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NBJC on the Move: Building Stronger Responses to Violence Within and Against LGBTQ Communities

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs Regional Training Academy took place earlier this month at the Gay Community Center of Richmond. Co-sponsored by the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance and the Virginia Anti-Violence Project, the 4.5 hour program allowed a safe space for community organizers and service providers to convene and share tactics and strategies for addressing and preventing violence within and against LGBT communities. At the end, trainees were awarded a certificate of completion and the opportunity to receive five Continuing Education Credits (CEU) by the National Association of Social Workers.

I attended two breakout sessions during the training. The session that I found most intriguing was “Responding to Sexual Assault in Transgender Communities,” facilitated by Michael Munson of FORGE, Milwaukee. Munson’s presentation consisted of data primarily from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey: Injustice at Every Turn as well as the NCAVP 2011 Report: Hate Violence Against LBGTQH Communities. He focused exclusively on the violence against Black trans people, as well as the barriers that survivors may face when in need of care.  Some of the barriers identified include the fear of reporting crimes to the police. Munson further explained that this barrier exists mainly due to increasing number of cases in which African American trans women and men find themselves re-victimized when reporting experiences of police harassment, bias and even further violence. Suggestions for service providers seeking to overcome this barrier include helping the victim weigh pros and cons of involving the police, as well as helping the victim identify advocates to accompany them to the police department. For those who want to take a pro-active approach to this barrier, advocating for police sensitivity training and oversight can ensure that the force is working from a place of “cultural humility” in cases dealing with trans survivors of hate violence. 

Another barrier that was mentioned (and had the biggest impact on me) was the issues surrounding shelter services. Many shelter services are “sex-segregated” and only available to women. This situation can be quite traumatic for transmen (and in some cases transwomen) that are seeking refuge after an attack. Suggestions for community organizers on how to overcome this obstacle include being creative and working closely with the client to determine what the exact needs and desires are. This may look like conducting community forums before incidents occur in order to create a system of response when traditional services are not an option. For more information please refer to the FORGE article, Services Outside of the Box: Helping Transgender Clients Navigate Sex-Segregated Services.

This training allotted the opportunity to work closely with people that are on the ground working with survivors of violence in our community. The conversation and skill-building tasks were enriching and thought-provoking. I was challenged to critically analyze our traditional means of responding to crisis and violence, the ways in which we identify the perpetrator and the victim, and even our current punitive judicial system. When it comes to our community, how effective are these methods really? In what ways can they be improved? How inclusive are these systems, and finally do the current methodologies and systems in place keep the survivor’s needs and desires in mind at all times?

I appreciate the opportunity to work alongside these exceptional organizers, and new friends, as we dream, plan and strategize for a brighter and safer future for our Black LGBT family.

–  Je-Shawna Wholley, NBJC Senior Outreach Fellow

Je-Shawna C. Wholley is a rising star and the newest Senior Fellow at NBJC. She is also an active member of the organization’s Leadership Advisory Council, providing strategic insight on outreach and issues affecting Black LGBT young people.

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and same gender loving (LGBTQ/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.