Stand Against Racism: VAWA’s A Starting Point With Further to Go

Today the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism annual event brings together hundreds of thousands of people across the nation, from all walks of life, to call attention to the legacy of discrimination and raise awareness that racism still exists. In the four days leading up to the Stand Against Racism, we examined how discrimination and institutional racism can block violence survivors from accessing housing services and other resources.

This series was co-authored by YWCA Seattle | King | Snohomish’s GirlsFirst and Volunteer Services Coordinator Nanyonjo Mukungu, and YWCA Walla Walla‘s Communications Coordinator Sara Rasmussen, who became friends while students at Whitman College.

We were thrilled to have these two young women join together with Firesteel to consider how discrimination affects different members of their communities in Seattle and Walla Walla. With their interest in domestic and sexual violence, Nanyonjo and Sara looked at the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In their thoughtful series compiled below, they demonstrate how VAWA, with all its good intentions, still has a long way to go when it comes to dismantling systems of oppression that further victimize communities of color and other marginalized groups. 

Nanyonjo and Sara took a stand against racism by evaluating and sharing how VAWA can better provide justice for survivors of violence that are also women of color. It is a fitting topic for Firesteel because there are connections between violence and housing instability. 

Will you take a stand alongside Nanyonjo and Sara? Reading their blog posts below is one important way to grow awareness and sharing one or more posts with others is a great way to continue to build that awareness. 

Part 1: VAWA in Context

This year’s reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will continue to bring the United States closer to decreasing the incidence of and improving the services for domestic violence and sexual assault. The expansion and renewal of VAWA was essential—and it’s great that we can move forward with it. But there are many needs that the law has yet to meet. This post by YWCA Walla Walla Communications Coordinator Sara Rasmussen considers the improvements made in the current version of VAWA, as well as its limitations.

Part 2: Domestic & Sexual Violence Within Communities of Color

“As a black woman aware of the way communities of color are treated by the police, I was afraid of reporting my rape,” writes Nanyonjo. When she did go to the authorities, they refused to report her case.

This second post in our Stand Against Racism blog series shares Nanyonjo’s personal experience of being re-traumatized by police when she tried to seek justice for sexual assault. Her story is not unique; she writes about how violence survivors who already face oppression — such as racial, class-based and gender expression discrimination — are at particular risk of being denied victim status. When victims are not treated as such, they face barriers to accessing the resources they need to heal and remain stably housed.

Part 3: LGBTQ Community Faces Institutionalized Discrimination

With its expansion and renewal earlier this year, the Violence Against Women Act made an important step in ensuring that its protections and services fully include and extend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. But changes in the law won’t instantly end discrimination against LGBTQ community members and create access to services they need. As Sara points out in this third installment of our Stand Against Racism blog series, we need to continue to shift the cultures of law enforcement, service providers and shelters, amongst staff as well as those they serve, in order to protect and better meet the needs of the LGBTQ community.

Part 4: What Now?

In our final Stand Against Racism post, Nanyonjo reflects on her own healing process as a survivor of sexual violence. She found support in her community of friends and two organizations that gave her the tools to understand the importance of personal and community accountability. In Nanyonjo’s words, “It is a continuous process to be an ally to a survivor, not an end goal. In order for the process of justice to begin, we must examine the way our own communities further rape culture, victim blaming, and the silencing of survivors.” Unfortunately not all survivors of violence receive the same support which too often leads to instability and homelessness. Nanyonjo calls on us to examine how systems of privilege and oppression shape our everyday lives and work toward a world without domestic and sexual violence.

What does taking a stand against racism mean to you?


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