Category Archives: trauma-informed

Social Justice at the Crossroads of Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice

by Meschelle Linjean

Editor’s Note: This is an extended version of the #MacroSW blog post for a 9-19-19 Twitter Chat www.macrosw.com

Our profession has called for inclusion of reproductive justice issues in social work education to promote self-determination in accordance with the NASW Code of Ethics (West, 2013). NASW included environmental justice as a 2018-2019 social justice priority (NASW, 2019). The focus of this chat will consider how environmental justice and reproductive justice are connected, and how this is expressed in our social work practice to advance social justice.

As the U.S. rolls back environmental policies aimed at curbing climate change and limiting air and water contamination, it is simultaneously opening more areas to environmental degradation (Gibbens, 2019).  Women, racial/ethnic minorities, low-income workers, and other vulnerable populations remain disproportionately exposed to hazardous chemicals that adversely affect reproductive health and children’s development. Additionally, as Indigenous communities lose their traditional cultural practices tied to the natural world, their capacity to pass on cultural knowledge to future generations declines.

Green tree with trunk that is shaped like the torso of a woman. Scales of justice are balanced on tree's lower limbs. There is a yello sun or ovun in the crown, and a yello speim heading up the trunk toward the egg.wiht a

Art: Neal Keller

Reproductive justice in the U.S. is rapidly regressing as lawmakers pass legislation that severely restricts access to and funding for sex education, family planning, women’s health services, birth control, and abortion services. Serious inadequacies in maternity and family leave, childcare support, and access to women’s and children’s healthcare continue unabated.This disproportionately affects those with low-income; undocumented immigrants; migrants; and racial/ethnic minority women and families.  African Americans and American Indians/Alaska Natives experience the highest maternal and infant mortality rates. Also affected are LGBTQ2S+ individuals, who face high rates of family planning discrimination. Individuals with disabilities experience high rates of rape and other sexual violence.

Intersectionality, ecology, and policy must be considered to address these conditions and arrive at social justice. The Ethical Principles section of the NASW Code of Ethics (2017) states that social workers challenge social injustice by pursuing social change with and on behalf of the vulnerable and oppressed, to promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and diversity and ensure access to information, services, and resources; equality of opportunity; and meaningful participation in decision making for all people.

It is important for social workers to consider how environmental justice and reproductive justice are connected, and how this is expressed in our social work practice to advance social justice.

References

National Women’s Law Center. (n.d.). If you really care about environmental justice, you should care about reproductive justice! Retrieved from https://nwlc.org/wp-content/…/FactSheetEnvironmentalJusticeandReproJustice.pdf

Energy Justice Network (n.d.). Principles of environmental justice. Retrieved from
http://www.ejnet.org/principles.html

Gaard, G. (2010). Reproductive technology, or reproductive justice? An ecofeminist, environmental justice perspective on the rhetoric of choice. Ethics & the Environment, 15(2), 103–130. https://doi.org/10.2979/ETE.2010.15.2.103

Gibbens, S. (2019, February 1). 15 ways the Trump administration has changed environmental policies. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/02/15-ways-trump-administration-impacted-environment/

Grand Challenges for Social Work. (2019). Create social responses to a changing environment. Retrieved from
http://grandchallengesforsocialwork.org/grand-challenges-initiative/12-challenges/create-social-responses-to-a-changing-environment/ (see: Table 1. pp 16-17)

Gute, D. M., Siqueira, E., Goldberg, J. S., Galvão, H., Chianelli, M., & Pirie, A. (2009). The Vida Verde Women’s Co-Op: Brazilian immigrants organizing to promote environmental and social justice. American Journal of Public Health, 99(S3), S495–S498. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.148528

Hoover, E., Cook, K., Plain, R., Sanchez, K., Waghiyi, V., Miller, P., Carpenter, D. O.(2012). Indigenous peoples of North America: Environmental exposures and reproductive justice. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(12), 1645–1649. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1205422

Mosley, E. A., Bouse, C. K., & Stidham Hall, K. (2015). Water, human rights, and reproductive justice: Implications for women in Detroit and Monrovia. Environmental Justice (19394071), 8(3), 78–85.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6141208/

Murphy, V., Zajicek, A. Norris, A. and Hamilton, L.  (Eds.) (2009). Introduction. In Incorporating intersectionality in social work: Practice, research, policy and education (pp 1-3).  Washington DC: NASW Press. Retrieved from https://www.naswpress.org/publications/practice/inside/intersectionality-in-social-work-intro.html

National Association of Social Workers. (2017). Code of ethics. Retrieved from
https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English

National Association of Social Workers. (2019). Social justice priorities, 2018-2019. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/Advocacy/Social-Justice/Social-Justice-Priorities

National Association of Social Workers New Jersey Chapter. (n.d.). Environmental justice is social justice. Retrieved from https://naswnj.site-ym.com/page/envjustice/Environmental-Justice.htm

Sister Song. (n.d.). Reproductive justice. Retrieved from https://www.sistersong.net/reproductive-justice

Wehrmann, K. C. (n.d.). Environmental justice challenge awaits. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkers.org/News/NASW-News/ID/1604/Environmental-justice-challenge-awaits

West, R. L. (2013, March 21). Interview with Social Workers for Reproductive Justice Maggie Rosenbloom. Social Work Helper. Retrieved from https://www.socialworkhelper.com/2013/03/21/interview-with-social-workers-for-reproductive-justice/

Zimmerman, K. & Miao, V. (2009). Fertile ground: Women organizing at the intersection of environmental justice and reproductive justice. Retrieved from www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/zimmerman.pdf  (especially pp. 26-27; 29-33).

 

Meschelle Linjean: She is smiling. She has long dark hair and wears a purple patterned top. We see the left earring, many strands of small beads.

Meschelle Linjean

An enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and originally from northeastern Oklahoma, Meschelle Linjean currently lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and is in her third year of the University at Buffalo’s part-time, online MSW program. She is scheduled to graduate in August 2020. Meschelle’s recent work includes collecting data on social determinants of health among patients at a federally qualified health center and coordinating efforts with community social service organizations to link patients with non-medical services aimed at improving their health and wellbeing. She completed her first field placement in the foster care division of the Department of Family Services in Fairfax County, Virginia, and will complete her advanced field placement at Native American Lifelines, a non-profit, Indian Health Service-contracted, program that provides trauma informed and culturally centered care to promote health and social resiliency among Urban Natives living in and around Baltimore, Maryland. Meschelle is particularly interested in culturally centered paradigms for understanding and addressing individual, family, and community distress. She hopes to continue working to improve health outcomes for those who have endured historical trauma, intergenerational trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). She also has an interest in ecological/environmental social work and the connections between health, well being, and disruptions to implementing traditional ecological knowledge.

How to cite this blog post:

Linjean, M. (2019, September 13). Promoting Social Justice At the Crossroads: Environmental and Reproductive Justice. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from:
https://socialworksynergy.org/2019/09/13/promoting-social-justice-at-the-crossroads-of-environmental-justice-and-reproductive-justice-macrosw-chat-sept-19-2019/

A Teacher’s Guide to Bullying Infographic

by Pat Shelly and Corinne Fiegl

Corinne Fiegl is a MSW student at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, and the creator of this infographic.  During her foundation year 2018-19, her field placement was in a Buffalo Public School, working with PreK- 8th grade students. This year, as part of the Hartford Partnership Program in Aging Education Program (HPPAE), she will be at the Amherst (NY) Center for Senior Services. She will graduate in May 2020.

Corinne facing camera and smiling. Young white woman, wearing a blue patterned shirt. She has long blonde hair.

Corinne chose bullying as the topic of this infographic as part of a social work course assignment during the Spring 2019 semester. Students were asked to create an infographic that addresses a macro issue affecting the clientele served in one’s internship. Bullying is an issue in schools across the nation; she began to see it firsthand in the interactions among the students at her placement. She hopes to raise awareness about bullying and its effects, and that the infographic will serve as a quick checklist on resources for teachers to use in prevention efforts or interventions. Teachers are trained on this topic, and certainly most have seen student-to-student bullying, but having an “on-hand” resource to address bullying could make a difference in the lives of their students and improve safety in the school. It is also a reminder of just how widespread it is: one in three report being bullied.

In planning this infographic, she found it was important to organize information carefully to make a clear and concise infographic. Corinne’s hope is that “A Teacher’s Guide to Bullying” will educate readers and encourage other school social work interns to make a difference in their work environments.

 

This infographic is sharable, with no changes, and with credit to Corinne Fiegl, under Creative Commons license
CC BY-ND.

Attribution-NoDerivs

 

This infographic, A Teacher's Guide to Bullying, has modes of bullying, types, frequencies, traits targeted by bullies, signs, impact, and interventions. Illustrated with paper cut-outs of humans, a sad face, drwing of a brain, and a silhouwette of a man in a suit with a pointer.

A Teacher’s Guide to Bullying by Corinne Fiegl  CC BY-ND

 

 

 

 

Social Work and Human Rights: Report from My Study Abroad – Part II

by Kristen Hibit

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of two blog posts by University of Buffalo School of Social Work MSW student Kristen Hibit, reporting on her recent study abroad with Dr. Elisabeth Reichert’s Global Seminar on Social Work and Human Rights, based in Munich, Germany. The link to Kristen’s first part is here: https://socialworksynergy.org/2019/06/11/social-work-and-human-rights-report-from-my-study-abroad/ 

All photos below are courtesy of the author.

 

Day 4-

Today’s focus was around women’s issues and mental illness by visiting Frauren Therapie Zentrum (Women’s Therapy Center). During the 1970’s, like the US, Germany experienced a psychiatric movement to give more rights to people with mental illness. Within this movement Frauren Therapie Zentrum was born and has been serving the community for over 40 years. They apply feminist, trauma and empowerment theory not only in their approach with their clients but also within their organizational culture. Many of their clients are immigrants and have suffered from traumatic experiences. They provide direct services to women and children and also demonstrate a commitment to politics through advocacy and policy efforts. They have trained and worked with other agencies to systematically identify trauma and abuse by administering appropriate questions to women in hospitals, doctors’ offices etc. They receive their funding through the City of Munich government and regularly meet with the government to report services and discuss collective goals.

 

Sunny room with wicker chairs, small tables, a plant in front of a window, and a rack with pamphlets. An abstract painting is hung on the wall.

Frauren Therapie Zentrum (Women’s Therapy Center), Munich.

Their services include:

  • Counseling for people with psychosocial and psychosomatic issues through individual and group sessions
  • Counseling for women who have been violent to their domestic partner
  • Counseling, case management and crisis intervention for women with mental health issues, specializing in immigrants and mothers
  • Occupational therapy: training to improve concentration, endurance, self-assertiveness, cooperation and relaxation
  • Day care center for women with mental health problems for socialization and empowerment
  • Outpatient social and health services for women with substance abuse through counseling, case management and reintegration
  • Provide training to professionals in the mental health field

 

I was very impressed with the array of comprehensive services that Frauren Therapie Zentrum offers to support women with mental health issues. Their strong relationship with the City of Munich government seems to allow them to provide consistent services and their long history in serving women creates strong reputation within the community. Their integration of occupational therapy and work with other agencies demonstrates the importance and effectiveness of interprofessional collaboration and approaches to specific issues and in serving clients.

 

 

Day 5-

We took a tour of Dachau Concentration Camp, one of the first Nazi concentration camps, that opened in 1933. I was not sure how I would feel visiting a site where such horrible human rights violations occurred—genocide, torture, exploitation. I was interested to learn more about the Nazi regime especially from a German perspective. In order to truly honor human rights, we must understand and learn from our history which is why this visit was so important. You can of course find much historical information on the Dachau Concentration Camp, but what I most wanted to share with you are the interesting facts shared by our tour guide.

A guide stands speaking to a small group of people in front of descriptive sign in Dachau Concentration Camp.

Dachau Concentration Camp, May 2019.

In the beginning days of Dachau, politicians were among the first prisoners. There was no plan during the first days, so prisoners were first stripped of their clothes and belongings and assigned to hard, physical labor that had no real purpose. Prisoners were told that work would set them free: “Arbeit befreit dich.”

 

Row of low grey buildings - barracks- set back from a large graveled yard. Poplar trees rise behind the barracks.

Dachau Concentration Camp. May 2019.

The first barracks housed 2,000 people with 2,000 beds. During the last days before its liberation in 1945, there were no beds. Over 206,000 people came to Dachau from over 40 nations. As the regime continued to bring prisoners to Dachau, more populations entered the camp and were labeled—Jews, people in interracial populations, people with disabilities, homosexuals etc.

 

What I found most disturbing about the entire visit was the cremation area. The cremation area was separate from the main camp. Mass extermination began when the camp got more and more over crowded. Prisoners were assigned to the cremation area and were responsible for cremating other prisoners. These areas were separated so that there was no communication between these prisoners to find out about the mass exterminations.

 

The citizens of Dachau knew about the camp as prisoners arrived at the town train station and marched to the camp. Photos of healthy, newly arrived prisoners were released by the Nazis to show that the people were in good care—the power of propaganda. Even the Red Cross was called to the camp and released reports that conditions were fair. The Red Cross has since admitted knowing about the Holocaust and claimed responsibility for their silence. This demonstrates the fear and control that the Nazi party had on individuals and organizations. Many other companies supported the Nazi party during this time. Hugo Boss created Nazi uniforms; Mercedes and BMW created machinery. I especially appreciated learning this information as I am interested in ethical supply chains. To this day, BMW is one of the largest companies that has not paid reparations to survivors.

A major part of human rights is being able to say something or do something when something is not right. We learned about the brave people of Dachau who tried to seek justice and assist prisoners through small acts. We can credit the few citizens of Dachau who were able to sneak food to prisoners at parts of prison walls, the prisoners who snuck photos of the camp to expose the true conditions, the prisoner who built a radio to learn , the prisoners who tried to escape and the people who immigrated to the US and shared their knowledge.

 

Row of poplar trees on left, with wide graveled sections, divided by concrete curbs.

Dachau Concentration Camp. May 2019.

The entire day was quite heavy. It was painful to hear about the processes of the camp and the horrible actions carried out by the Nazi party. It is completely disheartening that humans are capable of treating other humans in such a cruel capacity. Power can be quite dangerous and we need to understand who holds power and what that means for others. We must never forget what we have learned from Dachau. We must remember that when we are in our own communities and see something that is not right, not matter how small or large, we must say something to truly uphold human rights.

 

After we returned to Munich, my roommate Kayla and I headed to Olympiapark, which housed the 1972 Olympics, to process everything we learned and felt from our day at Dachau. I am being more conscious about my own self-care. Self-care includes allowing yourself time to process information and feelings. I am glad we did so in such a beautiful space in Munich!

View in Olympia Park Munich: A huge tree backlit by sun, wiht green field and sunny sky. f

Olympia Park, Munich: Suited for Self-care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6-

We took a day trip to Nuremberg by train to visit the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds (Propaganda Museum) and Nuremberg Court House where the Nuremburg trails took place. Unfortunately, the Documentation Center did not have English information headsets available at the time of our visit, so we were not able to get the most out of our visit. The Documentation Center focuses on the tactics and media used by the National Socialist to hold rallies and spread information during the dictatorship. The museum is on the grounds where the party held rallies and Hilter gave some of his most famous speeches.

Large brick building curves around oval courtyard.

Documentation Center, Munich, June, 2019.

Posters and photos from Nazi-era Germany from the Documentation Center in Munich.

Posters and photos from Nazi-era Germany from the Documentation Center in Munich.

 We concluded our day at the Memorium Nuremberg Trials and Courthouse. This courtroom is significant in history because it hosted the Nuremberg Trials where leaders of the Nazi regime were tried by the International Military Tribunal. These trials had a major influence on international criminal law and human rights. Twenty-two people and seven organizations were tried on crimes against peace and humanity, forced labor, conspiracy and war crimes—new concepts used in a fair trial.

 

 

Courtroom at Nuremberg, with wood paneling and coffered ceilings. Two chandeliers are brightly lit, and a cross hangs ont e wall behind the bench with its five chairs.

Courtroom, Memorium, Nuremberg.

Having just visited Dachau, I could not help but think about the courageous survivors who provided testimony that helped seek justice and the re-traumatization that they must have experienced during that trial period. I really enjoyed my time at the Memorium as I learned a lot about the key players in International Military Tribunal and the international response to such crimes. These trails hold a legacy in an international commitment to human rights and holding states accountable for human rights abuses.

 

Day 7-

We had a free day to explore Munich or greater Bavaria so I headed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a ski village that hosted the 1936 Olympics. If you ever have the opportunity to visit southern Bavaria, you should do so. It was the most breath taking, incredible experiences.

We went up to the top of the highest mountain in Germany, Zugspitze, via train and cable car. WOW is all I can say!

View of snowy mountain peaks repeating to the horizone, with blue sky and clouds hovering over the peaks.

Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany.

Flowers are foreground, river streams past houses, mountains seen in distance.

Garmische, June 2019.

 

We then took a cable car to Eibsee lake and took a boat around the lake for the most gorgeous views.

I am a lover of the outdoors so it was nice to get out of the city and experience beautiful nature. We live in an incredibly beautiful world. I highly recommend visiting this town if you have the opportunity!

 

Day 8-

 Our entire program took a break from coursework and took a day trip to Salzburg, Austria. This was my first time in Austria making it #27 of my countries visited. We explored the city center and visited Hohensalzburg Fortress, one of the largest medieval fortresses in Europe.

Looking up at the Fortress, built upon a cliff.

The Fortress

View looking down on Salzburg cathedral, in city center.

Salzburg Cathedral.

 

The top of the fortress offers incredible views of the entire city and the Alps! What a beautiful city between the architecture, clean streets and posh businesses.

 

 

Day 9-

On the last day of our program, we visited Adwiga, an agency that assists survivors of human trafficking. I was most interested in visiting this agency because my field placement this year was with Freedom Network USA, a coalition of organizations and individuals who utilize a human right based approach to human trafficking. I was interested in learning how the agency and Germany respond the issue in collaboration with other countries within the EU, especially with the influx of migration from Africa and the Middle East.

We met with Adina, a licensed counselor for Adwiga, who also conducts research at the European Commission. The agency provides counseling and case management services for survivors of human trafficking. They work directly with police, who provide many of their referrals, and also work within refugee camps to screen for human trafficking. Adigwa works closely with the International Organization for Migration and Europole International Investigations on trafficking; most trafficking cases cross boarders within the EU. As in the US, it is difficult to prosecute cases. According to their national report about 800 cases were closed last year. Germany does not incarcerate perpetrators often, but traffickers do owe restitution to survivors, who are entitled to that as well as social benefits and accommodations. Adigwa counselors come from many of the countries that survivors come from, and thus can communicate in the native language of the client, with no need for telephonic interpretation.

 

members of this huan rights course stand on steps in a partially shaded sunny path.

The group! (Dr. Elisabeth Reichert, far left)

 

Our group concluded our program with a final discussion on how human rights must be integrated into all levels of service provision and in all industries. We all agreed that although the US had great influence in constructing and upholding human rights, the US needs to improve policies and services provisions to be more accountable.

 

 

 

Stay tuned for a final reflection of the program and being abroad!

hibit photo with salzburg view

Kristen Hibit, Salzburg, Austria, June 2019

Kristen Hibit is a full-time MSW student slated to graduate in May 2020. Kristen currently works as a Immigrant Work Specialist at the New York State Department of Labor, Division of Immigrants Policies and Affairs. She provides workers’ rights education and services to immigrant workers, and labor law compliance education to agricultural businesses. Previously, Kristen worked with refugee populations developing employment services and business partnerships to facilitate and support the hiring of refugees. Kristen recently completed her first placement at Freedom Network USA, a coalition of experts and advocates that utilize a human-rights-based approach to human trafficking. Kristen is focusing on macro social work and is particularly interested in policy work and human rights surrounding immigrant and refugee populations,and how this can be integrated into organizational structures to solve systemic issues.

 

The Dilley Project: UB Students at the US-Mexico Border – Sixth Post

by Teresa Watson

Editor’s note: This is the sixth and final post in a series from a MSW student who volunteered with the University at Buffalo Law School US-Mexico Border Clinic , assisting women and children seeking asylum, held in a detention center in Dilley, Texas. Look for previous posts at https://socialworksynergy.org .

 

us mexico border dry hilly landscape with iron slab fencing interrupted by steep incline

Bill Morrow. 2017. Photo. U.S. Mexico Border. Retrieved from Flikr. Used by permission (CC BY 2.0).

 

Reflecting on Dilley

I have made this comment in person to many people, but I was very thankful that I wrote this blog and grateful to the UB School of Social Work for editing it and hosting it for me; for about a week after the clinic I had trouble articulating the entirety of the experience into one easy reply, one soundbite that could somehow encapsulate my experiences there, and so I would refer them to the blog instead. Sending someone a link relieved me of a tremendous amount of emotional labor.

I’ve written this final post several times, and I’m never satisfied with it. I find it difficult to capture the facts and feelings of my experiences in Texas, and I get stuck wanting to explain everything, which is impossible; also, I kept thinking that I needed to convey to everyone that I am mentally and emotionally recovered from the trip. I don’t regret putting up the post about the breakdown, since I felt it was important to be honest about what was a normal piece of experience for me – I did not numb myself, while I was there, though the nature of the work would have made that easy to do, and I think that remaining open to the pain of the women’s trauma expedited my recovery time – but I still hope that the readers of this blog won’t worry about me.

 

Trauma-informed language /
Yo hablo poquito español (when I speak very little Spanish)

spanish english language wordle with numerous terms listed such as "verb" "slang" "speakers"

I wanted to talk about the specifics of translating and trauma-informed language, what it was like to have such basic Spanish in that setting, the difficulties of different dialects, the prevalence of domestic violence, and how thankful I was to the crisis agency I previously worked for, and how sad I was that the dynamics of power and control are ubiquitous across cultures. I wanted to talk about being a social worker among (pretty fantastic social-justice oriented) lawyers, how I both craved time to debrief and deeply resented anything or anyone that took up my time in the evenings after those long, exhausting days, how I was genuinely welcomed by the law students but similarly so grateful to the other social workers that I met there, how a staff person asked me about MSWs after she saw me talking to another volunteer about the dynamics of intimate violence, how trauma-informed the project was even in the face of a system that disempowers these women, how so many of the ICE staff were Hispanic people of color, who were kind to the women, at least in front of me, and who seemed grateful that we were there.

 

Policy changes overdue

I want to explain that I still believe in asylum law but that we desperately need to update it to reflect the realities of peoples’ lives, and that I don’t really believe in borders especially after this trip; I wanted to convey that while our immigration system is broken, and complex, and run by a xenophobic administration, I have grown weary of blasé discussions about it; I want to talk action, policy change, and activism strategy. I want us to be honest about the abusive and racist history of immigration policy in our country, to recognize that ICE has only existed since 9/11, to acknowledge how far we have to come and how much progress we still need to work towards.

 

Gratitude

I want to convey that I am so very grateful that I went on this trip. I would do it again. But right now, I am also grateful that I was able to return to my home, job, placement, cats – I was able to return to my normal. I think that a combination of survivors’ guilt and the shock of re-acculturation is normal here; one of the law students described feelings similar to that, in fact. But I only feel ecstatic to be home again.

I find that I am affectively impacted by the trip when I try to articulate the week I spent there, but not in my daily life. I believe this is thanks to my history with crisis work: I have practice returning to an emotional “normal” after hearing trauma-heavy stories. I previously studied cases of Human Rights abuses in Latin America, so in some ways I knew what to expect and didn’t hear anything that made a traumatic impact on me; nothing novel shocked me or shook my faith in humanity, or my world view, or perceptions of my safety.

The stories women shared with me were terrifying, horrible, and I firmly believe that no one deserves to go through what they’ve had to endure: of course I know that every single human being deserves safety, affirmation, and freedom. But, even before my week at Dilley, I also knew that this is not the reality for everyone. I knew what intimate violence looks like, what abuses the detention system heaps on those caught up in its nets, and what horrors instability and colonialist intervention inflict to a region and the people living in it.

The epidemic of intimate partner violence

When it comes to the issue of intimate partner violence, I have less to say than I wish I did. Of everything that impacted me while I was there, the commonality of abuse hit me hardest. There is so much I want to learn about the asylum policies and implications for survivors legally that I don’t know yet and haven’t had time to delve into; there are so many policy changes I know we will need to advocate for. But for now, the images of women crying when they explain about the partners who hurt them instead of protected them, who threatened their children instead of supporting them, who controlled their movements, their clothing, everything; that is what I cannot step away from.

bumper stucker style image, wiht many types of violence agianst women listed: rape, trafficking, domestic violence, "honor" crime, femicide, sexual abuse, forced marriage, genital mutilation, harassment, sexual exploitation.

Bea Serendipity _ Ghee. 2013. Photo. SL SAY NO – End Violence Against Women. From Flikr.     Used by permission CC BY 2.0.

 

 

Strangely, I felt hope

I wish I could thank the women who shared their stories with me because their willingness to trust me, to be vulnerable with strangers who look an awful lot like the people who put them in detention, was a gift in itself. Every time a woman told me her story I found myself utterly floored by her resilience, and strength. Every time I heard about the man-made evils the women were fleeing, I heard about them from someone whose power overwhelmed me: these women took their kids and left their homes, they traveled across entire countries over the course of a few weeks or months, and even in detention they took care of business for themselves and their children. I do not mean to put my clients on a pedestal, I only want to explain that while I heard about the horrible things people can do to one another I directly witnessed amazing examples of strength, of the capacity to thrive in harsh conditions, and that this gave me hope.

My biggest trauma-related takeaway from this week: these women’s lives. Their stories. Their utterly legitimate fears, and the utter indifference of an asylum system that prioritizes male-dominated protected categories such as “political opinion”, even though vulnerable, marginalized groups– like women – are more likely to be adversely impacted by instability. The patriarchal double standard is written into our laws; it is a part of our society as much as any other. Of everything I saw in Texas, this is the thing that breaks my heart still, every day.

But I have energy now, too, and a direction, and ideas about what I still need to learn. I feel grateful to finally understand how some of my biggest passions (safety, equality, justice) exist at the juncture of Survivor and Migrant, because previously I conceived of these as separate social groups, separate issues. But, of course, everything is intersectional.

Audre Lorde and her quote: "There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not lead single-issue lives."

In closing

I’m not sure I really conveyed what I had hoped to convey, but I think it’s time for me to let go of my perfectionism, and to trust readers to further research these issues as they find a connection to them. I do invite anyone to shoot me an email or stop me in-person with any questions they have, because I hope to continue to raise awareness about this whenever and however I can.

Thank you all for reading; I hope that this writing was helpful to you in some way.

In Community,

Teresa

 

Teresa Watson is in her second year as an Advanced Standing MSW student and will graduate in May 2019.

Teresa stands under a soflty glowing wall sconce.

Teresa Watson in Dilley, Texas, January 2019.            Photo courtesy of author.

 

Here is a link to the UB Law School’s blog, “US-Mexico Border Clinic,” with entries by law students. Two of the titles: “One Shot to Tell Their Story,” and “Espero, Pero Tengo Mis Dudas (I hope, but I have my doubts).”  https://ublawresponds.com/tag/us-mexico-border-clinic/

 

 

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