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Why Marriage Equality is Crucial for Preventing & Intervening in Domestic Violence

As seen in Multnomah County Family Violence Coordinating Council’s July e-newsletter
By tash shatz, LGBTQ Program Coordinator, Bradley Angle

On June 26th the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is a fundamental right in the United States. While marriage is only one of many issues that impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) communities, this decision will make a world of difference in the lives of many LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence. One survivor recently shared with me why this decision is important to her:

On one of my unsuccessful attempts to escape my ex-wife, I fled to another state, and quickly found out I could not get a divorce there, because they didn’t recognize my marriage in the first place. I would have had to go back to where I was living before to get it, which I couldn’t do. Plus, getting a protection order was a lot harder when the state I fled to didn’t recognize my relationship. If custody had been an issue for us, that would have been very difficult, too.”

As this survivor highlights, relationship recognition laws have been inconsistent across the country, creating a patchwork of laws that are tricky and oftentimes dangerous to navigate. Unclear marriage laws have made leaving or staying in an abusive relationship even more complicated for LGBTQ survivors who are in domestic partnerships, civil unions, or marriages. From many statistics and studies, we know that around 30% of LGBTQ people experience intimate partner violence in our relationships. These numbers increase depending on identity, for example many studies have found that over 50% of transgender people have been sexually assaulted.

The violence that some LGBTQ people face in our relationships is deeply connected to the other ways that we face violence. One example is hate violence; as awareness about our communities grows, we are increasingly the targets of hate violence. During the 2008 Proposition 8 campaign in California, anti-LGBTQ related crimes increased by nearly 17 percent. And as we know from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, it is LGBTQ people of color and transgender women who face the highest rates of hate violence and all other forms of violence. Many LGBTQ people face violence in unexpected places, including in the workplace, in schools, in housing, and in our families.

In order to end violence against LGBTQ people, we must create a world where LGBTQ people can survive and thrive. In our work as service providers, we have the opportunity to live out the values of equity each day by questioning how we associate gender with violence, by including transgender women in our definition of women, by ensuring that our services are inclusive of a range of individuals and relationships, and by making clear that if we aim to create a world without domestic and sexual violence, we must work to end racism, bias against LGBTQ people, and all forms of oppression. 

Life. Liberty. And justice. FOR ALL.At Bradley Angle, we are working both to support LGBTQ survivors in crisis and to support our communities in creating healthy relationships. In partnership with VOA Home Free, we’re offering a free, day-long workshop for LGBTQ folks to gain healthy relationship skills. The LGBTQ Healthy Relationships class takes place on Saturday, July 25th from 10am-4pm at Bradley Angle Resource Center (5432 N. Albina Ave.) Registration is required and participants can contact me to register at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 503-595-9591 ex 305.

More information:
-For frequently asked questions about what the marriage ruling means, visit

    -Visit OGALLA, the LGBT Bar Association of Oregon, for a directory of knowledgeable attorneys who can help with marriage, divorce, custody, and more

      -For information about non-discrimination protections and transgender rights in Oregon, visit Basic Rights Oregon’s resource page

        -To access tools and resources related to intimate partner violence in LGBTQ relationships, visit the NW Network’s resource page and visit FORGE’s resource page for transgender-specific resources

        From the Archives, Part Four: Our history in the LGBTQ community

        Lesbian outreachBradley Angle was founded by lesbian activists who felt marginalized and wanted to ensure that women experiencing violence in their homes and on the streets had a safe place to go. And so Bradley Angle has a strong and committed history in serving sexual minorities, both in our emergency shelter and our community based programs. An early supporter of Bradley Angle’s work was Darcell XV, Portland’s most famous female impersonator, who supported Bradley Angle’s founders in helping women get safe shelter, and provided shelter in what was then known as Demas Tavern to young lesbians and queer youth who had nowhere else to go. Darcell XV continues to support the work of Bradley Angle with an annual drag show to kick off Domestic Violence Awareness Month each October.

        Our shelter services were always available to women regardless of sexual orientation. We began offering a support group specifically for survivors who identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgendered in 1987. We have served male survivors for about a decade, and remain Oregon’s only domestic violence shelter to serve survivors regardless of gender identity and expression.

        Today, Bradley Angle is a leading provider of technical assistance to domestic and sexual violence providers looking to expand their capacity to serve LGBTQ survivors. We continue to offer advocacy, support groups, and Healthy Relationships classes to this community.

        Collaboration in our Community: A Letter from the Executive Director

        As we wrap up the 2014-2015 fiscal year, we want to share some accomplishments we’re most proud of. A strategic priority for us this past year was developing meaningful cross-sector collaborations that expand resources available to survivors.

        Partnerships are important if we are to effectively address some of our community’s most intractable problems. No single social service organization and service delivery system can effectively address all of the barriers faced by vulnerable families. Here at Bradley Angle we think about partnerships strategically and work to nurture collaborations that span different service delivery systems. We aim to show up where survivors show up. We are firm believers in co-located models that bring the knowledge and resources of domestic violence advocates to those who need it most.

        Bradley Angle staffer Monica Alexander works out of the Alberta Child Welfare branch making sure survivors are heard, that their safety needs are addressed, and that they aren’t held accountable for the behaviors of abusers. This collaboration has helped staff at Alberta Child Welfare better assess and address domestic violence in the families they work with.

        We developed a similar partnership with Albina Head Start & Early Head Start. We know that exposure to domestic violence in early childhood is more likely to cause long-lasting problems without the right supports. Bradley Angle staffer Kristi Smith partners with staff at Albina Head Start & Early Head Start to ensure that families enrolled in their programs have access to informed staff who can help with safety planning, provide crisis intervention, and offer warm transfers to Bradley Angle services. This initiative is funded through the Defending Childhood Initiative of Multnomah County.

        This past year, our Economic Empowerment Coordinator, Cassie Russell, developed new partnerships with many area employers interested in helping survivors obtain jobs.  We are proud to add Brooks Staffing, Mathys+Potestio, Multnomah County, New Seasons, State of Oregon, Urban Waxx, and Job Corps to our growing list of collaborators.

        In the last month, we renewed our partnerships with several area funders invested in providing safety and stability for survivors from our diverse communities, including, Spirit Mountain Community Fund, Herbert A. Templeton Foundation, Irwin Foundation, and The Collins Foundation. We are deeply grateful to our funding partners for supporting this good work!

        Deborah Steinkopf, MSW, MA
        Executive Director, Bradley Angle

        Melissa’s Story

        Melissa came to Bradley Angle on Christmas eve with her two children. “I was so scared, but I knew this major leap of faith was a necessity… Bradley Angle was my right hand through survival and starting over… Six years later, I’m the best version of myself.”

        Bradley Angle’s 40th Anniversary Video

        “Bradley Angle opened the West Coast’s first domestic violence shelter in 1975 with the radical idea that the cycle of violence could be broken. 40 years later, we still believe it can.”

        2014 Impact Report

        We are very proud to share some of our successes and impacts with you from 2014!

        View the entire 2014 Impact Report.

        2014 Impact Report

        Meet Anna, Healing Roots Family Advocate

        Anna Woiwor-Bradley

        Anna Woiwor-Bradley provides culturally specific support for survivors who identify as Black or African American. Anna works with up to 15 families at a time, providing bi-weekly parenting support to families that are stably housed. Often, she’ll do home visits to connect families to resources that will help their children cope and heal from the trauma they’ve experienced. Anna also co-facilitates the “Mom’s Empowerment” support group, where Black moms can talk through their struggles together, while their kids discuss topics relevant to them through a structured curriculum.

        Meet Anna:
        “I’m an immigrant to America, from Liberia. My dad and I came over because there was a civil war in my country.” Anna’s father moved to the U.S. to go to school, and when she was eight, Anna joined him.

        When she started high school they moved to Oregon to be closer to family. Anna did her undergraduate at Oregon State University, majoring in Communications. After working in higher education, she attended San Jose State University, where she earned her Masters in Social Work, with an emphasis on child welfare.

        Anna did her practicum in Alameda County and afterwards worked for Fresno County, California. “That was a real eye opener for me because I got to see systematically how things played out for these youth and families I started digging more into the system overall. And it was surprising, some of the things I found out.”

        “Seeing how Black people were disproportionately represented in systems, not just in child welfare, but other systems—made me angry. These statistics didn’t make sense to me. We’re less than 10 percent of the population.”

        Anna came to realize that she wanted to be on a different side of things, to be in a more supportive role.

        Why Bradley Angle?
        “This position seemed perfect to me. At Bradley Angle, I’m really in the family’s corner and I’m advocating on their behalf with these different barriers they’re facing. And I liked the culture and philosophy of this organization. This time I’m on the other side, and I understand some of the systems that they face, because I used to work for them.”

        Historical trauma and mistrust in Black communities:
        Anna’s experiences working with and for Black families have given her plenty of insight into the realities of institutional racism. Domestic violence happens in all cultures and all socio-economic groups, but according to “Her Dream Deferred,” a report from the African American Policy Forum, Black people are eight percent of the population but one third of intimate partner homicide victims. To Anna, this is telling of how law enforcement and other institutions respond to—or neglect—violence in Black communities.

        Anna explains that Black people are often reluctant to call for help in a violent situation.

        “There’s historical trauma in Black communities. There’s just a sense of mistrust in the community, when you’re having issues in your home, and you don’t feel you can trust these systems to come in and help, that they’re going to penalize you and cause even more trauma by ripping your kids from you, by blaming you, by seeing you not as a person but as a color. The officer that goes out, they’re doing their job, but they’re a person.”

        “These systems see us in a certain way — criminals, bad, a threat to society — we’re not treated fairly and the same. It’s tough. That’s an isolating feeling.”

        Unseen and unheard:
        At the root of her work is Anna’s desire to change the way the world sees and treats Black people, and to help create a supportive and thriving community for Black people.

        “Black people are marginalized and misunderstood. They’re not seen or heard. In this country, there are forces that systematically and deliberately make sure Black people are in a position of inferiority and helplessness. This is happening historically and presently. The people and times may change, but the fabric of these systems, the fabric of this country was designed with the mindset of keeping us in a position of inferiority. This all can get internalized. The stress of battling against these systems takes its toll on a person—on relationships, on families.”

        In Portland, Anna has seen this play out in the gentrification of historically Black neighborhoods.

        “It was a diverse Black community here on the northeast side, but some of those spaces where people feel safe and comfortable and can express themselves and live out their culture are being taken away now. I’m hearing from folks that they’re being pushed out of the communities that they grew up in and have roots in. To me that’s not surprising. That’s part of the history of our people. So we address some of those things in the Healing Roots program. We address the oppression, the racism, what’s happening.”

        The power of Healing Roots:
        Healing Roots also coordinates a “Healthy Relationships” and “Strength and Resiliency” support group, and recently started a Community Advisory Committee.

        In the Healing Roots program, whether it’s through individual advocacy or in the support groups, moms and families are seen and heard, and as Anna put it, “not treated as a perception of who they are.”

        In large part, this is because their culture and lived experiences are not ignored.

        “Black people coming together in a culturally responsive program like Healing Roots is more than just coming to a place that is comfortable and safe; it is essential to our survival.”

        “This is a safe haven for Black families. In the Healing Roots program, we give back that dignity.”

        From the Archives, Part Three: Transitioning home

        Bradley Angle was one of the first domestic violence service providers in the country to open a transitional housing program. We recognized early on that survivors needed ongoing help and assistance beyond a short stay in emergency shelter.

        Bradley Angle opened a site-based transitional housing facility in 1979, with funding from Northwest Area Housing. The Transition House was later moved to a new building in 1995 and renamed the Andrea Lee Transitional Shelter. Chiquita Rollins served as Bradley Angle’s Executive Director at the time. The program’s name honors a Portland woman who was murdered by her abusive boyfriend in 1975. The program was designed to provide transitional housing to survivors and their families for up six months. Gretchen Kafourey was a City Commissioner then, and offered significant support in finding resources to purchase and remodel the Andrea Lee, including a block grant from the Portland Development Commission. Additional transitional services were added in 1998 with funding from HUD. Over the years, the program has helped hundreds of survivors and their children rebuild their lives.

        Today, we continue to provide housing assistance, but use a scattered site model. Participants in the program receive rental assistance and support from an advocate for up to one year, and have access to economic empowerment services and asset building tools.House illustration

        Donate Now 24-hour Crisis Line 503.281-2442
        Story Spotlight

        Story Spotlight

        Jamie called Bradley Angle in March of this year looking for a support group. She had been silently struggling with the shame and fear of living with an abusive partner, someone who in this case was also the father of her two school-aged children.

        “I never know what’s going to set him off, or if this is going to be the time that he knocks me out and I never wake up,” she told the advocate on...  Read More »

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