After about a year of working at this agency, I encountered the paper intake of a client who spoke neither English nor Spanish. English is the most common language spoken among our clients, accounting for about 89.5% of our client base. Spanish comes in second, at 10.4%. Our agency does not receive many clients who don’t speak either English or Spanish. In fact, from the period of July 2015 – July 2016, only two non-English/Spanish speaking clients sought services from us.
At Haven we have heard and spoken the words “cultural competency” for years. We have had countless discussions and attended training that address cultural competence. We have evaluated our programs and policies and tried to make changes to reflect our deepest desire to be as culturally competent as we can be.
I have to admit something. As much as I value cultural competency, I still struggle to understand exactly what cultural competency is. Over the years I have learned a few things. I have learned that I prefer the term culturally responsive over cultural competence, because it’s really not about being competent but about acknowledging and valuing the cultural needs of all who walk through our doors.
Would it be safe to assume that when domestic violence survivor advocates hear the word “safety,” they think of survivors being safe from their partners or spouses? Survivors are safe if their partners are not actively looking for them. Survivors are safe if their spouses kicked them out of the house and no longer wants anything to do with them. But what happens when a survivor does not feel safe from the community she lives in?
To some API survivors, their safety includes the community. They may be free from emotional or physical harm from their partners or spouses, but their community may abuse them on a daily basis—or it could be a combination of both.
Imagine walking into a strange place full of people you’ve never met. You are put into a room, probably with another family or other individuals who have left similar abusive situations. Imagine walking into the kitchen to not find any food items that you’re familiar with. Where is the jasmine rice, the fish or oyster sauce, the curry, or the Indian tea? You’ve left abuse, yet the comfort of home--which to many people is food--is nowhere in sight.
In a collaborative effort to provide trauma-informed, culturally-specific services to the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community in Stanislaus County, Haven Women’s Center joined My Sister’s House’s Next Generation Project last year. After critically analyzing Haven’s programs, policies, and activities, we realized that Haven has some shortcomings in proficiently providing services for the API community.