Safety Through Connection, Part Two: Imagine a world without intimate partner violence

Alisha Somji, Abena Asare, and Lisa Fujie Parks

The following is part two in our guest blog series from our partners at Prevention Institute, Alisha Somji, Abena Asare, and Lisa Fujie Parks. Read the first part in this series: From McKinleyville to San Diego, five communities redefine intimate partner violence prevention:

Imagine a world where intimate partner violence doesn’t happen. What would that world look like? Drawing on practitioner and advocate wisdom and synthesizing research in 2015, Prevention Institute identified community conditions that are either underlying contributors to partner violence or protective factors that contribute to safe relationships. 

To address these factors, the five California collaboratives in the Safety through Connection program spent the last year planning, assessing and engaging their communities. These five 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 region’s inequitable access to opportunities that result in financial instability and hardship to meet basic human needs amongst minorities also plays a role in escalating anger and violence within the family.

All are experienced collaboratives with deep community knowledge, but little background in intimate partner violence prevention. They launched the Safety Through Connection project with an affirmation of their commitment to a culture of learning, safety, equity, and healing. They then developed a shared language around intimate partner violence and engaged their communities. They asked specific questions in their local assessments to determine where to focus their prevention strategies. Based on preliminary survey results, the emerging priorities appear to be norms and culture, economic security, mental health, and housing stability. 

The Oakland collaborative shared that, “The region’s inequitable access to opportunities that result in financial instability and hardship to meet basic human needs amongst minorities also plays a role in escalating anger and violence within the family.” In San Diego, early survey results show broad acceptance of behaviors that encourage male dominance, a belief in male superiority, and limits on women’s decision-making power within the community served. These types of specific insights will guide the development of culturally-specific strategies to change community norms and environments for safe relationships.  

The power of collaboration

As they moved through the engagement, assessment and planning phases, the community partners have spoken to the value of working on this issue as a collaborative. A partner at the LA Workers Center Network shared that the Safety Through Connection program allows their network to see their members as more than workers and really focus on their wellbeing. She said, “[Safety Through Connection] aligns with our increasing efforts to value workers as whole people and connect our fight for economic justice with intimate partner violence prevention.”

A partner in San Diego observed, “It is hard to tackle difficult community issues alone, so doing work together to reach multiple ethnic groups from East Africa will help us to reach our goals more efficiently. Collaboratives can be a powerful force.” A Mujeres Poderosas Amorosas partner in Fresno County shared a similar sentiment saying, “We are benefiting from building a stronger coalition and community, and thinking outside of the box.”

safety through connection convening

The relationship between prevention and healing

While the program explicitly focuses on promoting safe relationships and preventing partner violence, the importance of healing has arisen as a core theme for several collaboratives. A partner from Mujeres Poderosas Amorosas shared how Latinx women in the Central Valley rarely have the opportunity to express the trauma they’ve experienced. The collaboratives were prepared for difficult conversations, but what community members shared was greater than predicted. Collaboratives have, however, connected with domestic violence service providers and have plans in place for how to handle disclosures. For example, the East African Men and Boys Collaborative joined the San Diego Domestic Violence Council and is partnering with License to Freedom, an organization that focuses on refugee and immigrant survivors of relationship abuse in the region. Community healing, resilience, and safety go together and will continue to be a nexus, especially as the collaboratives implement strategies that further emphasize how partner violence is a community issue. 

Next steps

Safety Through Connection collaboratives are nearing the end of their planning year. Building off their assessment process and identified priorities, collaboratives are continuing to work alongside their communities to explore and focus in on shorter- and longer-term strategies that support partner violence prevention. This is also a time of reflection for collaboratives to reassess assets, needs, opportunities, and challenges they face. All five collaboratives are dedicated to preventing intimate partner violence through community-level strategies, and plan to develop these strategies over the next phase of the work. We are excited about the future as Safety Through Connection moves ahead and puts strategies to support safe relationships and healthy connections into action.  

Editor's note:Today, as we mark the end of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we’re inspired by the incredible energy and passion driving the movement to end domestic and family violence. Its power resounds in the voices of survivors, advocates, and allies speaking out, showing up, and reaffirming their dedication to a better future. But we also recognize that it’s not enough to talk about domestic and family violence only in October. For too many of our friends, family members, and neighbors, turning the calendar page isn’t an option. 

We know violence impacts communities in every corner of our state. And this month we’ve seen that we’re all connected in one way or another to domestic violence. But that also means we can all do something to end it. So while domestic violence doesn’t disappear November 1, let’s remember that our energy doesn’t either – and that today, tomorrow, and for as long as it takes, we can work together to break the cycle of domestic and family violence.

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