Health Starts with Housing

This post was written by Megan Smith, our Housing Program Coordinator.
When we talk about supporting the health of survivors of domestic violence, the conversation must include access to housing. Having a safe and stable place to call home provides the foundation for mental and physical well being.  Conversely, housing instability and homelessness, just like domestic violence, are health risks, exacerbate existing health issues and limit access or utilization of routine health care.  In fact, 48% of domestic violence survivors in Oregon choose to remain in abusive relationships, despite the impact on their health and safety, because of a lack of affordable housing options.
Only when housing needs are met can survivors focus on addressing chronic health concerns, the impact of trauma and stress, and preventative health care.  Many survivors in the Housing Assistance Program delay addressing physical and mental health concerns until they have found a stable place to live.  However, affordable housing options are limited and delaying health interventions while seeking housing stability can have  long term consequences for recovery. As advocates, we need to support survivors in prioritizing and accessing healthcare. As as community, we must push our elected leaders to create more affordable and accessible housing options for survivors.  Please join Bradley Angle in supporting the efforts of the Welcome Home Coalition, a broad-based, grassroots effort to address the need for affordable housing in our area.

The Health Effects of Domestic Violence

This post was written by Renee Anderson, our Youth & Family Program Manager.

Many adult survivors of trauma do not identify historical trauma as the reason they are seeking support when they show up at our door. They discuss domestic violence in their current relationship and difficulties they might be facing maintaining stable housing. They may complain of depression or anxiety. They may suffer from physical ailments such as headaches, muscle pains, or stomachaches. Sometimes they report difficulty forming relationships, obtaining employment or that they use substances more than they feel comfortable admitting. It is very rare that adult survivors of trauma are linking current difficulties to abuse they experienced a long time ago.

The ACES study (Adverse Childhood Experiences Study) has found incredible correlations between childhood trauma and the increased risks of suffering from physical health, mental health and adverse societal issues as adults.  The evidence proves that children who have repeated exposure to trauma and violence impacts their brain development and increases the risk of serious health problems, mental health issues, and risky behavior later in life. Children exposed to violence are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress; fail or have difficulty in school; and engage in criminal activity. Often, children who display such behaviors are written off as “bad kids,” when in fact those behaviors are symptoms of trauma. With the right supports, children and youth impacted by violence can thrive and lead healthy lives into their adulthood.

There are things we can all do today to help children exposed to violence and trauma. By committing to being a reliable and friendly presence in the life of a child, you are making a meaningful impact. Bradley Angle is a leader in our community for providing supportive services to adult survivors of trauma and their children in an effort to break the intergenerational cycle of trauma and violence. Learn more about Bradley Angle’s Youth & Family Program here.

To learn more about The ACES study, click here.

Healthy Hearts: Staying Healthy While Supporting Survivors

This post was written by tash shatz, our LGBTQ Program Coordinator.

As interpersonal violence (IPV) advocates* many of us are taught to use survivor-centered practices. It’s one of my favorite things about being an advocate: we work hard to put survivors at the center of our work. We believe survivors are capable. We strive to be non-judgmental, to practice patience, to focus on the strengths of each individual, and to be spacious in the options we offer.

But we don’t always bring that same presence to ourselves and our coworkers or fellow volunteers. It can be challenging and isolating to work in an under-resourced system. It can be hard to constantly extend our best selves to people in their worst moments. It can be heartbreaking and mentally overwhelming to reckon with the epidemic of violence that our communities face. It makes sense that many of us struggle to be kind to our coworkers, to our friends and families, and to ourselves.

My own journey of staying healthy while supporting survivors is in progress, and one thing I’ve learned is that staying healthy is not just physical, but also mental and emotional. Here are some things I’ve been thinking about and trying to practice:

  • Treating coworkers and volunteers with reverence. Just as we try to extend our best selves to survivors, we can do this with one another. Especially remembering that many of us come to the work as survivors or with loved ones who are survivors, we can treat each other with respect and humility while nurturing each other’s growth. We can take a trauma-informed approach with one another as well as with participants/clients.
  • Creating a work environment that feels healthy. While providing vegetables and pedometers in our workplaces can be fantastic, a healthy work environment also means *feeling* like we have the space to do what’s healthy for us. Are we giving each other time to take breaks? Are we bragging about how late we stayed at the office? Are we judging our coworker’s de-stress routine of eating chili fries and marathon watching soap operas? When we practice challenging the belief that “healthy” means only one thing and involves only specific activities, we can avoid judgement and shame, and instead cultivate variety and possibility.
  • Building opportunities to nurture our passion and strengths. How are we bringing joy and creativity to our work as advocates? Are we nurturing new ideas and innovations? Many of us have talents beyond our job descriptions – are we creating ways for one another to do the things we’re best at? Just as we strive to support the strengths of survivors, we can bring our strengths and those of our coworkers into our everyday.

These are just a few of the reflections I have, and I have much more to learn What are you doing to cultivate your health while supporting survivors? Join the conversation in the comments below.

*For the purposes of this post, I use IPV to refer to interpersonal violence which includes intimate partner violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, family violence, and all other types of interpersonal violence.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

This post was written by Deborah Steinkopf, our Executive Director.

Today marks the first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I invite you to take a stand for survivors and their families. Take a stand this October by showing up at one of the many events Bradley Angle and our community partners have planned to learn more about domestic violence in our community, honor survivors, gather with others who want to make a difference, and celebrate the important work of organizations like Bradley Angle. There’s something for everyone.

You can join us for some edgy fun at Super!Drag at Darcelle XV Showcase on October 9 for the annual happy hour drag show to benefit Bradley Angle. For the more literary among you, come help us celebrate our 40th Anniversary at the Wild Lunch with Cheryl Strayed on October 29. To hear more about the experiences of survivors in our community, join Bradley Angle and community partners for the City Club’s Friday Forum on October 30.

The United States commemorated its first Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 1987, 12 years after Bradley Angle opened the West Coast’s first domestic violence shelter. In the 40 years since opening our doors, we know the need for our emergency and supportive services is more critical than ever. Our community has a shortage of housing, affordable childcare, living-wage jobs, almost every resource survivors need to get and stay safe. We need to do better.

And on this first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we are proud to announce that we are taking two steps toward more liveable wages in Oregon. We have taken two steps:

  1. We have officially endorsed the Raise the Wage movement in Oregon AND
  2. We have raised our own minimum wage to $15 an hour

We wouldn’t have been able to raise our wage without support from people like you. Please allow us to thank you by joining us for an event this October.