A two-week event that aims to raise awareness about gender violence began this week and will continue until early December in an effort to engage local, national and international communities and strengthen work about a global problem that knows no color or class.
Given the fact that, according to the World Health Organization, up to 70% of women experience physical and sometimes sexual violence by a partner at some point in their lives, organizers have put together the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which began on Nov. 25, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, and International Human Rights Day, “in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights,” according to the Center for Women's Global Leadership.
Raquel Ortiz, the domestic violence services program manager at the Glendale branch of the YWCA, estimates that the rate of domestic violence in the Glendale area is rather high due in part to the cultural stigma that permeates the city's ethnic groups.
The YWCA shelter, housed at a secret location to protect the safety of its residents, is full. But the holidays are just as busy, if not more, for domestic violence victims.
Many of the women who come through YWCA have been dealing with abuse, as well as sexual assault issues, for years. At their building on the corner of Lexington Avenue, YCWA staff and volunteers assist them with programs, education, child care and, ultimately, a way to lead violence-free lives. Services are offered in English, Spanish and Armenian.
The presence of multilingual staff has been especially crucial, as roughly half of the women they serve come from immigrant backgrounds and often lack English-language skills and any kind of residency status.
Arriving at the point of seeking help and putting away the crippling fear of deportation instilled in them by their abusers is a long and arduous process for many.
“It takes a woman seven times before she does anything — whether that means she leaves or does anything — and it's because of the shame,” said Paula Devine, who sits on the Commission on the Status of Women. “We don't want to admit that this is happening to us.”
To combat domestic violence and other issues, Glendale's Safe Family Task Force, comprising several city organizations, as well as those targeting specific ethnic groups like the Armenian Relief Society, was assembled less than two years ago and is trying to change that.
The message, from both the task force and YWCA, is clear: The tools and help are available, as long as you're willing to take them. The organizations offer a way out for Glendale- and Los Angeles-area domestic violence victims — a service that many women who suffer from long-standing abuse around the world aren't afforded.
“Our service is not to break up families, but we have to stop the violence before they can be together,” Ortiz said. “Love does not have to hurt.”
LIANA AGHAJANIAN may be reached at email@example.com.