October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Freedom Network USA staff sat down to talk with Sulan Chang from Mosaic Family Services earlier this month about her work with survivors.
What is the one thing people should know during Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
Domestic violence impacts all communities and everyone has a responsibility to be part of the solution to break the cycle of abuse all year round. Considering that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men have experienced intimate partner violence and costs our society over $5.8 billion each year, domestic violence is an issue that extends far beyond an individual or private family matter, or one specific community or culture. Even if you have not experienced domestic violence, you most likely know someone who is a survivor or an abuser whether they are your parent, child, sister, brother, friend, neighbor, coworker, or any other family or loved ones. You can do your part by supporting a survivor, being an active bystander, holding abusers accountable, modeling healthy behaviors in all relationships and interactions, and learn more to raise awareness all year round.
Tell me more about the work Mosaic does to serve survivors of domestic violence.
Mosaic provides comprehensive services including emergency shelter, case management, counseling, legal, economic empowerment, community education, and other support services to domestic violence survivors in the North Texas area. We have an amazing team that is trained to provide trauma-informed, survivor-centered, and culturally competent services to any survivor of domestic violence. We also specialize in working with and outreaching to underserved populations such as immigrants, refugees, and individuals with limited English proficiency. We have a staff that speaks over 27 languages and ensure that all survivors have access to our services regardless of language and cultural barriers. We also provide professional training and technical assistance as needed and requested.
What do you see as the most critical need for those you serve?
The most critical needs for our clients are typically housing, legal, and ongoing safety and support beyond the initial crisis intervention. In our experience, a lot of the available funding, services, and resources for domestic violence tend to focus on safety and immediate needs such as emergency shelter or emergency legal services, which are lifesaving and very crucial for a survivor to leave an abusive situation. However, there is often a gap in resources that are needed in order for a survivor to maintain safety, stability, and independence from an abuser such as affordable permanent housing options, and legal representation for family law and immigration cases which can take years. This results in survivors needing to stay in shelters or access services for much longer and impacts capacity to serve survivors who are immediately fleeing abuse. For our survivors who are Limited English Proficient, LGBTQ, disabled, and/or waiting for immigration applications to be approved, those opportunities and support to rebuild their lives are even more limited.
Many of the trailblazers of the early human trafficking movement had experience working with survivors of domestic violence. Why do you think there is such a strong intersection?
There are many similarities and overlap between human trafficking and domestic violence when you consider the vulnerability and risk factors, tactics used to abuse and maintain power and control, and the philosophy, approach, services, and support that are needed. Human trafficking survivors are in often in relationships or living with their traffickers or experienced domestic violence at some point in their lifetime. It makes sense that when human trafficking started being uncovered in the United States that the movement would draw upon expertise and experience gained from the domestic violence movement. At Mosaic, we have always found it to be a natural fit from the start for us to work with human trafficking survivors because of the infrastructure, partnerships, and resources that we already had through our work with domestic violence movement. At the end of the day, I think that both movements are about the importance of valuing and treating all people with dignity and respect.
How about important distinctions?
There are distinctions when you consider that the domestic violence movement has typically been more established, especially in terms of community awareness and response, including prevention, criminal justice, and resources available for survivors. There are other distinctions when considering the different settings of the both victimizations, number of and connection to the offenders or individuals involved, trauma response and triggers, and stigma and negative consequences for the survivors. It is important to take these distinctions into consideration as we are creating prevention and intervention responses, but we have to be careful not to let these distinctions reinforce competition and/or silo-ing between the two movements. It benefits both movements to embrace and build upon the intersectionality to better support survivors and prevention.
How can people support your work or organizations like yours?
I would encourage everyone to connect (and share) with Mosaic through our website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn. We have many different opportunities to get involved through making an Impact Gift donations, signing up for our Safenight App to directly provide a survivor a safe night in a hotel, or volunteering with our organization.
We also encourage everyone to connect with other domestic violence organizations in your area to create opportunities for partnerships and collaboration. You can find your local domestic violence organizations or coalitions at domesticshelters.org or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Sulan Chang is the Program Director of Victim Services at Mosaic Family Services, a safehaven for survivors of human trafficking and family violence. Mosaic Family Services provides shelter, legal, counseling, case management, and other support services for survivors of labor and sex trafficking, and family violence.