Sad Girls Club: Keeping women safe should not be taboo

Jessica Hoppe is In The Know’s Culture Contributor. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for more.

“Sad Girls Club has always been a space where our community finds healing no matter the experience,” Elyse Fox told In The Know. Every October, World Mental Health Day falls during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a busy time for Fox and her team at Sad Girls Club who are dedicated to destigmatizing mental health care and providing vital resources, programming and a supportive community. “Domestic violence is just as common as someone balancing mental health issues. One in four women will experience severe domestic violence, stalking or sexual violence, and it’s time we discuss the signs, ways to help a friend (or stranger) and normalize speaking up,” Fox said. “Although this topic isn’t the easiest thing to talk about, it’s important to educate our community and provide a safe space to have this dialogue.”

A report conducted by the US Department of Justice, Jennifer L. Truman, Ph.D., and Rachel E. Morgan, Ph.D., found that over a ten-year period, domestic violence accounted for 21 percent of all violent crime. And although incidents of fatal violence against transgender or gender non-conforming people are often misreported, if at all, the Human Rights Campaign found alarmingly higher rates among Black and Latinx transgender women. 

Award-winning journalist Rachel Louise Snyder recently published No Visible Bruises (May 2019), a book investigating the domestic violence crisis in America, where the most dangerous place for a woman to be is in her own home. According to Ms. Snyder, fifty women are shot every month by a partner or by someone they know. Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness and responsible for 80 percent of all hostage situations.

“Intimate partner violence does not discriminate but is more common among women, LGBTQIA+ individuals and in lower socioeconomic communities,” Adriana Alejandre, a licensed family therapist in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles and founder of Latinx Therapy, told In The Know. “While the severity of intimate partner violence is not compared, there is greater shame in collectivistic cultures, such as Black and brown communities.”

Giselle Bonilla, an Afro-Latina mental health clinician in Boston, Massachusetts, realized the need to address the shaming and silencing of survivors during an intimate conversation with her sister. “After my sister Kat and I talked and shared our own experiences with abuse, we realized what was missing,” Bonilla told In The Know. Their nonprofit, Time of Butterflies, was approved in 2019 and regularly provides workshops for recovery focused on the Four S’s: Self-Esteem, Self-Regulation, Safety and Skills. Time of Butterflies centers BIPOC women and femmes. “Kat and I felt that we didn’t really have a voice — the language or tools needed for women of color to start to heal from the abuse that we experienced.” Carmen Alvarez, Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University, found that while Latina women, especially those who are immigrants, have an increased vulnerability to intimate partner violence, they also have a low rate of seeking formal health care and legal services. The reasons for this have been identified as the presence of children, cultural values and type of victimization. In a 2016 study, Alvarez and Gina Fedock, Ph.D., argue for more research surrounding access in order to facilitate effective help-seeking experiences for survivors.

“As a community, we can believe survivors and listen without judgment. We need to disarm the language that we express with people experiencing abuse and stop justifying actions because of false beliefs from generations ago,” Alejandre at Latinx Therapy said. “Our community needs to be educated around the statistics and facts as to why survivors stay with abusers, and how becoming an abuser is actually a learned behavior. If children witness domestic violence, they are more likely to become perpetrators themselves or become a victim of domestic violence because people gravitate towards what they know. Overall, unless survivors ask for advice, it is best to refrain from any lectures or advice-giving. If a survivor is seeking support, gathering resources, information and creating a safety plan can go a long way.”

Survivors such as Bonilla and Fox are providing platforms for support and a place for others to share safely and openly. Today, October 30, at 3:00 p.m. EST, Fox will be in conversation with Cherrelle Moore via Instagram Live on the Sad Girls Club feed to raise awareness for domestic violence. “Speak up, speak out,” Fox said. “Talk to your tribe, share your experience with people you trust. Know that you’ve done NOTHING to deserve abuse and lean on support to pull you out of it.” 

If you enjoyed this article, then check out Jessica Hoppe’s recent feature on Latina Equal Pay Day.

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