June 2022 Newsletter
MCADV Community Partners:
Article Submitted by Latisha Latiker, Director of Grants Programming, WFM
The Women’s Foundation of Mississippi’s (WFM) mission is economic security for women. We invest in organizations and activities across the state because we know that when women are economically safe and secure – so are their families, and so are their communities. We believe that when women thrive, Mississippi thrives. WFM is a public foundation and the only statewide grant maker focused on women and girls. We make grants, conduct research, provide education and awareness and advocate for change.
WFM operates from a social change model that all women should have the opportunity to obtain a degree or credential, good jobs with benefits, and plan their pregnancies. Women and families who have experienced domestic violence can restart their lives when they have access to programs and services that lead to a path of opportunity. Many of the programs and initiatives that the Foundation funds through its grant focus areas can be a benefit to women starting over. WFM focuses on Access to Opportunity (2-year degree/credential/skills training), two-generation approach, and reproductive wellness/health women to advance its mission of economic security. Under the Access to Opportunity grant focus area, the Foundation strategically partners with most of the state’s community colleges to fund programs that address the needs of women by providing funds for wrap around serves such as assistance with childcare, food, rental assistance and other barriers that prevent graduation. Currently the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi is partnering with the Bower Foundation and selective community colleges and four-year universities to specifically increase the healthcare workforce in Mississippi. Through the Two-Generation grant focus area, the Foundation works with community-based organizations and community colleges to provide programs that focus on economically vulnerable families and directly address the needs of parents and their children simultaneously in a holistic way. Finally, WFM’s Reproductive Wellness/Health Women focus area funds community-based reproductive health programs, access to adolescent health services/teen health clinics, and access to contraception and research.
The Women’s Foundation of Mississippi also addresses advocacy issues that directly impact women and their families. The Foundation sponsors the Women’s Policy Institute. The Mississippi Women’s Policy Institute (WPI) is a program designed to train community-based leaders in Mississippi in public policy advocacy. The goal of WPI is to increase the number and capacity of visionary leaders, their organizations and/or their communities so that they can actively shape and implement policies that affect the lives of women in Mississippi. Recently one of WFM’s Policy Fellows was placed with the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence to specifically work with the Coalition on state domestic violence policies and laws.
The Women’s Foundation of Mississippi understands that it takes a lot of support for women to restart their lives after experiencing domestic abuse. Women need access to an education, wrap around services and health care (especially reproductive health care), as well as state policies that help women secure economic security. The Foundation funds community-based organizations, community colleges, and four-year colleges and advocates for policies that address some of those needs. WFM encourages everyone to view our website to learn more about the programs funded and supported policy initiatives. Follow us on social media for current updates on our work to promote economic security for women.
Reaching Victims Where They Are
Servicing Victims with Disabilities
Many victims of domestic violence flee the familiarity of their homes in search of safety. Some leave with no money and no idea of what to do next, leading to a feeling of vulnerability. This can be magnified when the victim has a disability. Domestic violence shelters are charged with providing safety and services to help victims begin their journey to becoming survivors. This must be done with compassion and understanding of the needs of each individual. This is especially true when servicing victims with disabilities. Domestic violence shelters must have the capacity to assist any client, regardless of their physical or mental limitations, to truly be able to effectively service their community.
Hagar’s House, located in central Mississippi, is a safe haven for women and children who are homeless due to domestic violence or human trafficking. They provide emergency shelter, temporary housing, and supportive services, to help women become empowered and self-sufficient. During a 30-day program, victims are assisted through a crisis phase, given job training, and are provided access to professional counseling for themselves and their children. Staff members ensure that residents are seen by doctors when necessary and get any needed evaluations. Clients are able to access and continue taking prescribed medication through the Hagar’s House medication management process. Specific staff members are trained to be knowledgeable of and distribute all medication.
Hagar’s House is experienced in servicing clients with physical and mental disabilities. Shelter manager Aleicha Carter understands that trauma does not just affect those that are able bodied. Individuals with disabilities are at a disadvantage and she ensures that services are modified to assist those who are not as able as others. Hagar’s House continues to make changes based on requests from clients such as making sure hallways and bathroom doors are widened for clients in wheelchairs. Carter ensures that visually impaired clients are comfortable by confirming they work with the same staff member throughout their transitional process so that they are comfortable in knowing they are not divulging personal information to someone that should not be privy to it.
Aleicha Carter finds that regularly observing her clients affords her the best way to provide individualized treatment. In one instance, she saw that a client was complaining about pain and having trouble getting in and out of bed. The shelter normally provides bunkbeds to utilize spacing and this client had mobility issues. Carter quickly reached out to community partners to obtain and install an individual bed with a lower frame for her client. They were now able to get in and out of bed with ease and had a better quality of sleep.
Graduating more than 77 clients since their founding, Hagar’s House has proven that they are able to effectively service victims in need, regardless of their mental or physical capability. They continuously answer the call to help their clients reach their full potential. Carter shared, “It feels good when I see that a person is no longer dependent and has transitioned to being self-sufficient and economically empowered. I am blessed that God allows me to be a part of their journey of getting to that next level.”
To learn more about Hagar’s House, click here to visit their website.
Get On The Inside TRAC!
Advocates Coffee Break:
Applying the Learning
The Power of Pronouns
One of the cornerstones of Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence is providing training about domestic violence. It is our goal that victim advocates participating in Advocate Coffee Breaks will be proactive and better prepared to provide culturally specific services when survivors from diverse backgrounds seek their services. The greater question is always, “What happens after the Advocate Coffee Break?” Attending the session is just the beginning. The success is the application of the learning in their daily work and interactions with the victims, survivors, and the community.
A message that has been addressed by several Advocate Coffee Break presenters regarding LGBTQIA+ communities is the use of pronouns. Pronouns are the way that we refer to people in place of their name. When you use someone’s correct pronouns, it serves to create an inclusive environment where you demonstrate that you care for and respect them. Some best practices we can apply immediately are:
- Don’t assume someone’s pronouns just by looking at them
- Introduce yourself and provide your pronouns. This is a small gesture that establishes that you are respective of honoring one’s identity. By opening the conversation with your pronouns, you are signaling to the other person that you are familiar with the concept of pronouns and may be safe to talk to, particularly if you’re speaking to a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, you are increasing the normalcy of sharing of pronouns in public spaces and interactions.
- If you make a mistake and use the wrong pronoun for someone, apologize, use the correct pronoun, and proceed. Avoid dragging out the apology and making the other person comfort you for your mistake.
- Include pronouns in your email signature, bios, and name tents. This normalizes the idea of sharing one’s personal pronouns, making it easier for trans and gender non-conforming people to do it without feeling like the odd one out.
- Avoid using the word “preferred” in front of pronouns because it insinuates that the pronouns are optional. Instead, say “my pronouns are” or “their pronouns are”.
Using the power of pronouns and chosen names for good helps to remove walls of isolation and build relationships of inclusion and equity. It affirms a person’s identity and personal conception of their true selves. To deny someone of their preferred name and pronouns would be the equivalent of denying them their identity. Successful “learning” is when it can be applied to benefit or improve a situation. Let’s continue to improve our society by applying the learning and normalizing and embracing pronouns.
Gun Violence and Domestic Violence: The Boyfriend Loophole
Guns and domestic violence are a lethal combination. Intimate partner violence and gun violence have been uniquely linked, impacting millions of communities across the country. Studies have shown that abusers with firearms are five times more likely to kill their victims. They often use guns to inflict emotional abuse and exert coercive control over their victims. Every month, an average of 57 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner.
One of the most significant threats to victims of domestic violence is a perpetrator’s access to firearms. Firearms are the primary weapon of choice in most domestic violence homicides. When abusers have access to firearms, a survivor’s life is in danger. Limiting abusers and stalkers’ access to firearms is critical to reduce the number of women murdered in this country every year. Unfortunately, state and federal laws make it easy for domestic violence offenders to obtain guns.
Gun safety laws can save lives by restricting access to firearms by people with a demonstrated history of domestic violence and abuse. The Lautenberg Amendment, adopted in 1996, prohibits people convicted of certain domestic violence crimes from buying or owning guns. However, federal law does not require a background check to be performed before every sale of a gun, including sales by unlicensed, private sellers. This allows people who would fail a firearm background check due to their domestic violence record to find private sellers for access to guns. Additionally, current federal law does not prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor stalking crimes from having guns. Many states have adopted laws that fill gaps in federal law by more thoroughly restricting access to firearms and ammunition to people who commit domestic abuse. But there are still critical matters that need to be addressed such as the Boyfriend Loophole.
Unmarried partners can also be victims of domestic violence. Because of a gap in federal gun laws, abusers who are convicted of a domestic violence crime against their dating partners are still legally eligible to access a gun. This is known as the Boyfriend Loophole. An exception is made only if the partners have lived together or if they have a child together. In the United States, an average of 70 women are killed by an intimate partner. Almost half of the shooters had dated, but not married their victims. (1)
The Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2022 was signed in March. Unfortunately, it did not address the Boyfriend Loophole. Federal law failed to include dating partners convicted of a domestic violence offence in gun ownership restrictions. The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) public position on closing the Boyfriend Loophole is that “it’s an attempt to increase gun control by Democrats.” (2) Other opponents fear that closing the loophole would be retroactive, implying that criminal punishment would be based on actions that occurred before the loophole was closed.
Removing gun access reduces the chances of escalation of a domestic violence incident. Having barriers in place may deter an abuser from acting on their urge to kill their partner. Mississippi, Louisiana, Wyoming, Missouri, and Alabama have the highest firearm mortality rates in the country, according to the CDC. Studies have shown that stricter gun laws in a state are related to its lower level of gun violence. Laws that favor background checks for ammunition purchases, bans on assault rifles, or identification for firearms could have an impact on firearm mortality. Until the issue of gun violence is addressed and followed up with strong action plans, Mississippi’s firearm mortality rate will continue to rise.
This publication was funded in whole or part through support from Grant No. 15JOVW21GG00719STAT, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice from the Violence Against Women Act Grant. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U. S. Department of Justice.