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Culturally Specific Support

Every day, Haven Hills staff sees the devastating impact of Domestic Violence on the faces of the families that come to us for help; they are suffering both emotionally and physically. To offer the help that these families require, we often must consider the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the clients we are serving. A lack of understanding of a culturally different client’s values and motivations, or the assumption that they are the same as one’s own, can be a significant barrier. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting trauma is not effective.

For example, many of our clients were brought up to neither share confidences nor admit emotional pain to outsiders. The personal disclosure and behavioral changes that counselors typically suggest can often be embarrassing and totally unimaginable to clients who would rather “handle their own business” than seek outside help from a stranger.

“Understanding the complexities of a person’s background and individual situation makes a huge difference in successfully assisting them in treating their trauma and achieve self-esteem,” explained Iliana Tavera, Haven Hills Executive Director. “We understand that beliefs and traditions are powerful forces in a person’s life and that providing culturally sensitive care is essential to supporting domestic violence survivors from diverse cultural backgrounds”.

Clients like Cheri, a woman in her 30s who immigrated to the U.S. in 2003 from Bangladesh in 2003 as part of an arranged marriage agreement. Initially confronted with her husband’s verbal abuse, the situation escalated after a year to slapping, pulling hair, kicking and choking her when he was displeased. The verbal abuse intensified as he criticized her to the children, called her a prostitute and threatened to cut her throat.
Cheri tried to leave many times, but she was financially dependent on her spouse and did not have friends or family in this country. After years of abuse, Cheri finally called the police after a particularly violent episode, and her husband was arrested in 2015. After his release, he left the country and returned to his home country.

That year, Cheri began the difficult journey toward independence with the help of social services and the support of the Haven Hills Outreach Program. Learning to do everything on her own was very hard, but with the aid of Haven Hills’ highly trained counselors she has grown in confidence and has become self-sufficient. Ultimately, Cheri was accepted into a nursing program and graduated in 2017.

Cultural and geographic isolation worsened by financial dependence on a spouse, can be devastating obstacles to overcome. Take for instance Amalia a middle-aged Muslim woman whose marriage to a man 25 years her senior was arranged by her parents when she was only 18.

Her husband had always been emotionally distant and controlling of the finances, but in recent years he became increasingly abusive. He prevented her from working or getting a college education, and he kept her on a weekly allowance of $25.00, requiring her to account for every penny. His criticism and blame extended to belittling her to their grown sons and claiming she was crazy. On numerous occasions, he tried to force her to take unknown pills, despite being told by a psychiatrist, following an examination, that she did not need medication.

Amalia found Haven Hills through an internet search in January 2016. At that time, she was wondering what she could do to make her husband change. Since coming to Haven Hills and attending support groups led by counselors specially trained in domestic violence, her self-esteem has improved. Amalia realized she only has the power to change herself, and she has started to work towards self-sufficiency and divorce.

She recently completed a class to become a real estate agent. In addition, Haven Hills advocated for her to be a part of Pepperdine’s Microenterprise Program to develop the skills to become an entrepreneur. Amalia was recently accepted into the Pepperdine program and hopes to use the skills she learns there to develop a website and become financially independent.

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Recent posts

  • Keep Breathing

    Usually, when you experience any form of abuse from a partner — whether that be physical, psychological, financial, or sexual abuse, people will encourage you to disconnect from your abuser. This can include stopping all communication, and seeking police support if appropriate.

    However, with children, the process of separation is more complex and often means you need to remain in contact with the other party, despite harm that happened within the relationship. Having a child with an abuser is an unbreakable bond that you will share for the rest of your life.

    It can be hard to have your own identity when you are struggling and trying to provide a safe place for yourself and your children. Like our survivor Megan who shared her struggle:

    I take deep breaths. I have felt suffocated for years. Tried to catch my breath by leaving “him”. But I couldn’t breathe as they put the handcuffs on me for “abusing him” when I had been the one abused. I couldn’t breathe when they handed me the restraining order to not come within 100 yards of my kids because I was a “danger” to them. I couldn’t breathe in every court hearing being told I was a bad parent. I couldn’t breathe as I slept in the truck. I was able to take small breaths when I was able to fight the negatives and get them back. I could take deep breaths as I finally had them in my arms after two months of nothing. My breath was taken again when they pulled my three month old from my arms because of both of “them”. I couldn’t breathe when I sat in that room for 1 hour as not one but TWO social workers watched my every move as I “visited” my kids. I couldn’t breathe when the ER doctor told me I was pregnant. Short breaths and reflect and the choices I am making. Deep breaths as I secured my income and escaped the abuse, finding us a safe home. Full breaths when I was finally told I could have my kids back after a year and a half. Slow breathing as “he” disappeared for months leaving me to do it all, feeding them, loving them through their own pains and confusion. And again, small breathes as he returns and threatens to take them again because I decided to fight for “him” to pitch in for their survival. Preparing myself to deal with the ups and downs of co-parenting with an abuser. Life can be breathtaking in both ways. But the point is to Keep Breathing. I will continue to have my kids be my oxygen.♥

    Client’s name withheld

    Don’t forget to nurture your own identity and life. It may be difficult, it is important to build a broader identity outside parenthood and your relationship, to ensure you have a range of identities to draw solace from.

    Work, friendships, hobbies, and other relationships can be sources of support and meaning and give you something to feel positive about at times when the co-parenting relationship feels particularly fraught.

    For information on how to deal with the effects of trauma or to get help, please visit our website at havenhills.org.

  • Grit

    One of the many barriers that survivors face when trying to leave an abusive relationship is a lack of education or job readiness. Often, this inability to support themselves keeps survivors in abusive relationships.

    Knowing this, in 2020 Haven Hills partnered with the American Aerospace Technical Academy to create a multi-sector blueprint to highlight meaningful workforce pathways combined with trauma-informed practices for survivors of domestic violence. We focused on a multi-sector approach to create pathways out of poverty, dependence, and violence through training in non-destructive testing, GED attainment, job placement, and wrap-around support services such as case management, life skills, and support groups to help manage work stress for survivors. Our hope was to help participants build stability through increased workforce readiness, skill acquisition and confidence building.

    It is never easy to take on a new career or to consider a new career at any age and it was especially important that we prepare participants for the added workload and scheduling management required to accommodate virtual classes from 5pm to 10pm, Monday through Friday during the 16-week program.

    We are honored to report that six survivors successfully completed the first Workforce Development Program class! We are challenged to find the perfect word that encompasses the six graduates and their sheer determination to complete this program. The only word that comes to mind is “Grit”. This word is defined by the perseverance, resiliency, and the hard work to reach a goal over a long period of time and each of these survivors have all truly encompassed what it means to be “gritty”.

    The challenges these survivors had were many, and they met them with determination and the hope of building a better life for themselves and their children. They had to learn new material virtually through a pandemic, which certainly had its own set of challenges. They had to re-learn how to be in school. They balanced being a single mother, working to provide for their family, while healing from their trauma. And yet, despite all of that, they succeeded. It was inspiring and an honor to witness their growth throughout this program.

    All of us at Haven Hills believe this project has the potential to change systems and conditions for domestic violence survivors that traditional workforce strategies do not provide.  We look forward to implementing the best practices learned through this pilot and cultivate relationships with additional training programs to provide more opportunities for survivors in our care.  We also hope to better understand both the participants’ individual capacity for success within this context and our ability to provide the wrap-around services and follow-up required for long-term and sustained participant success.

  • We strive to support the unique needs of ALL survivors we serve

    Lisa came to our Shelter from South Central Los Angeles. She had just moved with her batterer from Arizona and knew no one in California. And, as is common in domestic violence relationships, her abuser had isolated her from everyone and everything that she had been familiar with.

    Lisa resisted calling a shelter because she felt that as a lesbian she wouldn’t be accepted into any program. In fact, there is a common concern among our LGBTQ+ survivors, that they will not be accepted into a shelter or receive the services offered because domestic violence shelters only accept straight women and their children.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, at Haven Hills we take great pride in serving ALL survivors of domestic violence regardless of national origin, ethnicity, gender-identity, sexual orientation, age, language, religion, income level, or abilities. 

    Domestic violence is not limited to heterosexual relationships and can affect individuals of all sexual orientations and genders. Within the LGBTQ+ community, intimate partner violence occurs at a rate equal to or even higher than that of the heterosexual community. LGBTQ+ individuals may experience unique forms of intimate partner violence as well as distinctive barriers to seeking help due to fear of discrimination or bias.

    Luckily Lisa made a call to our hotline and found a helpful advocate ready to provide support – a safe place to stay, case management, individual and group counseling, and a community ready to help her rebuild her life. 

    Lisa participated in all our shelter programs. We helped her file a restraining order and worked with her to connect with a transitional housing program. Today, Lisa is working as an executive with a major corporation and is enjoying her new home in Los Angeles.

    We strive to support the unique needs of ALL survivors we serve. Because we believe that everyone deserves to live a life free from violence. 

    Crisis Line 818-887-6589

    You are not alone. We are here to help.