During the month of June, you’re a bit more likely to see and hear, the voices of the Queer community proclaiming pride and resilience in the wake of ongoing attempts to undercut their basic human rights. But what is often unseen, both within the LGBTQ+ community and outside of it, is an epidemic of domestic violence in intimate partner relationships.
Recent studies have found that those who identify as either lesbian or gay reported domestic violence and sexual violence rates which were equal to or higher than those who identify as heterosexual. Not to mention, trans people are victimized over four times more often than cisgender people, up to half of that being violence from a current or former intimate partner. The intersection of race only exacerbates the problem, as in just one study, over 60 percent of LGBTQ victims of IPV-related homicides were people of color.
And for Queer survivors of intimate partner violence, barriers to help, such as shelters and mental health services, are often insurmountable. That is why innovative, low barrier to entry programs, like DASH, are so crucial.
“Being homeless for 4 months last year, was nothing new for me, as a Trans Brown Immigrant woman, I have faced homelessness in the past.” Says *Martina, a former DASH resident. “Being able to access the DASH program helped me to continue working and helping my own community. “
Everyone deserves and is worth a life free from fear – no matter who they are or who they love. This simple statement rests at the heart of our mission here at DASH, and we will continue to guide us as we support the LGBTQIA+ community.
*Name changed to protect the identity of the survivor.
Donovan Trott, Manager, Development & Communications
DASH’s Allies in Change Awards Reception recognizes community partners who have made a difference in the lives of women and children facing homelessness due to domestic violence. As the District Alliance for Safe Housing, DASH relies on our allies in the community to amplify DASH’s mission and work to ensure that every home is a safe home for survivors of abuse.
Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
6:00PM to 8:00PM
Center for Strategic and International Studies (1616 Rhode Island Ave, NW, DC)
Note: This is a guest third post in a new blog series by DASH called ‘Domestic Violence Matters’, which discusses current events and media coverage of domestic violence. We believe that empowering, provocative, and original media and storytelling must play a critical role in helping to overcome domestic violence in our society.
Over one thousand homeless families in the DC area cited a domestic violence relationship as their current cause of homelessness.
Each year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) partners with local communities to engage in a nationwide count of homeless individuals and families living in emergency shelter, transitional housing, or unsheltered locations. On January 28, 2015, volunteers were tasked to collect this data to better understand the major causes of homelessness in the D.C. region.
Below are four of the findings that correlate domestic violence and homelessness in the District:
1. Domestic violence is strongly correlated with family homelessness. Domestic violence was the most defining characteristic among homeless families. Over 30% of the families surveyed indicated having experienced domestic violence in the past, and 19% reported their current episode of homelessness was caused by domestic violence.
2. Homelessness overall decreased. There are 11,623 homeless individuals in the region. Overall homelessness in the metro area decreased by 2.7 percent (or 323 people) from 2014.
3. Domestic violence related homelessness, however, is on the rise for individuals. Among single adults, homelessness caused by domestic violence increased 65%.
4. The increase is even more dramatic for homeless families. Among homeless families, domestic violence related homelessness rose 322% from 261 in 2014 to 1,101 this year. Over one thousand homeless families in the DC area cited a domestic violence relationship as their current cause of homelessness.
DASH’s mission is to be an innovator in providing access to safe housing and services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence and their families as they rebuild their lives on their own terms. Support families today.
Learn more about DASH’s safe housing programs for survivors of domestic and sexual violence and their families in the District.
Note: This is the fifth post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC.
This is a guest post from the DASH Community Housing Resource Specialist.
I am Community Housing Resource Specialist at the DASH Housing Resource Clinic. The Clinic takes place on Wednesdays from 1:30-3:30pm at the Westminister Presbyterian Church on 400 I St SW, DC.
The Housing Resource Center is the hub of DASH’s efforts to prevent homelessness among domestic violence survivors. Through the Housing Resource Center, DASH staff partner with My Sisters Place and the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project we work to provide a full spectrum of legal, housing and counseling services for survivors. We assist survivors in completing housing applications, obtaining safety transfers, navigating the public housing system, and making connections to community services in order to help them find safety from abuse.
The Clinic is a judgment free zone, it’s a place for survivors to come and talk through their situation in a safe, clean space.
Providing Support for Survivors
Each week I work with between 6 and 25 men and women from all backgrounds and situations. There is no typical day at the clinic because no domestic violence situation is the same. Last week I spoke with a survivor who traveled from a small town in Delaware to talk to DASH about our services. She came from a small community with one shelter, her husband of 23 years would find out if she tried to access services there. Survivors come to the clinic in a variety of emotional states. Some are young and desperate, in the middle of a new domestic violence relationship, others have been with the same abuser for decades and finally decided it was enough, but regardless – they all need a safe place to go. I work with them to find some normalcy and stability.
The Clinic is a judgment free zone, it’s a place for survivors to come and talk through their situation in a safe, clean space. Sometimes talking is all they need, they just need someone to say, “you can do this”. I worked with a woman in the process of leaving her abuser who couldn’t access housing because she had a $2,400 unpaid debt. While we were in the process of trying to support her financially through the Survivor Resilience Fund – she called the collection agency herself and negotiated her debt down to $1,000, set up her own payment schedule and decided she didn’t need financial assistance. All she needed was an ear and a safe place to hear herself think.
For some survivors, just seeing other people in the clinic waiting room going through the same thing is enough. It’s creates a sense of community – they are not alone. They often trade resources and tips while they wait.
Barriers to Safety
Many survivors I meet with face additional burdens outside of domestic violence. They often struggle with addiction, lack financial security or have a criminal record. Part of what makes DASH a safe place is that we are not the government or the police. Many of my clients have had negative experiences with Law Enforcement that make it hard for them to put their trust in the police. Some don’t feel that when they’ve called the police, they’ve been taken seriously, while others have even been arrested. I met with a transgender woman who called the police after a domestic violence incidence and had the officer tell her to, “pack a bag and never come back,” which would have pushed her into homelessness. Another officer allegedly told a client to stop drinking and go to bed when she called 911 on her physically abusive husband. Survivors need a place where they feel completely safe, and the DASH Clinic is that place.
The biggest barrier for survivors trying to find safety is housing access. Housing Programs in DC are at capacity – including DASH. I often have to work with survivors for months before I am able to place them in safe housing. Most recently I met with a woman who was living with her two teenagers in her place of employment because they had nowhere else to go when she left her abuser.
We help folks at the Clinic, and that’s why I think it should always be around.
Her first husband and the father of her children had been supportive, loving and calm. When he passed away she remarried to a controlling and emotionally abusive man. She paid the rent in their 3 bedroom house but he wouldn’t let her or her children have a key. He often made them wait outside for 45 minutes when they came home before letting them come in. He timed her teenagers as they used the bathroom before school; each was only allowed 3 minutes to get ready. He even kept a padlock on the fridge that only he had a key to limiting their access to food in the house.
Eventually she decided it was too much. One Saturday she packed all their stuff and took them to her office. The office didn’t have a shower or kitchen so they had to eat take out almost every day. Sometimes they would get a hotel room just to take showers. When her employer found out, she was forced to disclose her abuse and find a new place to stay.
Now at DASH, her children have a place to sleep and be comfortable. They are on time for school; one is graduating this year. She is still working, saving money for her own place. DASH allowed her to take a breath and for the next two years she can plan for the future.
The Housing Resource Clinic is a place where survivors can feel safe and heard. With our partnership with the DC Volunteers Lawyers Project and My Sisters Place, we are able to provide comprehensive, collaborative support for survivors. We help folks at the Clinic, and that’s why I think it should always be around.
You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or donate to DASHto support access to safe housing for survivors.
Note: This is the fourth post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that “digital domestic abuse” is on the rise, “more girls are reporting that their boyfriends stalk them via text message or threaten to humiliate them with social media. What starts in cyberspace rarely ends there,” writes the Daily Beast.
What is Digital Domestic Violence?
Digital domestic violence is the act of harassing or stalking a former or current partner through technology and social media. Abusers are increasingly using Bluetooth, spyware and popular location check in apps like squarespace to track their partner’s location. It’s alarming that abusers can remotely install these tracking applications on their partner’s phones without the survivor ever knowing. “When your abuser is tracking your phone, it means he knows when you seek shelter and help, even the route you take to work and can access your text messages to friends and family. It’s a way for him to maintain power and control with threats to ensure that you don’t leave him,” cautions a DASH advocate.
She eventually realized that her abuser was tracking her location via the Bluetooth on her phone.
One DASH client reported that her ex-husband went as far as installing tracking devices on her two cars after the divorce. She was forced to leave her cars in different states in order to throw him off and protect her safety. Another survivor reported that her abuser kept appearing at the grocery store when she was there shopping. She started going to grocery stores across town at weird hours of the day but he would always show up. She eventually realized that her abuser was tracking her location via the Bluetooth on her phone.
Harassment is the other common form of digital abuse. Abusers intimidate and harass their partners by posting or threatening to post incriminating photos and statuses or sensitive information about their partners. Photos that were once private between two people in a relationship suddenly become public for all to see – and often the survivor gets unfairly blamed. Abusers also send threatening messages and texts to their abusers, forcing them to live in fear.
It can be really traumatizing for survivors trying to find safety because you don’t know what they are capable of or when it’s going to stop.
A DASH advocate says this is not uncommon, “Clients come in all the time with stories about what their abusers are doing online, sending messages, posting nude photos and constantly taunting them. It can be really traumatizing for survivors trying to find safety because you don’t know what they are capable of or when it’s going to stop.” One DASH client reported that her abuser was creating fake Facebook profiles under her name and then adding all of her friends and family. He would then use the profile to taunt her. He posted explicit photos of her, wrote false statuses about her parenting skills and tagged her family members. When she would report the page and have it taken down, he would create another page. It’s proven difficult to combat digital abuse because it so often happens anonymously, states a DASH advocate.
Isolation or Safety?
Because of this, survivors of domestic violence are limited with few options and often have to isolate themselves from their friends and family by changing their phone number and email address and deleting their social media accounts. Otherwise, they risk continued harassment and stalking from their abusers. For survivors who want to maintain contact with friends and family but also to stay safe from abuse, it can be difficult to know what to do.
It’s suggested that survivors use aliases instead of real names online, but even that isn’t foolproof. “Depending on your Facebook friends or your profile picture, even if your Facebook is private or under a different name, they can still track you down,” says the DASH Housing Clinic advocate.
What can survivors do? Don’t take risks, get a new phone, and delete your profiles. This can be really isolating, however, for survivors who want to continue having contact with their support network of friends and family. For survivors who decide to maintain an online presence it’s important to change all passwords and be extremely conscious of the photos that are being posted. Even something small like a piece of furniture, a street sign or a car interior can be used by abusers to stalk and harass. As part of a survivor’s safety plan, consider using a computer or device outside of the home such as at a library or at the home of a family member or friend where the abuser would not have access.
You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or donate to DASH to support access to safe housing for survivors here.
Note: This is the third post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: #WhatItTakesDC.
This is a guest post from a current DASH resident.
I remember sitting down just wanting to cry full of anger, frustration and heartache, only nothing would come. I was so numb, so hurt I didn’t know who I was or how I even got here or what I was going to do. I just kept going, kept moving. I had so much to do. I had to be everything for everyone. I couldn’t be what I needed to be for myself. I could no longer take off the mask, it was who I became.
I began to realize that this abuse stemmed from childhood abuse. I started going to the Lighthouse for counseling and at first I wore my mask there too, but I started to crack and the pieces I had been trying to hold together began to shatter until I could no longer salvage it.
Throughout my abuse I kept records, I would constantly take pictures, write letters to use as documentation and I would go to the ER just to get a record.
My counselor at the Lighthouse referred me to the Housing Resource Clinic and I was hesitant at first but I went just to inquire. The staff was so welcoming but it still felt uncomfortable. I took the info I needed and began to plan as things began to get worse at home, not just for me, but for my children. My abuser cut my gas off then next the lights. I began to get harassed at work. The more I tried to do better, the more I felt defeated. I was so tired, so embarrassed I didn’t know what to do. I looked into my children’s eyes and saw so much hurt and anger. They became resentful of me and aggressive. I remember going to bed crying every night.
The more I tried to do better, the more I felt defeated. I was so tired, so embarrassed I didn’t know what to do.
The next week I showed up at the Housing Resource Clinic again. I researched programs, I was determined, I kept calling. Finally, after some months, DASH had an opening in their Cornerstone emergency safe housing program, “We have space, you can move in.” Those simple words echoed in my head. It felt unreal.
I was hesitant of everything. I moved in first and stayed for a week before I allowed my kids to come to make sure it was safe. I was so depressed I sat on the floor for hours crying. I felt like a horrible mother. I remember when I first came I looked around Cornerstone and everyone seemed ok, I felt so alone and out of place. Later I came to the realization that the other women were also wearing masks.
I went to DASH with a purpose, we are going to be healed. I don’t care if we have anything else, but we are going to be healed. I didn’t understand how it was going to happen or even what healing was but I was determined.
At first it seemed like things were getting worse, but it had to feel worse before it got better. I had to be retaught from my thinking to my true feelings to get to the root of the issue.
It was the most important, life changing thing that happened to me. I began to relearn me. I began to love me and be the best person I could be to me and my children. I was blessed to have come across DASH. It has allowed me to heal. DASH allowed me to be able to hear my own voice and recognize where I was mentally, psychologically and even emotionally.
Start today, trust yourself again, love yourself again. Know that you deserve the best. Your life depends on you. Be determined.
You can learn more about what it takes for survivors to get safe at WhatItTakes.org or donate to DASH to support access to safe housing for survivors here.
In construction, an “anchor” provides structural reinforcement for the walls of the building, which perfectly describes what Ad 2 DC has done for the DASH brand. By strengthening our marketing and communications strategy they have both made our services more accessible and increased awareness of DASH and domestic violence as a community issue. Through their consistent and enthusiastic support, Ad 2 DC has made DASH a more capable organization better able to communicate our mission and values.
What is the purpose of the Ad 2 DC Public Service Campaign and why was DASH chosen this year?
– The goal of the Ad 2 DC Public Service Campaign is to find a non-profit organization who is in need of some additional advertising help. We give advertising professionals a way to help the community and boost their experience. It’s important to us that we can support the community we live in and make a difference to a local organization. We chose DASH because we saw an opportunity to work with an organization that has a really important mission and a unique business model. We also thought that DASH would be a really great organization to work with from a personal perspective as everyone seemed really nice and open to ideas!
What were are some of the unique challenges that the committee has dealt with in creating a domestic violence campaign?
– A major challenge the committee has had this year is playing the fine line between being provocative but also respecting the feelings of domestic violence survivors. It’s important to us to reach donors and audiences that might not know a lot about domestic violence by sharing the complexities involved in staying safe in a domestic violence situation. Domestic Violence is a very sensitive subject and we have to keep a very close on how we phrase things.
Why is raising awareness about domestic violence and safe housing important?
– We think it’s important to raise awareness about DV and safe housing because housing is such a critical aspect in feeling safe. If you are in a DV situation the first thing to consider is where to go. I think it is also important since domestic violence is becoming more and more spoken about that we raise awareness about the resources available.
What is a highlight from the DASH/Ad 2 DC partnership thus far?
– We have had a great time working with DASH so far. I think shooting the PSA commercial was a really neat experience. We were able to find actors on a volunteer basis and create something really great to share with the DC residents.
Note: This is the second post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: WhatItTakesDC.
Leaving an abusive relationship is harder than you may think. People often ask: “Why didn’t she call the police?”
It’s a very logical question. After all, most of us were taught to call the police in violent situations. It would seem obvious that physical acts of domestic violence certainly merit telling the police. We picture restraining orders. A kindly police officer telling a victim: “You’re safe now. He’s not going to be able to hurt you or your children again.” Problem solved… right?
Calling the cops isn’t always safe for domestic violence victims:
The reasons are varied and complex, but some common issues that stop survivors from calling the police include:
– Shame and stigma: Many survivors feel crippling shame and stigma admitting to friends and family that they are in an abusive relationship, as well as to authorities like the police. This is due in part because domestic violence victims are so often blamed for the abuse they endure.
– Past criminal record: Calling the police may cause greater harm if the survivor has a past criminal history or if children are present during the violent incident.
But that’s not even the worst of it. One of the most harrowing potential outcomes for women abused by their partners involves remarkably unjust state laws that lock up mothers whose children were harmed—even murdered—by their partner. A new investigative report by Buzzfeed identified 28 mothers in 11 states sentenced to at least 10 years in prison for failing to prevent their partners from harming their children. In these cases, the mothers were charged with permitting child abuse, although they themselves were victims of chronic physical abuse, living their lives in fear of their partner. As a result, these women were imprisoned for their partner’s actions and their surviving children are deprived of their mother. As the article quotes: “It’s the ultimate case of blaming the victim.”
The report points out the key misconception that these cases are premised upon, and which DASH’s #WhatItTakesDC campaign is helping to overcome.
“Many judges and juries — still don’t grasp the answer to a question at the core of so many of these cases: ‘Why didn’t she leave him?’”
“Why don’t women leave abusive relationships?”
As DASH has explored in previous blogs, there are many reasons that survivors don’t leave abusive relationships. But the main reason in many of these cases was fear. As the article states, these women feared that by trying to leave they would provoke their partners to more extreme violence. Many feared for their own lives, as well as their children’s.
“I done tried to leave plenty of times,” Arlena, one of the article’s profiled survivors, testified, but he “actually called and threatened to kill my family.” The last time Arlena tried to escape, her partner came to her father’s house (where she was staying), grabbed her, threw her into his car trunk, and slammed it shut. She thought he was going to kill her. He didn’t, but Lindley moved back in with her abusive partner, saying that she “didn’t want to bring trouble into her father’s house.”
Arlena’s partner continued to assault her and her three-year-old son, eventually killing him. For this, Arlena was sentenced to 45 years in prison for failing to protect her son from her partner.
While in many states, a lot of the laws that are used to prosecute these women were originally intended to help curb child abuse, few of them recognize the complex dynamics of violent abuse involved in these cases.
Blaming women for their partner’s abuse of their children is also tied to American society’s broader notions of motherhood as sacrifice. The article explains that “lopsided application of these laws reflects deeply ingrained social norms that women should sacrifice themselves for their children.” In comparison to the 73 cases of women being sentenced to 10 years or more for their partner’s abuse of their children, Buzzfeed found only 4 comparable cases for men.
Defending domestic violence survivors from failure-to-protect laws
As abysmal as the situation is, there is reason for hope of reduced sentencing for these domestic violence survivors, as well as legal changes that protect those being abused from prosecution. When Minnesota and Iowa created similar child protection laws in the mid-1980s, “they added specific defenses for parents who reasonably feared they would be harmed if they stepped in to stop child abuse.”
The article also tells the story of a judge who had a change of heart upon realizing the gravity of abuse that a battered woman endured. The woman had been previously sentenced to 35 years in jail for failing to protect her daughter, who was killed by her husband. When the judge realized the gravity of this woman’s abuse, he imposed a strict probation plan and suspended the rest of her sentence.
DASH is leading the campaign for policies supporting domestic violence survivors in DC:
Note: This is the first post in DASH’s ongoing What It Takes blog series, which examines and explains the various factors that make getting safe from abuse so difficult. Each post explores factors that survivors have to navigate on their journey to finding safety. Learn more about the campaign at the What It Takes page, and please spread the word: WhatItTakesDC.
Most people think that in order to get safe from abuse, victims of domestic violence should just leave their abusers, that separation is the solution. The reality however, is that leaving is a complicated, dangerous process that takes time and planning.
At DASH we don’t require survivors of domestic violence to leave their abuser in order to access our services. We do this because empowerment is an integral part of our model, but also because it just doesn’t work, mandating the behavior of adults rarely does. Instead, we focus on safety, we want the victims we work with to be as safe as possible in whatever choice they make. For some this is controversial – but for us it’s a natural component of the culture of trust we’ve built at DASH.
For this reason, we are very intentional about the language in the What It Takes campaign, we want to address the misconception that all victims of abuse “should just leave,” but we also want to push back on the idea that leaving is the best option for everyone. It’s important to acknowledge the reality that not everybody leaves – and it is just as vital for those who stay in abusive relationships to find safety. Our Clinical Director, Emma Kupferman put it best when she said, “If we are really going to fight the epidemic of domestic violence, we have to be there to support all survivors, not just those who have left.”
Leaving is the most dangerous time for victims of domestic violence, it takes planning and an immense amount of foresight. Before leaving, survivors need access to housing, stable finances, important documents and reliable transportation among others. Another big barrier for survivors who want to leave is fear – and for good reason, 75% of domestic violence related homicides occur when the survivor is trying to leave. In these situations the abuser will go to extreme lengths in order to maintain power over their partner.
For survivors who decide to stay in their relationships – and many do – safety planning is crucial. Safety plans are based on the individual situation of the survivor, there is no one size fits all plan for staying safe. Survivors are asked to think about where they feel safe in their home, different things that trigger their abuser as well as people they trust that they can reach out to in emergencies. An example of a safety plan can be found here.
We are not advocating that survivors stay in abusive relationships – we are advocating for support and access to services for all survivors, no matter their situation.
We are excited to award Mary Braxton, Assistant Community Manager at Edgewood Commons, with the “Building Brick” award. In construction, the “building brick” is that which makes up the substance of the structure. Mary Braxton’s help to ensure that the families at DASH are provided with more than just a safe place to run, but the ability to establish new homes – quickly, easily, and comfortably, the way a home should be – helps changes lives.
How did you first become connected to DASH?
My first connection with DASH was around the beginning of 2014 while working at another Edgewood Managed property. I was online researching housing programs for victims of Domestic Violence to assist a resident that was dealing with a serious domestic issue with her family and I came across a link (http://www.endhomelessness.org/library/entry/dashs-empowerment-project-rapid-re-housing-for-survivors-of-domestic-violen ). I clicked on the link it was an article about DASH. I then googled DASH to get the contact information. I reached out to DASH to get more information and I started referring residents to them.
What has DASH’s impact been on the survivors of domestic violence you work with?
DASH has had a tremendous impact on the survivors I work with. The financial assistance that DASH has provided to survivors it has enable them to maintain their affordable housing and most are now receiving counseling from other sources. Unfortunately, due to the type of work I do I’m unable to provide specific stories.
From your perspective as a property manager, what are some of the unique challenges that survivors of domestic violence face when looking for affordable housing?
The greatest challenge survivors face is having good credit. Many of the survivors I work with depended on their abusers for financial assistance to pay their rent . Once the abuser leaves then the survivor can no longer rely on that source for assistance. Unfortunately, it’s a trickle-down effect and they’re not able to pay the rent on time and as a result I have to sue them. Every time they’re sued it’s reported to the credit bureau and then their credit is negatively impacted. When the survivor goes to look for affordable housing the first thing that is checked is their rental and credit history. Most HUD funded properties will not accept applicants with negative rental history.
Why do you think that safe housing is an important service for survivors of domestic violence in DC?
I think safe housing is an extremely important service for survivors because it allows them time to get themselves together and reflect on their situation. Without safe housing they will not be able to move forward with their recovery.