Preventing Domestic Violence

Posted on June 19, 2018

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“I am so grateful you have been here to help my family through this.”
Mai Win Win*, STAR Program participant

Mai’s family has been in the U.S. for nearly a decade. Over the last three years, Mai has worked at a poultry processing plant, a one and a half-hour commute from their apartment in Greensboro. Her husband is employed at a furniture factory in Winston Salem. With difficulty, the couple has managed to work opposite shifts, in order to ensure someone is always home with their 4 year old daughter.

The exhaustion of working long hours, living paycheck to paycheck, and having limited time for each other and their four children has put enormous pressure on them as a couple. They fight over whose job is more important, what will happen if they can’t make their monthly rent, and how much money to send to their relatives in their home country of Burma – also known as Myanmar.

With escalating pressures, and a feeling of moving nowhere in their new lives, Mai and her husband turned to unhealthy coping skills, including abuse of each other and dependence on alcohol.

Constant stress, outside pressure, alcohol and drug use, and toxic relationships are elements of abuse stories CNNC staff have heard too often – and maybe you have too.

One in three families in the U.S. experiences some form of domestic and family violence.

Regardless of class, race, educational background, income level, and sexual orientation, domestic violence affects us all.

The family has received help in navigating the complex web of legal, social service, and health issues that can come with domestic violence situations. Mai and her husband have had support with them along the way from case managers and interpreters at the CNNC.

Reporting incidents of domestic violence and accessing victim services can be doubly challenging for immigrants and refugees. Language barriers, immigration status, and an unfamiliarity with U.S. laws are just some of the factors that make it harder for newcomers victims to report instances of violence and seek help.

Instances of abuse can result in complicated, confusing battles with the law, and have a lasting negative impact on youth, elders, and other members of the same household. Abuse can lead to hospitalization, loss of employment and income, and in some tragic cases, death.

One of CNNC’s lesser known programs, STAR, or Safe Transitions After Resettlement, focuses on addressing the unique needs our local immigrant and refugee communities face when it comes to accessing services. STAR has been operating since 2015, with funding through the Family Violence Prevention and Services ACT, administered by the N.C. Council for Women and Youth Involvement.

With a three-fold focus, STAR emphasizes prevention. Staff share culturally appropriate information with newcomer communities on the laws, norms, and cultures surrounding domestic and family violence in the United States, in addition to exploring stressors that can contribute to unhealthy relationships.

STAR staff provide education and training to domestic and family violence serving agencies in the Greensboro area, and across the state on the nuances of serving immigrant and refugee communities. Participants identify service-delivery gaps within their own agencies and seek to break down barriers newcomers face in accessing the right support.Through STAR and our case management program, women like Mai receive assistance when dealing with domestic violence situations. Experienced language interpreters, trained to handle sensitive situations, are a critical part of our assistance to families like Mai’s.

Twice a year, bi- and multi-lingual community leaders participate in a total of 24-hours of training over three days. In April, twenty-two community leaders crowded into a conference room to participate in CNNC’s seminar exploring the intersections of domestic violence in immigrant and refugee communities. Ten different newcomer communities, speaking more than 23 different languages, were represented in the 8-hour session. Individuals shared the typical expectations of relationships from their own cultures, and discussed roadblocks many newcomers may face when seeking help.

The training covered various topics, including:

  • Learning U.S. legal definitions of family and domestic violence;
  • Understanding the cycle of power and control that occurs in domestic violence situations;
  • Identifying healthy family norms within immigrant and refugee communities;
  • Discussing external and internal stressors that lead to unhealthy and extreme coping mechanisms;
  • Identifying local resources for victims and perpetrators
  • Examining the critical role of the interpreter and applying the interpreter professional code of ethics

In addition to CNNC facilitators, staff from several local agencies – Elon Humanitarian Law Clinic, the Congregational Nurse program, the Greensboro Family Justice Center and World Relief – joined the seminar, providing critical information.

The next training will be in December of 2018.

*Mai Win Win’s story is based on a STAR client, but her name has been changed to maintain her confidentiality.


Want to get involved? Contact Lizzie Biddle, [email protected], 336-256-1480.  Support this and other CNNC programs with a gift.

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