What Compassion Accomplishes

16. Impacts of Violence on Women of Color

November 16, 2021 WCA_Boise Season 1 Episode 16
What Compassion Accomplishes
16. Impacts of Violence on Women of Color
Show Notes Transcript

In today's episode, Cory and Chris chat with Maya Reneé, WCA Client Advocate and repeat guest on the What Compassion Accomplishes podcast. Maya talks about her experiences working with domestic violence and sexual assault in Montana and Idaho, the importance of communication and education, and the impacts of violence on women of color.

If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic, dating or sexual violence please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or one of the WCA's 24-hour hotlines at 208-343-7025 or 208-345-7273.

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For more information and resources, check out these websites!
wcaboise.org
lovisrespect.org

Want to hear a specific topic? Contact us at outreach@wcaboise.org

Link to read Maya's article: https://www.wcaboise.org/news-and-events/impacts-of-violence-on-women-of-color/

Want to hear Maya's first episode on What Compassion Accomplishes? Listen to episode 8: "What Keeps You Going?"

Intro:

Welcome to What Compassion Accomplishes, a podcast dedicated to sharing information, ideas and resources about domestic abuse and sexual assault. The topics discussed in this podcast, including survivor stories, supportive services, and domestic abuse or sexual violence can be difficult, and we urge you to listen with care. Our hosts are not licensed counselors or mental health professionals. If you or someone you care about have experienced domestic, dating or sexual violence, please call the WCA's 24 hour hotline at 208-343-7025 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233. You can also find more resources in the description of this podcast.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, welcome to another edition of What Compassion Accomplishes. I'm Cory Mikhals along with Chris Davis. You know, Chris, this is I think our first one where we have a repeat guest.

Chris Davis:

Is it?

Cory Mikhals:

I'm pretty sure.

Chris Davis:

We talked a lot about having some of our great awesome guests come back, but is it really?

Cory Mikhals:

I know

Chris Davis:

Is it really? Th first one -- you're a star. May Renee is

Cory Mikhals:

Well when Maya was in here the first time on one of the early episodes of What Compassion Accomplishes, Chris and I knew it's like, okay, we can't possibly fit everything with Maya into that one episode and we were talking about specific things and this article that Maya had written that came out how long ago now?

Maya Renee:

Gosh, I think... was it like a year ago?

Cory Mikhals:

About a year ago?

Maya Renee:

I feel like it may have been. I'm not sure; time is crazy right now.

Chris Davis:

Time is crazy. She wrote an article for our Taking Flight newsletter; it's on our blog as well. And I want to say maybe it wasn't quite a year ago, I'm going to hope. You know, pandemic time is...

Cory Mikhals:

so different than...

Chris Davis:

...transient we're just going to go with that.

Cory Mikhals:

Most days I have to check on what day of the week it is.

Chris Davis:

It was a timeless article because it was so well written and wonderful. How's that? Yeah, wonderfully done. Well, not so much. It's that good bad news or that

Maya Renee:

Thank you. good bad information because it was about the impact of domestic violence on women of color which was very well written and very timely, but, you know, it's it's a horrible subject to write about because it's horrible. I mean, domestic violence is what we talk about, but particularly when we're talking about communities where they're disproportionately impacted and there are so many barriers to them receiving help or asking for help. This article you wrote was very, very well done so we'll make sure that we do have a link to this article in the podcast but you wrote this because, well it's important and we asked you to, but also I think it's near and dear to your heart Oh, absolutely

Chris Davis:

and you're very well versed. So, why don't you tell us a little bit about this article you wrote? DAS

Maya Renee:

Yeah. And first, before I do speak on such heavy topics, I like to just share that this is my personal perspective. It's not like right or wrong, it's just from my experiences. I'm not like you know some social justice... you know, this is just a personal experience.

Chris Davis:

Let's also say that Maya is a client advocate, she is an employee of the WCA, but also this is the What Compassion Accomplishes podcast where we talk a lot about our personal opinions, so this should just be casual conversations about pote tially heavy topics so this i just a conversation.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, and like we say every single episode, we have to talk about these topics.

Chris Davis:

But it is, this is just a conversation we're having. What I say is my personal opinion that I'm representing if we do if we are talking about something specific, we'll cite the sources and we'll make sure we have that in the episode description. So, want to make sure that that is very clear, so thank you for bringing that up.

Maya Renee:

Yeah, absolutely. And I always say my, my opinion and perspective is subject to change as I learn more, you know, because we always learn more

Cory Mikhals:

and we evolve

Maya Renee:

Yeah, absolutely. And that's what I've learned over the years. So, I started as a client advocate in Montana when I was 18 years old. In Montana, we have a very large Indigenous population, we have a couple of reservations, well

Cory Mikhals:

Well now what, what brought you from Montana to we have a lot of reservation in Montana, but I worked n a shelter there. And I not ced that with our Native populat on, there were so many that ust didn't come forward; they a ways said that they would suffer in silence. When I would ac ually be able to connect, ther was a lot of issues with just t ibal laws--you know, because t ey're sovereign nation--so, i depended on jurisdiction , political factors, if fam ly members of an abuser ere, you know, higher ranked in certain departments. An just being a small space, eve ybody knew where the safe hous was, you know. So there was ust so many more factors that I saw with our women of color there versus our Caucasian po ulations, or those who were little bit more privileged or f nancially stable, being able to et a hotel room for a week, o go to a family member's home, who was able to have them stay n their home for a week or had t e room in their home, you know that they owned, rather than s mebody who probably was ren ing and a landlord wouldn't a low somebody to stay at thei house for a week or somet ing. So there was stuff like that, that I'd seen. And, as an Afro-Latina, I've also just, y u know, from family experienc s and knowing that people who were in abusive situations ere like, "I still trust him m re than I trust the police," or I would, I would definitely not all the police in a domestic ispute, because I'm fearful for, you know, his life." So there s just stuff like that, that would see, and also just no even reaching out for help at all. I think, even in the helter--this is stuff that I've personally seen with our women of color, or clients of col r--that they don't want to get c unseling assistance or help be ause the way that we were rais d was like, "don't tell any ody your business because they' e going to take your kids aw y," so you don't open up. T ere's just like that trust, a d then also not being able to pen up to somebody that looks like you, or understands. It's ike, do you really understand where I'm coming from? Because I don't know, you're sitting ther , you have a degree, you re like using these techniq es on me... I think that th re's just a lot of different fac ors that I had seen over the y ars that when I had the oppor unity to write about it, I j st jumped on board. So that's wh re the article kind of, yeah .. I loved it. I loved being ab e to write about it and conn ct with my team, you know, because it did prompt so m ny conversations. Idaho?

Maya Renee:

My best friend. So she had moved here. And her brother and his wife, they got married, they moved here, they were going to BSU or something. So, she ended up here, and she was like, "oh, you got to come here, you know, it's not too far, not too close from home." And I was like, "okay," so I tried it. And I came, and the first thing I did was look for opportunities for domestic violence because that's just like what I knew, you know, it was domestic violence and sexual assault, and I was really lucky and happy to be able to find the WCA.

Cory Mikhals:

And what differences have you seen here, as opposed to working... Now were you actually on rez there?

Maya Renee:

No, I wasn't but you know, what's wild is that there's far more diversity in Montana than there is here. Like, there's like... Yeah, it's kind of wild. And I'm really happy I work with such a recept ve team because like when I irst started the shelter we would have our clients

Chris Davis:

I think you've done a really good job putting it on come in who were women of colo , or you know, say we have re ugees or there's certain diet that people need to adher to, certain religions, certain. . we've really worked to creat an environment that our c ients don't have to adapt to but we adapt to our clients. o, like our ladies of color who would come in and they would go to the resident store and there' no haircare products for the . You know, we have a super gene ous community here, but you don t know you don't know, right, ike they're donating, but li e, not anything that could be seful for women of color, you k ow? And so it's just that puttin it out there and being able t infuse our shelter with tha inclusion that, you know, div rsity, equity, inclusion stuff. the wish list and putting it out there that that's what we need.

Maya Renee:

Yeah.

Chris Davis:

But you don't know what you don't know, like you say, like, how do we know to ask for that if we don't know that that's what we may need, until we have somebody in there, and we don't have it.

Maya Renee:

Right.

Chris Davis:

So to be prepared, even just with the little things like that, I mean, because people in the community don't know that those are the little things you try to do in a shelter to make people feel at home; have those full sized bottles of shampoo, and conditioner, and body wash, so that... it's the little things that try to make it feel a little more like home rather than the travel size, the things to help take care of them. You know, I don't know that I'd get the idea. I wouldn't know what... if I was gonna have a houseguest? I would have to call you up or try to Google it. Because, you know, I grew up around here, and there just wasn't a learning opportunity. It's not that I wouldn't want to; I just didn't have that.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, like you said, Maya, you don't know what you don't know. And when people think about, "okay, I want to be able to give, so I'm gonna go out and buy..." but they're gonna buy the same things that they would use themselves. And, you know, without thought of, you know, anything else. Now, it's obviously--and I think part of what we were talking about here--it's already so tough for for an individual that is in an abusive situation physically, financially, emotionally, whatever the abuses (or all of the above), to ask for help and to reach out and they're already feeling in this foreign environment, and they're scared, and they feel alone. And yeah, to have those little things that it's like, okay, here's something at least that that makes me feel, as you were saying, Chris, at home. But without those things, someone coming in there is like, "see, I really am alone."

Maya Renee:

Yeah. And even trying to find employment or housing when you don't look your best or feel your best. Like how? I mean, how do you show up to an interview and you're not,

Chris Davis:

Wow. you know, yourself? Or, I think even on a larger scale, working with people who aren't familiar with how abuse has impacted your culture, or your life, you know, in working with people who have racial anxieties? One thing that I feel as that, being raised in Montana, I'm actually probably more comfortable with a lot more white people than they are with me, just because I've been around so many more than what they have. But you can feel

Maya Renee:

So, I think that those are things that can impact racial anxiety with people sometimes, you know, like, they're like, "oh," you know, and I'm like, "how's it going, it's all good, we're good." I think I actually didn't even realize such a huge difference until I had gone to college in Mississippi. And I was around so many poor people that looked like me, that I was like, I felt the difference in how I had been treated my whole life, which was really wild, you know. people when they're going into get help. Like, are people going to be afraid to ask questions? Like I said, I am so happy that I have such a receptive team because I've had to call them out on stuff, you know, they may say stuff like, 'I don't know, she's just... is she angry?" And I'm like, "No, she's not angry." And I have to tell them about the whole like, you know, let's let's talk about this "angry black woman" stereotype. "No, she's not." So breaking stuff down and creating a space... You have to create a space where it's safe to talk, where people feel safe. I want my co-workers to be able to come in and say "gosh, can you help me out with this" because I tell you what, I don't know where I would be if I didn't have my co-workers to talk to when I needed help or clarification on like understanding non-binary clients because that's something that I wasn't as familiar with, you know, so understanding our privileges, but creating a safe space to discuss those and to find common ground and to talk.

Chris Davis:

I think that's huge. I will say because you're listening to this, you may not know that I'm a five foot tall, Caucasian, 47 year old woman who grew up in the country. What does that tell you about my limited perspective on a lot of things wrapped up, you know, in a kind of a farming family? And I will acknowledge that I have a lot of privilege, but there are a lot of things I just didn't grow up understanding. It doesn't mean that I don't want to, right, it doesn't mean that I don't do my very best to try to learn and ask questions. But it also means that when I am with somebody who gets upset with me because I don't understand, I am really doing my best to try to change. But a lot of things are very new to me. And I really appreciate when people allow me the grace to ask questions and to try to understand and change my 47 year old perspective, because, you know, I've got a lot of years of learning to unlearn or trying to just change that perspective. And I've grown up in Idaho, right, where things are, as they've been for a very long time. And I'm not saying that's right or wrong or indifferent, it just is.

Maya Renee:

Right. And I think that's kind of a perspective that I try to come at, like, very logical as far as... I'm really huge on logical responses over emotional reactions. And so I feel like, if I see a behavior or an interaction, if I really want to connect with that person, I'm not going to say, "hey, you did that," you know, I just like, "hey, when you have the bandwidth, I'd really like to, to chat with you, just let e know, when you're available " Opening it up. You know, do I want to talk? Or do I really ant this person to listen and t hear me, and that's been eally huge in in representing you know, people of color, an I'll even say now, like, those ho are in just vulnerable p pulations, and that's, you now, everybody. So, it's reall being able to connect, and so t at's something I feel like I'v worked really hard on. In

Cory Mikhals:

Weren't we all? my 20s, I was probably a lit le bit more loud and more like, ou know...

Maya Renee:

Yeah. And I was a little bit more aggressive, and just kind of, like, you know, but then I realized over time

Chris Davis:

You were on your soapbox

Maya Renee:

Yeah, like, everywhere I went was a TED talk. It really was. I feel like it's changed where, in my 20s, I was just more like aggressive and loud. And then I feel like, I've turned into being like, over the years, just more observant, and then I turned into more strategic and then I turned into, like, "what is wha is the mission here," you know, to connect, to have unde standing. Sometimes that does ean dismantling systems, but ou still have to connect in order to be able to do these hings, you know? Yeah, yeah. C mmunication is so huge. Commun cation and education.

Cory Mikhals:

Well, and part of that evolution of perspective that we all hopefully go through, when you're not open to evolving your perspective about something, you just stagnate and you're not able to connect with anyone. But as you evolve through that, it does allow you to be able to have more communication with an individual that maybe 20 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago, was foreign to you.

Chris Davis:

Right.

Cory Mikhals:

But we all need to learn and we all need to grow. And the more we do that, the more we can help each other in this world. And, in this case, people who are hurting, people who have been harmed, and they're already scared so when they're looking at you, like you said earlier, Maya--like okay, look at me and it's an old fat white guy. And it's like, "Okay, I'm more than that." And I am open to and wanting to be there for the person, but when they're already scared, they're already feeling alone. Now putting this face in front of them that says they want to help...

Maya Renee:

Yeah.

Cory Mikhals:

...but how can you possibly know and understand where I'm coming from?

Maya Renee:

Or understanding why they don't want to do certain things, like being very trauma informed. That includes understanding and learning and educating the different cultures. And I think that we've had clients and who were in very abusive situations, they were experiencing abuse in their jobs, and they were undocumented. So, we've had client advocate advocate say, like, "Well, why don't they just..." Well, that's the only position that they probably can have who's going to hire them. So they don't want to ruffle feathers there, their children are here, and understanding the laws that they're cooperating with the police, so they can be here right now. So, you know, and explaining it to the clients and understanding the fears because there's just so much there. Also, language barriers and making sure that you hire staff that are diverse--staff that have taken non-bias, unconscious bias training. There's just different approaches that you can take to make sure that you're connecting with these vulnerable populations.

Cory Mikhals:

Beyond just color, even religion...

Chris Davis:

I was just going to say, more than color, it's religion, and some of the ethnic challenges, even here locally, with our refugee population. You've got some really significant issues --not issues... challenges and barriers--they're facing, the young girls and young boys even. Years and years and years of ingrained culture of how they approach sexual assault, and domestic violence within families, and what is even considered acceptable, and what happens if they do choose to come forward. And, you know, there's populations within, coming from Afghanistan and the Congo, and we're talking with some of these young people in our prevention program, and the conversations we're having is hundreds of years of learned behavior and acceptance, and there are large communities here. And so, how do you have those conversations? How do you train your staff? How do you find the right staff? How do you learn to be trauma informed so that you can even just have conversations with families about how to start supporting young girls who may be experiencing sexual assault and talking to the young men who might be doing it, when that's been accepted for hundreds of years? But now they're in the US, and it's not acceptable here.

Maya Renee:

And understanding your limitations and what you can do and respecting that because healing... Sometimes, like I know, when I was a new advocate, I was like, "I've got all the tools here, use my tools, let's do these tools right now."

Chris Davis:

Well, and this is my role and how I feel about it too, like, "Where's your own?" Like, take it, but also, again, I'm a forty-seven year old, white American woman, and these are my own beliefs, and this is my upbringing. Like, take my tools,

Maya Renee:

Yeah.

Chris Davis:

and my beliefs. "And by the way, I'm right and this is right and wrong, and I'm going to tell you how to fix the

Maya Renee:

Healing's like on on their time. Everybody heals at situation." their own pace to process things. And sometimes that can be really easy for people who don't connect to be like, "I'm giving you all the tools. Here are the tools and you're not using them. Why aren't you using the tools?" "Well, they're not cooperating with the program."

Cory Mikhals:

Right? And well, the problem was they needed a saw and you're handing them a hammer. Just because you're giving them tools doesn't mean it's the tools they need.

Chris Davis:

Yeah, the tools that they need to pick up and use at that point in time.

Cory Mikhals:

Obviously, not only is there a disproportionate number of women, of individuals, of color that are experiencing abuse. I would also have to think--based on you know, the things that you had to say, Maya, too--there's also a disproportionate number that's not coming out.

Maya Renee:

Absolutely.

Cory Mikhals:

So the number is even higher than we know of because there's even less that won't come out.

Maya Renee:

Straight across the board. Everything that has to do with domestic violence and sexual assault. The numbers are already shocking, but that is only what's reported. So be super shocked, please.

Chris Davis:

Today we're recording this actually on National Coming Out Day and Indigenous Peoples' Day. So it's just pretty poetic, actually, that we're talking about this today. And we absolutely know there's not even research--enough research--done on either one of those fronts to know even close to accurately. They don't record. They don't report. They don't trust. They're scared. But the numbers that we do have are just... I have goosebumps right now even thinking about it. Well, they're horrifying.

Maya Renee:

Yeah. And I had included a snippet of that in the article I wrote about our Black trans population. Life expectancy is like 30.

Chris Davis:

Yeah, the homicide rates are horrifying.

Maya Renee:

Yeah.

Chris Davis:

Horrifying.

Cory Mikhals:

Yeah. But again, it starts with compassion. It starts with the conversation to learn, educating ourselves, evolving. You know, we keep saying that, as individuals evolving to what our world is, and not just staying in that little country town that you grew up in, or the big city that you grew up in, and knowing that there are all these different perspectives and individuals and feelings and we can't possibly learn it all

Maya Renee:

Right.

Cory Mikhals:

but we can do our best to just be inquisitive. Why you don't know, ask questions.

Maya Renee:

And I think that one thing I will throw out there is that it's difficult because people can say, like, "Well, what do I do? Do I have to learn about, you know, people of color? Do I need to learn about that African American population? Do I need to learn about refugees? Do I need to learn about, you know, the Indigenous people? Do I need to learn about..." and then it's like, "Wait, do I need to learn about ableism?" You can be like, "Well, I have a family; I have to take my kids to childcare." And they have or I have all these things, but really, you don't have to. Just be intentional in life. If you see a cultural event, like the Juneteenth event, take your family, you know, let your children experience different cultures. You have the, the Soul Food Festival; take your family. Show them these different cultures. I know the Chateau, they have a Persian New Year sometime. Take them out. You know, different things like that, that is exposing you to as much culture as possible in a space where there's not as much; any opportunity you can, that is what you can do so that you're infusing that culture still in your life. So, I don't know, I mean, you can you can give back, you can donate, you can attend events, there's different things without feeling that heaviness of like, "I want to help, but I don't know where to start." You know?

Chris Davis:

Just do one thing, you know? Start with one thing, and that's how I truly believe we impact change in our community. You don't have to be perfect; you don't have to do it all because it can feel overwhelming and heavy. And we've gone pretty deep here... you can't fix it all. But you can help create change by just starting to do one thing and listen to this podcast. If you're listening, you started doing one thing, and we appreciate it.

Cory Mikhals:

And we hope that you share this. If you haven't listened to some of the previous episodes that we've had of What Compassion Accomplishes, and share that with your friends, if one of them really touches you, in particular in your situation, or someone that you love or care about, share that, you know, with them. And let's keep the conversations going. Hopefully, our conversations here will allow you to be able to have these conversations with your kids, with your friends, with your family, whatever that happens to be. And again, let's... we all work towards our own purpose here being obsolete. You know, we all want that place in our world where this isn't a conversation we have to have. But we're not there yet. And we're not close.

Maya Renee:

Yeah.

Cory Mikhals:

But hey, one step at a time we can get there. I truly believe that.

Chris Davis:

Yeah, one conversation at a time, one seed planted at a time... We can make a change, we can make a difference in our community. I believe that. I appreciate you coming down today, Maya, again.

Maya Renee:

Thank you.

Chris Davis:

If there's something else you want to talk about, we'd love to have you back in at any time. It's delightful.

Maya Renee:

Thank you.

Cory Mikhals:

Just an open invitation.

Maya Renee:

You all are great, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Cory Mikhals:

For the links to the the fabulous article that Maya wrote, to any of the other information that we've discussed, that will all be in the description here of the podcast. Check those things out. Share this with your friends, and we hope you join us for the next episode of What Compassion Accomplishes.

Intro:

Thank you for listening to this episode of what compassion accomplishes. Again, if you or someone you know has experienced domestic abuse, dating or sexual violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the WCA's 24 hour hotline 208-343-7025.