Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and the Trans Community

Posted on July 10, 2019

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and the Trans Community

Beyond Pride Month

By: TH Housing Navigator, Victoria Schofield


As we continue our series regarding serving the LGBTQ community, this blog post focuses on gender identity and expression, and the intersections of domestic and sexual violence. It is important for service providers to know how to uplift, support, and celebrate individuals within the community. Gender identity and expression within the Trans community is fluid – from people who identify as the opposite gender than was assigned to them, to people who do not feel connected to any specific gender (non-binary). The community encompasses an array of experiences with gender, sex, and identity, which affects how individuals move through the world around them, and the unique intersections of their identity. 
The social and systemic discrimination often experienced by this community can be lethal. It would be a disservice to this community if one did not acknowledge the deaths of Trans women of color in the United States. In 2019, at least 10 confirmed Black Trans women have been murdered. According to the Dallas Police Department, at least 3 of those murders have occurred in Dallas. This lack of safety in public has a compounding effect when coupled with the threats transgender people experience in their personal lives. When one layers other identities such as race, ethnicity, or class, there is an increased proximity to violence. 
In order to contextualize this issue, one must discuss the nature of “passing.” Passing is a term for a Transgender person who successfully meets the societal criteria for the gender they identify as.  Some people who identify as Trans do not have access to resources to “pass,” and for others, they choose not to access those resources for personal reasons. For people who identify as non-binary or gender fluid, it can be more complex since their gender expression is not institutionally recognized. Trans people are punished for not meeting the strict standards of gender. Some people report experiencing violence when they are outed, based on claims that they “tricked” someone or “lied.” There are strict laws in several states for changing an individual’s legal paperwork to change their name or the gender assigned at birth, and this further complicates the process of acceptance of one’s gender. They might be called the incorrect name, labeled with incorrect pronouns, and experience others refusing to accept their identity. This can create legal complications, often resulting in Trans people having to out themselves to strangers in order to access resources. Validation and acceptance is important because it creates safety, personal well-being, and inclusion. 
The Trans community shares similar struggles to their LGBQ counterparts, although the manner in which it manifests and the results look very different. Housing and employment are two such examples. It is still legal in several states, including Texas, to fire a person because of their gender expression. Gender identity and expression are often left out of non-discrimination statements. Many people will be barred from employment in the first place, making financial stability difficult to achieve. As a result, it is common for people who are Trans to enter into sex work. Since sex work is so heavily criminalized, it often results in interactions with law enforcement, increasing the likelihood of a criminal record, further barring them from employment. Transgender people also face discrimination in regards to housing, which can be a result of their criminal record, the complication regarding their paperwork, or transphobia. 
There are several other compounding issues that could be entire blog posts in of themselves: Trans people and struggles with safe and adequate healthcare, their safety in the criminal justice system, or mental health. All of these issues can create a strain and result in compounding trauma when coupled with complex issues of DV and SA.  According to the 2015 United States Transgender Survey, 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted during their lifetime. For Black Trans women, that number is higher, with 53% reporting experiencing SA. That same study reported that 20% of the transgender population who were incarcerated experienced SA at the hands of facility staff. Trans people are often put in prisons, jails, or juvenile detention centers that do not match their gender identity, which decreases their safety. SA is often used against Trans people as punishment for defying stereotypes of gender. It is meant to punish the person for their identity, as it is to exert power and control. The transgender community faces verbal harassment, including sexual harassment, specifically focused on their gender identity. 
A study by the Williams Institute found 30-50% of Trans people experience relationship violence in their lifetime. There are few healthy relationship models for this community to look to that are not based in traditional gender roles. The lack of conformity to these gender roles are used as an abuse tactic against Trans people.  Their identities and the relationship dynamics are used as a means to isolate them further from their support systems. Similar to their LGBQ counterparts, the Trans community faces obstacles to reporting and accessing services. Their gender identity will often be used to gaslight experiences with violence or delegitimize identity. The threat of being outed is present in these relationship dynamics, but there is often an increased risk of engagement with law enforcement that might deter someone from reporting DV in the first place. With Trans men, there is a pressure to conform to gendered stereotypes; many will feel pressured to “take it like a man” or to minimize the experiences of violence perpetuated against them. Because most DV and SA services are female-centered, it might be difficult finding affirming, safe resources or accessing shelter. Trans women will often receive messages that they “had it coming,” because of their identity. Many will face discrimination from staff, from other clients seeking services, or from the criminal justice system. 
There is always more to learn and ways to develop so that service providers are working to create safe and accessible services for all survivors. Below are some possible next steps. 
-Create an environment that normalizes asking for another’s pronouns or offering your own. Include them when you introduce yourself in meetings or to new staff. Include them on name tags or in staff directories. Consider the language you use to ask about pronouns, sex, and gender to staff and clients. Use inclusive language when talking about coworkers whose identities have not personally confirmed to you. 
-Be mindful of the environment of the workplace itself. Is gender identity and expression considered in your nondiscrimination statement?  When discussing professional attire, is it heavily gendered? Is there validation of all forms of gender expression? 
-Consider how your agency presents itself to the community. Have you created a space for Trans people to feel safe? Are the bathrooms gendered? Are the messages marketed by your agency heavily gendered? Look at your website, agency materials, social media accounts, and even the physical space of your office. Consider including staff pronouns in your public facing communication, such as business cards or in email signatures. Use statistical and research about the Trans community in your outreach and community education. 
-Encourage your staff to attend LGBTQ-specific training, including training on serving the transgender community. Find opportunities to collaborate with LGBTQ-focused or Trans-specific agencies in your service area, region, or state. Include discussions of gender dynamics, gender roles, and identity in staff trainings. 
-Ask yourself what language you use when asking a client about their sex, gender, pronouns, and name. Consider distinguishing the name they use and the name listed on their documentation. Ask open-ended questions about gender identity and pronouns and mirror the individual’s language. Acknowledge their identity and the compounding violence they have experienced. Acknowledge how they face specific obstacles to accessing safety and ask them if there are challenges they face you have not included in the case management. Be mindful of any referrals given to the client. 
-Be graceful when making mistakes. If you identify someone with the incorrect pronouns, correct yourself, apologize, and allow them to identify their feelings. Center the person and not yourself or your apology. Correct coworkers, other service providers, or anyone who interacts with the client if they misgender someone. 
-Speak out on violence perpetuated against the transgender community. Encourage community partners to work with you in eradicating transphobia. Include the Trans community and Trans activists in this work. Expand your recognition of this community all year round. 

If you or anyone you know is a survivor of Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault, our Crisis Line is available 24/7: 940-382-7273 | 800-572-4031 
 

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One Year Around The Sun

Posted on July 3, 2019

One Year Around the Sun 

It has been 365 days since my first day of working for Denton County Friends of the Family as the Community Resource Coordinator and so much has happened! I hit the ground running with our Back to School Drive, and we are officially in the midst of that Drive once more! In my first year, we filled 350 backpacks, packed 300+ meal kits, organized gifts for over 700 children, and collected over 200 swimsuits for our clients! And that was just the drives! You all came out and supported Denton County Friends of the Family by helping with Taste for A Cause, Holiday Express, An Evening of Raised Awareness, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Just Between Friends, and so much more. I have been completely floored by all the community support we receive daily – be it through donations, sponsorships, or volunteering one's time and energy either at our Outreach Office, Upscale Resale (our thrift store), our Emergency Shelter or in our Admin office.  

Let’s keep the momentum going! 

This year our goal is to fill 400 backpacks for our clients, and we once again need our community’s help! We all know how vital education is to a growing brain and a key to the success of that child is having the right tools to thrive in a school environment. We need you, our community, to rally together to collect these items and to fill the backpacks for the 2019-2020 school year. Are you ready to get involved? 

You can register to Donate Here: Back to School

Or sign up to Volunteer Here: Volunteer Portal

I am so grateful for all the volunteers who have come out to support Denton County Friends of the Family in the past year. We wouldn’t be able to expand our services and serve the families we do without your help. If you’re looking for more opportunities, I encourage you to visit our volunteer page or Like our DCFOF Volunteer Facebook page, so you can stay up-to-date on all the volunteer opportunities. We would also love to see you all at our Volunteer Fall Kick-Off this August! We will be gathering at Eureka Park again with games, snacks, activities, and information about all the volunteer opportunities coming up in the fall and winter months. All volunteers are invited: past, present, or future, come say hi and learn about volunteering with Denton County Friends of the Family!  

Fall Kick-Of

I'm looking forward to making Year TWO just as successful as year one! 

-Stephanie Honeycutt | Community Resource Coordinator

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Thank You For Investing

Posted on June 27, 2019

For those of you I have not had the opportunity to personally connect with yet I wanted to pass along that my last day on staff at Denton County Friends of the Family is this month. It has been an amazing journey working with so many passionate leaders over the past few years. I want to thank you for your hard work and support!  

As a childhood survivor of domestic violence I understand firsthand the trauma and life-altering fear created by domestic violence. I also know, as all who share similar backgrounds sadly do, that the echoes of such wounds can be louder than their initial pain, and can continue throughout one’s life, creating cycles that seem impossible to escape.

This power of recognition is exactly what DCFOF helps provide victims throughout our community through educational programs, counseling, and a support system of advocacy and services that bring immense resources to clients’ efforts to be safe, and to cope with the impacts of violence, abuse, and sexual assault.

The work is not done. Your new Director will be stepping up in July (SO EXCITING!). Let’s give her a true welcome with a show of support for DCFOF.

Here’s how you can make an impact: 

1.     Attend Community Conversation on July 2nd | "The Silences We Share In The African American Community"

2.    Support the Back to School Drive 

3. Attend the Hope Center Savannah Grand Opening 

4. Sponsor Taste for a Cause 

5. Donate Items For Clients (summer clean out!)

Thank you for investing in safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention for victims of sexual and domestic violence! You truly do make the difference. 

Cheers to making an impact! 

-Randi Skinner

Let's Stay Connected on LinkedIn

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DV and SA In the LGBTQ Community: Sexual Orientation

Posted on June 27, 2019

DV and SA In the LGBTQ Community: Sexual Orientation

As we wrap up Pride Month at DCFOF we want to share this wonderful blog post from one of our own- Housing Navigator Victoria Schofield!

In honor of Pride Month, it is important to discuss the violence experienced by LGBTQ individuals, as well as the continued resilience of the community. This blog focuses on the intersection of sexual orientation and domestic/sexual violence. I will be writing a follow up post in the coming weeks that focuses on gender identity, the LGBTQ community, and the intersection of Domestic Violence (DV) and Sexual Assault (SA). 

The LGBTQ community is at a high risk of experiencing violence both within the home and within their personal relationships as they are on a systemic level. The intersection of other identities (race, class, education level, citizenship, gender, sex, etc.) can make people more vulnerable to violence.  Statistics show that DV in same-sex relationships is comparable to the violence that exists in heterosexual relationships. Women in same sex relationships, or who identify as lesbian or bisexual, are 3x more likely to experience SA in their lifetime. Bisexual women, according to CDC reports, have higher rates of stalking, physical assault, and rape than their LGBTQ counterparts. 26% of gay men and 37.5% of bisexual men have experienced violence at the hands of a partner. These statistics are incredibly powerful, but there is also a brash of underreporting in this community. This is in part because of common misconceptions and biases towards same sex couples, such as the idea that women cannot be perpetrators of sexual violence, or women are not the perpetrators of DV. When it comes to same sex relationships with men, there is a stigma around male SA victims, which compounded with discrimination against gay and bisexual men, can create hesitation to report.  Socially, violence against men is often minimized, which can deter men from reporting or seeking support. 

This population has unique barriers to accessing safety as well. Many abusers will threaten their partners with revealing their sexual orientation and relationship status (outing someone) to significant parties in their life, whether it is their family, their faith community, their landlords, or their employers. It is still legal in several states to deny someone housing or to terminate an employee based on their sexual orientation. In this way, they are not only removing their partner’s safety, comfort, and agency, but threatening their livelihoods. When attempting to seek help, folks from this community often fear discrimination and judgment from agency staff, from other clients, and from law enforcement. Many are afraid to call law enforcement out of fear of being believed, not being taken seriously, or fear of being held equally responsible for the incident.  Some states, such as Montana and North Carolina, will not grant protection orders for same sex couples. While Texas is not among the list of states to do this, our clients who flee from these states might be coming without that protection. 

These obstacles are compounded by systemic oppression faced on a societal level. Several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Idaho, do not protect a person from termination of employment on assumed sexual orientation. There are no current legal protections in Texas for individuals facing discrimination from health insurance companies. There are states where it is legal to bar people services on the groups of their sexual orientation; some states are working on creating laws for this allowance. This creates a fear among the community when it comes to accessing services. It is also worth considering the cultural barriers within the community, such as a concern that revealing DV in a relationship will further feelings of animosity or de-legitimize same-sex relationships. Toxic masculinity has a part to play in same sex relationships with men as well as in women. Gender dynamics have a role to play in same sex relationships, too, such as the belief that in a same sex relationship with two women, one must be “the man” and must adhere to relationship roles and behaviors that are traditionally coded in the U.S, as masculine. Women who present in ways which are coded as “masculine” by social standards will often use their identity as a woman to de-legitimize the violence perpetuated in relationships. There is a resistance to identify males as victims of DV, which often results in male client’s being unable to identify themselves as such.  Members of the LGBTQ community face higher rates of mental health concerns, substance use, and engagement in sex work, which can lead to higher rates of violence perpetuated against them, homelessness, and suicide. Because there is less representation for this community, it is difficult for them to visualize healthy relationship dynamics. 

As service providers, it is vital that we consider how we are reaching out and serving this population. Changes on both a personal level, as well as an agency-wide level, can make a substantial impact on creating an environment of inclusion for LGBTQ clients. Below I have offered some suggestions for reflection. 

  • Consider the language you use to describe the dynamics of DV and SA. Use language that is inclusive of same sex couples and avoid language that reinforces heteronormative dynamics when speaking about the issue. (Such as he=perpetrator and she=victim, focuses primarily on married couples, etc.). Work to make space for family dynamics that are not nuclear or traditional. Many LGBTQ communities have families that are not blood related, and it is important to acknowledge the significance of these support systems. 
  • Look at the way your organization presents itself to the public; the name of your agency, the marketing you use, social media, etc. Ask if it conveys the message that everyone and anyone is safe there. Include LGBTQ specific statistics, research, imagery, and discussions in your training and outreach. If you have any LGBTQ-focused agencies in your service area, your region, or your state, partner with them! Allow people from these communities to lead trainings or be part of the work in other ways. 
  • Be mindful of how you create space within your agency for your LGBTQ employees and volunteers. What are your policies around discrimination, harassment, and leave? Do you use inclusive language when you talk to your coworkers whose personal lives you do not know? Be willing to change and be flexible to new information. 
  • Include LGBTQ issues in your outreach. When significant events in the LGBTQ community occur, such as DV/SA related news stories, acknowledge them. 
  • Consider how you speak to clients about their relationships. Use open-ended questions and ask them to describe the dynamics of the relationship. Clarify and mirror their language.  Acknowledge their identity and how it compounds the violence they have experienced. Ask if there are any issues that they are facing that aren’t included in your case management so far. Be mindful of the resources you are suggesting to a client. 

Victoria Schofield

DCFOF Housing Navigator

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Celebrating Freedom and Independence on Juneteenth and Every Day

Posted on June 19, 2019

Celebrating Freedom and Independence on Juneteenth and Every Day 

June 19, better known as “Juneteenth,” is the official commemorative celebration of the ending of slavery in Texas. In 1865, Union Major-General Gordon Grander read aloud General Order Number 3 in Galveston, Texas. Two and a half years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and after the ending of the Civil War, the state of Texas had finally received news of the abolition of slavery in the United States. Though the reading of the proclamation brought great relief to those who heard the news, many enslavers in Texas and throughout the south did not free enslaved people immediately and forced them to continue working illegally. The abolition of slavery was not an overnight liberation. 

In the United States today, 46 of the 50 states recognize Juneteenth or “Emancipation Day” as an American holiday. Primarily celebrated by African Americans across the country, Juneteenth’s roots began in Texas. In 1872, a group of former enslaved people came together to purchase land in modern-day Houston, which they named Emancipation Park. They purchased Emancipation Park for the sole purpose of having a location dedicated to the celebration of Juneteenth every year, and the park still stands today. 

Juneteenth celebrations today consist of community-wide festivals, parades, cookouts, ceremonies, public speakers, pageants, and more. Dubbed “The Black Independence Day”, June 19th and the weekends surrounding it are always an exciting time for the African American community to celebrate hope, continued independence, and freedom in the United States. Many black communities come together during this time to celebrate those who have paved the way in the past, and those who are paving the way for the future. This is a great way for families and children to see all the progress that has been made over the years, and that there are people who continue to promote positive, effective, change in the African American community every day. 

In the spirit of Juneteenth, here at Denton County Friends of the Family we continue to promote and celebrate independence and freedom amongst our clients every day. Providing compassionate, comprehensive services to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, we continue to work with the community to promote safety, hope, healing, justice and prevention. 

Here at Friends of the Family the Our Community Matters Program, OCM, is focused on engaging the African American community and bringing increased awareness to the resources available for victims of domestic violence.  Statistically, African American women are 35% more likely to experience domestic violence than women of other races. Cassandra Berry is the coordinator of the Our Community Matters program at Friends of the Family. Want to learn more about the OCM program? Check it out at dcfof.org/ocm

Thank you to our guest blogger:
-DeAundra Moore 
Transitional Housing Intern 

Denton County Friends of the Family is dedicated to providing compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, while partnering with our community to promote safety, hope, healing, justice, and prevention. If you or someone you know is in need of support and resources please connect with our 24-Hour Crisis Line at 800-572-4031

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An EVENTful Weekend

Posted on June 12, 2019

An EVENT-ful Weekend

JEWELS FOR JUSTICE & DRIVE FOR AWARENESS SUCCESS!

This past weekend was full of fun with two events for DCFOF- Jewels for Justice and Drive for Awareness.

Jewels for Justice

PHOTO ALBUM

The third annual Jewels for Justice was hosted at the lovely home of Charla Bradshaw, and presented by Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers. This fun and unique event is a Kendra Scott pop up trunk show- just think of browsing through glimmering necklaces and earrings, while sipping on your mimosa and snacking on delicious food. Charla's gorgeous saloon was packed with about 100 people coming out to support the event! Charla did an absolutely fabulous job decking out the place with beautiful centerpieces, linens, and all the little details that really make an event shine. The jewelry was beautiful and the food was PHENOMENAL.

Thank you so much to Catering by Chef Mark, Hannah's, The Chestnut Tree, and Applejacks for being our catering sponsors and going all out on a scrumptious meal! It was a day of music, food, fun, and friendship- not to mention jewels! Jewels for Justice is our Women's Auxiliary's biggest event of the year and we could not be happier with the success. It's too early to tell how much we made off of jewelry sales- stay tuned for our final number!

Check out our photo album HERE and learn more about our Women's Auxiliary HERE.

Drive for Awareness

PHOTO ALBUM

Drive for Awareness, presented by Elite Financing Group, was a very different event than we typically host and in a GREAT way. Instead of being planned by an adult (or group of adults), Drive for Awareness was planned by a middle schooler named Abbi Deaderick. Abbi's passion for helping other kiddos stems from her own experience with Denton County Friends of the Family years ago.

In Abbi's own words, "When I was younger, my mother and I received services from Friends of the Family! We lived in the shelter for 6 weeks and while there, I was able to go through play therapy and since then I have really focused on golf! I started playing in Kindergarten and this game has given so much to me! Along with golf, I participate in “National American Miss” which in return has helped me gain confidence and has helped me gain many other skills such as using my voice to help advocate for others! 

A few months ago, I came up with the idea to host a family golf scramble where other youth golfers can have the opportunity to play this amazing game as well as raise money to help other kids! All of you here today have helped my idea turn into a reality and become a huge success! Every year, 15 million children are exposed to domestic violence in their homes. The impacts of this can be long-lasting. But thanks to agencies like Friends of the Family kids have an opportunity to access services that contribute to their hope and healing. All of our efforts today will go right into helping those kids!!"


Abbi's vision came to life with an amazing golf scramble. About 40 people came out to enjoy a beautiful day of golfing, great food, and a program with prizes. With the help of her community, Abbi raised over $3,000 for DCFOF! Wow!! We are so grateful to both Abbi and her parents, Rachelle & Torrey Pinkerton, for all of their hard work on this event. This just goes to show that even a small person can have a loud voice and advocate for other kids in need. Thank you Abbi!

Check out the photo album HERE.

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