Safety Through Connection, Part One: From McKinleyville to San Diego, five communities redefine intimate partner violence prevention

Alisha Somji, Abena Asare, and Lisa Fujie Parks Woman in a conference room

The following is a guest blog from our parnters at Prevention Institute: 

Supporting safe relationships, mental wellbeing, and economic security are goals for many communities —but the connections between these issues often go unnoticed. That’s where Safety Through Connection comes in, a pilot program launched by Prevention Institute with a grant from Blue Shield of California Foundation. Through this program, five community collaboratives are diving under the surface to explore questions like: “How does the prevention of intimate partner violence connect with other community goals, like economic security or healthy eating environments?”, “How can trusted community leaders, who work on a diversity of issues, facilitate community change that supports safe relationships?”, and “What are the steps to transform intimate partner violence from a private issue to a shared community issue?”

Because violence is driven by community conditions beyond the typical scope of domestic violence prevention practitioners, we are helping to expand the types of organizations and agencies who are involved in the prevention of intimate partner violence.

These five experienced community partnerships have worked on issues like immigrant rights, worker rights, community violence prevention, and mental health. Through this program, they are broadening their focus to include the prevention of partner violence and developing strategies to address the root causes of violence, such as harmful gender norms, the social attitudes that enable violence, and economic insecurity. Because violence is driven by community conditions beyond the typical scope of domestic violence prevention practitioners, we are helping to expand the types of organizations and agencies who are involved in the prevention of intimate partner violence.

The five Safety Through Connection collaboratives represent a range of California communities: The Center at McKinleyville (McKinleyville), Allies Against Violence (Oakland), Mujeres Poderosas Amorosas (Fresno County), LA Worker Center Network (Los Angeles), and the East African Men and Boys Collaborative (San Diego).  

The groundwork: language and values

When the five collaboratives began the Safety Through Connection program, they had limited experience, if any, in explicitly preventing partner violence. As they launched, the community organizations in each collaborative affirmed their commitment to nurturing a culture of learning, safety, equity, and healing. This included thoughtful exploration of terminology and what language resonates with the community: partner violence, domestic violence, relationship violence, intimate partner violence, etc.

For example, the Los Angeles Workers Center Network, which is comprised of workers’ rights organizations and advocates, focused on financial abuse between partners in its definition of partner violence. In San Diego, collaborative members raised the issue delicately and respectfully alongside partners from important cultural and religious groups. To their knowledge, there had been little, if any, public community discussion about violence among couples in their East African refugee community. Each collaborative built on its members’ deep knowledge of and established standing in their communities. With practice, they strengthened their capacity to facilitate community discussions in a manner that enhanced community trust and ability to acknowledge and begin to directly address partner violence. 

Engaging the community

The collaboratives have been listening to community members and key partners about what community conditions or factors contribute to safe relationships. They’ve engaged in assessment methods such as interviews, focus groups, community forums, stakeholder meetings, surveys, and others. In many cases, they’ve had to consider what methods will function locally when talking about this sensitive topic. Some found group conversations to be a therapeutic route, while others found the need for one-on-one dialogue. For instance, in Los Angeles, a core partner at the LA Workers Center Network noted, “At first opening up the conversation felt like an elephant in the room, but after a few minutes we decided it was best to have a group conversation on what intimate partner violence meant and then separate to individual conversations to complete the survey.” They continued, “In the individual conversations, workers were more open and got to share so much more.” Regardless of methods, collaboratives have emphasized the importance of valuing participants’ time and commitment by offering stipends, honorariums, childcare, and other types of compensation.

people at convention

The assessment process has also allowed collaboratives to utilize the assets that different partners bring to the table. For example, Mujeres Poderosas Amorosas in Fresno County has been able to leverage its partnership with El Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño to engage underserved indigenous immigrant women and host two pláticas in Mixteco, rather than only in Spanish–which would have been the only option otherwise. In McKinleyville, a partnership with Two Feathers Native American Services has allowed the collaborative to better understand the needs and assets of the local tribes.

In the next and final installment of this series on the Safety Through Connection program, we will explore how this groundwork led to stronger partnerships that are built around hope and healing. Forthcoming October 31.

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