Relationships should not make anyone feel scared, sad, restricted or miserable. Unfortunately, that is the reality for many people all over the world. Domestic violence is a serious issue plaguing the lives of millions, and organizations like Our Sisters’ House (OSH) aim to make life brighter for those who experience it.
Unlike many organizations serving domestic violence survivors and victims, OSH offers culturally specific care for African American and Black clients. Having the ability to provide clients with culturally specific support they need is valuable. Statistics show African American and Black women and non-binary folks are hyper-vulnerable to abuse.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 22 percent of Black women in the nation have been raped, and 40 percent will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Black women are also killed at a higher rate than any other race of women. Additionally, 53 percent of Black trans and non-binary individuals have experienced some sort of sexual violence, and 56 percent have experienced intimate partner violence.
Those numbers are extremely high for a demographic that makes up less than 10 percent of the population. African American and Black people in domestic violence situations often feel like there’s no choice but to stay silent. Factors like culture, religion and family history can discourage a victim from speaking up, getting help or leaving.
Domestic violence advocates at OSH recognize this and are able to assist clients with that cultural context in mind. It’s already hard enough to reach out for help when a person is in a domestic violence situation. Why is that and what can make it easier for someone to reach out? When an individual is in need of support, it can feel incredibly alienating and make them feel alone — like no one could understand what they’re going through.
However, once there is a sense of relatability, there is a chance someone else could actually understand.
OSH prides itself in culturally specific care for our African American and Black clients, which is why our Sisters Seeking Change support group is led by advocates and survivors who look like our clients. This allows for clients to engage with others who have a similar lived experience, discuss how being a Black woman plays a role in their experiences and gain a sense of community that would not be found in non-Black spaces.
When an individual holding minoritized identities reaches out for help to those not holding the same identities, crucial aspects of their needs can go completely overlooked because those helping do not experience the same needs. African American and Black survivors and victims of domestic violence may be further traumatized if they don’t have access to culturally specific care. Racism is present everywhere, even within organizations doing good work.
OSH offers a variety of programs for clients. We do domestic violence and crime victim advocacy, and we offer guidance when it comes to healthy relationships to eliminate teen violence. We also run three support groups: Sisters Seeking Change (for survivors of domestic violence), New Directions (for families with teens), and Stepping Stones (for families with younger children). Through our services, we seek to fulfill our goals of strengthening families, empowering women (and all survivors) to become self-sufficient and helping children affected by domestic violence heal with hopes of breaking the cycle of abuse.
Although OSH does not turn anyone away, our advocates are all more than capable of identifying when African American and Black clients need culturally specific care and how to go about providing that care. At OSH, we are aware of the race-related disparities that African American and Black clients are impacted by. Our methods of care are influenced by the realities that our clients face. In doing so, we avoid causing further harm by unintentionally being culturally incompetent. Our clients are already experiencing hardship and the last thing they want to go through is interacting with insensitive advocates who make assumptions about their experiences.
More about OSH’s programs can be learned at https://oursistershouse.com.
Read more of the Nov. 10-16, 2021 issue.