women face the highest rates of violence, with double the rate of violence than the general population.
  • Over 70% of sexual assaults of Native women are committee by non-Native men, and legal loopholes prevent tribal courts from prosecuting them.
  • Economic realities are strongly tied to the likelihood of abuse amongst African American women, and a history of abuse by law enforcement keeps many from reporting to the police.
  • Limited-English proficiency for immigrant women often translates to an inability to access critical services such as counseling, housing, or the legal system.

Just as in all cases of domestic violence, these statistics reflect the grim and very real challenges that a victim must navigate as she seeks safety from violence. When we allow racist misconceptions to prevail in the public dialogue and in our personal consciousness we not only fail as critical thinkers but we fail women and girls in every community across the country. Systems of racial oppression worsen the impact of violence against women and give power to abusers. A thoughtful, pragmatic, intersectional approach to ending violence against women is our only hope to #endDVnow.

Small changes can have a cosmic impact in the long run. So, for Week Without Violence this year, my challenge to you is to be deliberate when you talk about violence against women. Together we can dismantle misconceptions about domestic violence and race.  Sure, it’s not an easy challenge – but it’s a worthy one.

YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit and join the conversation with #EndDVnow.

Posted in Domestic Violence, Empowering Women, Week Without Violence | Leave a comment

2015 Week Without Violence

By Loryn Wilson Carter
Social Media & Online Engagement Manager, YWCA USA

2015 Week Without Violence is scheduled for October 19-23. For 20 years, YWCA has hosted an annual Week Without Violence campaign in October to mobilize people in communities across the United States to take action against all forms of violence, wherever it may occur. Ranging from rich and complex dialogues on violence, to workshops, community service opportunities, and public awareness events, YWCAs have been at the forefront of the conversation on the pervasive and intersectional nature of violence and its impact on the communities they serve.

This year, on the 20th anniversary of Week Without Violence, YWCA USA is excited to announce a new direction for Week Without Violence as our national domestic violence awareness month campaign. 1 in 4 women will experience some form of domestic violence at some point in their lives, and, on average, 3 women are murdered each day at the hands of their abusers. As the largest provider of domestic violence services in the country, serving over 2 million women and families each year, we know intimately the devastating impact it has on communities. This October, we invite you to join us as we explore what domestic violence looks like, learn about the systemic barriers that prevent women from being able to seek safety, and commit to #EndDVNow.

Join us as we raise awareness about the following issues each day of Week Without Violence:

Monday, October 19: Domestic Violence 101
Tuesday, October 20: Women of Color and Barriers to Safety
Wednesday, October 21: Financial Abuse and Economic Empowerment
Thursday, October 22: Domestic Violence Gun Homicides
Friday, October 23: Ending Domestic Violence Around the World

For our blog carnival this year, we ask: How can we come together to #EndDVNow?

According to the American Medical Association, more than 20 percent of women in the United States have experienced intimate-partner violence, stalking or both. A full 17 percent have reported rape or attempted rape. On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States (CDC).

Violence against women, in its many forms, has no demographic boundaries. It is known to all age groups, all races, all religions and all socioeconomic backgrounds. It can take many forms, including economic abuse, intimate partner violence, stalking, racial profiling, and domestic violence. What can be done to #EndDVNow?

Check out all of the posts from this year’s blog carnival:

Dara Richardson-Herson, MD, YWCA USA CEO- YWCA Week Without Violence: You Likely Know a Victim (Featured on Huffington Post)

Molly Toth, YWCA Warren Advocacy and Special Projects Coordinator – Ending Domestic Violence is a Relay, Not a Sprint

Nadiah Mohajir, HEART Women & Girls Co-Founder and Executive Director – Building Safer Communities: Our Collective Responsibility

Qudsia Raja, Advocacy and Policy Manager for Health and Safety – 
To End DV Now, We Must Eliminate Racism

Katerina Canyon, In My African-American Family, Beatings “Out of Love” Were Frequent (Featured on Huffington Post)

Kristelyn Berry, Senior Office and Safetey Net Coordinator, NNEDV – Women of Color and Barriers To Safety

Mariam Rauf, Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project – How Domestic Violence Impacts the A/PI Community

Aisha Rahman, KARAMAH Executive Director – Ending Domestic Violence in the Muslim Community

Vicki Shabo, National Partnership for Women and Families – Domestic Violence Survivors Need and Deserve Workplace Support (Featured on Huffington Post)

Qudsia Raja, Advocacy and Policy Manager for Health and Safety – Domestic Violence Survivors Need Economic Empowerment

Ilana Flemming, Jewish Women International Manager of Advocacy Initatives – We Must Strengthen Economic Security of Domestic Violence Victims

Ruth Glenn, NCADV Executive Director – Keeping Guns out of the Hands of Abusers

Qudsia Raja, YWCA USA – Ending Gun Violence Against Women 

Nicollette Van De Plas, YWCA National Capital Area – Guns Do Not Make Us  Safer (Featured on Huffington Post)

Leila Milani, Senior International Policy Advocate, Futures Without Vilence – Ending Domestic Violence is a Global Imperative

Magda López-Cárdenas, YWCA of Colombia - Addressing Armed Conflict in Colombia

Qudsia Raja, YWCA USA – Violence Against Women Has No National Borders (Featured on Huffington Post)

Patricia Shea, YWCA Nashville – YWCA Nashville Trains Men to End DV (Featured on Huffington Post)

Raven Davidson – Black Women Matter, A Poem (Featured On Huffington Post)

Nancy Lee, Director, Office of Women’s Health – Giving Power Back to Survivors (Featured on Huffington Post)

Vickey Dinges, SVP of Corporate Responsibility, Allstate – Let’s Change the Conversation from Blaming Victims to Empowering Survivors (Featured on Huffington Post)

Josh Sugarmann, Executive Director, Violence Police Center – 7 Things to know about Domestic Violence and Guns (Featured on Huffington Post)

Ally Crockford, Digital Media Officer, YWCA Scotland – The Violence We Talk About (Featured on Huffington Post)

Nadia Mohammad, Assistant Editor of altMuslimah – Islamophobia Worsens Violence Against Women (Featured on Huffington Post)

Tehreem Rahman – Why Domestic Violence Survivors Can’t Just Leave

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, General Secretary of World YWA – Globally, YWCA Works to End DV Now (Featured on Huffington Post)

Thank you to all of our carnival participants. Check out our hashtag #EndDVNow to see all of the posts and activities that are taking place across the country today, and we welcome you to join the conversation!


YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit and join the conversation with #EndDVNow.

Posted in Empowering Women | Leave a comment

Building Safer Communities: Our Collective Responsibility

By Nadiah MohajirMohajir_Nadiah

Co-Founder & Executive Director of HEART Women & Girls

Domestic violence is not limited to only one racial, ethnic, religious or socioeconomic group. 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and over 1.3 million are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner. This piece explores our collective responsibility in building safer communities- communities in which our victims are not blamed, in which they feel safe and supported, and most importantly, empowered not just to help themselves, but to be a resource for each other.

Despite the above statistics, most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police. The reasons that survivors do not leave abusive situations or do not seek legal or social services are quite complex. For example, women may stay in abusive marriages because of financial dependency, shame, love (or fear) for their partner, or fear of being blamed or losing their children.

Most likely, there are survivors in our immediate circles.. As bystanders, we should be doing our part to create spaces for survivors where they feel safe, and empowered to do what they need to take care of themselves and their families well before the professional, legal and social services enter the equation. You don’t have to be a crisis counselor, police officer or lawyer to work toward this goal. Below are some steps we all can start to take to support survivors. .

Practice reflective listening.  Reflective listening involves being present when the other person is talking to you, not interrupting them, and then repeating what they said to you, so they know you heard and understood them.

Affirm and validate. If someone reaches out to you about an abusive situation, the worst thing you can do is not believe them. Simple statements such as “it is normal that you feel scared” or “you’re doing the responsible thing by speaking with someone, and know you are not alone” are incredibly important for a survivor to hear and internalize as she works through her situation.

Free yourself of blaming and shaming the survivor. Often, people are quick to pass judgment on the survivor who hasn’t left an abusive situation, which further alienates the survivor.

Maintain their privacy. Survivors are often hesitant to reach out to others because they don’t trust that their privacy will be maintained. Privacy is crucial to maintain to avoid shaming and re-traumatizing the survivor as well as ensuring their physical safety from further harm.

Nadiah Mohajir is co-founder & executive director of HEART Women & Girls, a nonprofit that seeks to promote sexual and reproductive health in faith-based communities. She is a long-term South side Chicagoan and lives with her three children and husband.


YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit and join the conversation with #EndDVnow.


Posted in Empowering Women | Leave a comment

Ending Domestic Violence is a Relay, Not a Sprint

By Molly TothIMG_2415

Advocacy and Special Project Coordinator, YWCA Warren

Being an organization that creates change isn’t easy. For many YWCAs across the country who provide direct services to clients, the day-to-day challenges so common in the nonprofit world—far too much to do, far too few hands to do it—can make it feel like you’re stuck on a treadmill with the incline up and the speed steadily increasing.

Rarely do direct service providers get a chance to step off the treadmill. When we do, we often find that our work on the ground is treating only a few symptoms of a much more pervasive problem that requires systemic change if it is to be eradicated.

The YWCA Warren provides permanent supportive housing to women with disabilities and their children. Some of our residents suffer physical or emotional disabilities as a direct result of having endured domestic violence. When women come to the YWCA Warren looking for help with housing, they come to us as people facing complex challenges that require comprehensive, holistic solutions. We meet immediate needs by helping them move into their new homes, filling their pantries and cupboards, and enrolling their children in school. And we have the long-term goals of helping them find jobs, take the GED or get back to school, or simply connect with the supportive services and care they need to feel safe, healthy, and whole again.

This is the work that keeps the YWCA Warren, and agencies like ours, running on the treadmill.

When we learned this summer that the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, a funding source that made our permanent supportive housing possible, was on the chopping block during our state’s budgeting process, we knew we needed to act, and act quickly.

The Housing Trust is a primary source of funding for thousands of housing projects across the state, including most Ohio YWCA’s housing initiatives serving low-income women and children and those leaving domestic violence situations. Cuts to the Housing Trust would put the likelihood of more housing services for domestic violence victims, for which there is a very real need in our state, in jeopardy.

Within hours we were making phone calls to our State Senators opposing the cuts, connecting with other homelessness and housing advocacy groups, and reaching out to our sister YWCAs across Ohio. Together, we authored a letter to members of the General Assembly. Seven Ohio YWCAs who provide housing with support from the Trust Fund endorsed the letter.

That one line in the budget would have upended affordable housing in Ohio. When it was taken out at the last minute, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We were just a few individuals out of hundreds of people across the state who wrote and made phone calls, but we lent our voices to the chorus. Indirectly, this was a victory for domestic violence victims.

In our capacity as advocates, YWCA associations can speak up, using our standing as one of the nation’s oldest and most respected civil rights organizations to be a voice for domestic violence victims and survivors.

Jumping off the treadmill now and then to get a feel for the political and policy terrain should be a priority, something we make a part of our best practices. We, and other agencies like ours, can ensure that our work as advocates dovetails with our work as direct service providers, using our specialties—whether it’s providing emergency shelter, rape crisis counseling, legal aid, or permanent housing—lending expertise to the legislative process, providing testimony, or simply speaking up on behalf of those we serve, and letting elected officials know that ending domestic violence is a priority for the YWCA, and should be a priority for those seeking office.

The YWCA benefits from the collective power of its hundreds of associations around the globe. As our emphasis on advocacy continues to grow, associations will find that they are uniquely positioned to do both the work of healing the acute wounds of domestic violence through direct service and of addressing through their advocacy the chronic conditions that plague survivors and perpetuate cycles of violence.

It is often said that advocacy is a marathon, not a sprint. Perhaps it’s more accurate to think of advocacy as a relay race—a marathon with small victories along the way, tangible successes that happen in short bursts that sustain us while we keep moving forward toward a world without domestic violence.

Molly Toth is the Advocacy and Special Projects Coordinator at the YWCA Warren. She has a background in anthropology and history, both of which she uses in her advocacy and social justice work and in documenting the history of the YWCA Warren for their upcoming centennial anniversary.

YWCA’s Week Without Violence is an annual campaign that takes place nationally and communities across the country to end violence in all of its forms and wherever it occurs. As the largest network of domestic service providers in the United States, YWCA is focusing our efforts on ending domestic violence – NOW. Everyday YWCA addresses the root causes and immediate needs associated with domestic violence. As we mark our 20th annual Week Without Violence, we invite you to join us. To learn more visit and join the conversation with #EndDVnow.



Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Domestic Violence, Violence Against Women, Week Without Violence | Leave a comment

The Journey for Justice for Every Woman


By Tralonne Shorter
Senior Advocacy & Policy Associate for Racial Justice and Civil Rights, YWCA USA 

On September 16th, I was honored to join hundreds of fellow social justice advocates who converged in Washington, DC for the conclusion of the NAACP’s “Journey for Justice March.”

For more than forty days, the cadre of marchers—an inter-generational, inter-racial mixture of faith leaders, laborers, and NAACP supporters— traversed 1,002 miles from Selma, Alabama to Washington, DC, to raise awareness for a fair criminal justice system, restoration of voting rights, sustainable jobs with a living wage, and equitable public education.

Akin to any pilgrimage are the causalities along the “Middle Passage”.  Like Moses and Martin, this march’s Middle Passage included a Vietnam veteran who traveled from Colorado to Alabama and marched 925 miles carrying the American flag before taking his last step in Virginia.  The man, who was affectionately referred to by NAACP leader Cornell William Brooks as “Middle Passage,” died unexpectedly of a heart attack.  He joined the ranks of iconic foot soldiers —Amelia Boynton Robinson and Julian Bond—who marched into the pearly gates within weeks of each other.

Equally as sad, despite the progression of political and economic gains by many women and people of color over the past 50 years, the social justice issues of today are of little variance from the issues that similarly unified those who marched 50 years ago.

For women and girls, especially those of color, the journey for equal justice and opportunity is long and arduous. Women make just 77 cents for every dollar a man does.  African American and Latina women are the most disadvantaged by the gender wage gap because they earn the least of all women–between 56 cents to 64 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man. #LillyLedbetter

In 4 out of 10 households with children, women are the primary or sole breadwinner in their household, yet many of these women are employed by companies and organizations that penalize them for being a working woman.  Many of whom are working mothers who do not receive paid sick days let alone paid maternity leave. So, these women must decide whether it’s affordable to take a loss in wages in order to care for themselves, a sick child or relative. #DenaLockwood

While recent high profile incidents of racial profiling focus on Black or African American males, women of color are also at risk. Women who are undocumented immigrants or have limited English proficiency are at greater risk of being profiled for “Driving While Female,”—a tactic used by some law enforcement officers to prey upon women motorists in order to sexually assault or harass because they believe these women will not tell. #AbrahamJoseph

80 percent of women victims of domestic violence who end up killing or injuring their abuser in self-defense are African American women, who are often convicted of these crimes because juries do not believe Battered Women’s Syndrome is a justifiable self-defense for African American women—as they are perceived to be aggressive and strong. #MarissaAlexander

While many children are coddled from cradle to career, that’s not so much the case for some African American girls who are channeled into a school-to-prison pipeline. In 2011-2012, 12 percent of African American girls were suspended or expelled in schools—that is six times more often than their white counterparts.  It’s no surprise that African American women represent 30 percent of the prison population, including #KieraWilmot

The endeavor to ensure justice for every woman is colossal.  This is an endeavor of perseverance, endurance, and willfulness.  This is a not an endeavor for the weary or the privileged few perched in a corner office.  The journey for justice for every woman is a massive undertaking that requires all-hands-on-deck in order to dismantle the systemic barriers to equal justice etched into our country’s laws, workplace polices and belief systems, which value privilege over equality. We cannot stop until equal justice and opportunity is obtained by all.

The march is over, but the journey for justice continues.

Posted in Economic Empowerment, Empowering Women, Racial Justice, Violence Against Women, Working Families Agenda | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The White House Honors Young Women Empowering Their Communities

StaceyMeadowsBy Stacey Meadows

Development Associate, YWCA USA

Last week, the White House Champions of Change – Young Women Empowering Their Communities. The program honored 11 young women who are empowering their communities every day through leadership, advocacy, and just all out #girlpower! It was such an honor to hear the amazing stories of strength and perseverance that these young women have.

The YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women seemed to echo throughout the event. Each honoree had passion, a strong voice, and resilience to withstand adversity in order to step forth and be a leader in their community.

Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, opened the event with acknowledging each women and her contribution to creating change in her community.

The list of extraordinary honorees included:

Marissa Jennings, CEO of SOCIALgrlz LLC

Asha Abdi, Director of Communications and Partnerships for Agoon Foundation

Yesenia Ayala, Sophmore student at Grinnell College

Diali Avila, Bachelors of Science graduate of Arizona State University

Meredith Boyce, computer science major at Converse College

Rita Herford, fifth generation farmer from Huron County, Michigan

Faatimah Knight, Masters student at Chicago Theological Seminary

Ashley McCray, Ph.D. student at University of Oklahoma

Swetha Prabakaran, high school student and CEO of Everybody Code Now!

Katie Prior, Founder of Youth Trumpet & Taps Corps

Amanda Tachine, leader of Native SOAR (Student Outreach, Access, and Resiliency)


As panel discussions began, the young women spoke about how they used their leadership skills to create a lasting impact through bridging communities. Each woman had varying backgrounds and stories of triumph, but what they all had in common was perseverance that brought people in their communities together to initiate change.

Just in her early twenties, Faatimah Knight united individuals of Muslim and Christian faith to raise $100,000 for churches damaged by arson in southern United States–a great testament to a heartfelt mission and resilient leadership. In order for Asha Abdi to raise funds for natural disaster relief in her home country of Somalia she had to tap into the open hearts of others men and women to rally momentum behind her cause.

Meredith Boyce, a vibrant, witty, and visually impaired computer science major gave her input on what prompted her to advocate for disabled individuals in the field of technology. Her advice:  “Find what makes you angry, and then find a way to make it personable […] and make it funny.”

Fifteen-year-old home-schooled student and business owner, Katie Prior, encouraged all the young women in the room and who watched the event through live stream, to know that they each have the power to lead and bring great change to their community.

These young women are not much different from YWCA champions. Our mission to promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all is no easy task – but we do it! We encourage women to seek their individual voice and use their story to empower others around them. Through the direct services our local associations provide, and the legislative advocacy that our national office manages – the YWCA is constantly developing solutions to improve the lives of women, girls, and people of color in the United States.

There are daily messages to young women to fit society’s ideals, and an event such as this one is a reminder that all women have the power to be impactful in their communities. The YWCA is committed to ensuring that every woman has the opportunity to be a leading change maker in their everyday lives.

Posted in Empowering Women, Young Women | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Equal Pay Is At the Forefront of the Women’s Movement

YWCA USA staff had the opportunity to attend a talk at Turner4D about the women’s movement in the 21st century. The talk featured experts in the history and progress of the women’s movement both domestically and internationally. Celinda Lake of Lake Research and Partners covered the public perceptions of the women’s movement in the US. In her presentation, she gave some startling numbers about the pay gap that continues to persist.

While it is true that women earn 77 cents to the man’s dollar, the number decreases when you take race and ethnicity into account; African-American women make 64 cents to the white man’s dollar, and Latinas make 56 cents. Women hold 60% of all undergraduate and Master’s degrees yet only 8.1% of top earners are women.  These numbers are grim, but voters overwhelmingly support policies that will change the statistics—93% of voters favor ensuring equal pay for equal work.

YWCA USA views equal pay as a social justice issue that makes a huge impact on women and their families —women who are paid equally and fairly are able to better provide for themselves and their family and as a result, equal pay has the potential to strengthen whole communities. The pay gap is influenced by a number of factors. For example, a low minimum wage contributes to the wide pay gap, as women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers.  As such, the YWCA agrees with most of the voting public — that women deserve to be paid as much for their work as men. We believe that issues like minimum wage and paid sick days work hand in hand to help lift women and families out of poverty and to help women achieve a better quality of life.  We support initiatives that help women’s economic empowerment, including policies that raise the minimum wage, protect overtime, ensure paid sick days, encourage fair scheduling practices – passing such policies will narrow the gender wage gap.

Join us in demanding that Congress make working families a priority – contact your Representative and urge them to co-sponsor the Healthy Families Act.

Posted in Working Families Agenda | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment