By Rami Mansi
The Immigrant Student Success Office (ISSO) at Brooklyn College joined forces with a non-profit organization called The Brave House to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month by holding the first in-person domestic violence workshop on campus on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Focused on domestic violence in immigrant households and uplifting the voices of those who are struggling to find help, The Brave House’s volunteers and employees helped members of the BC community learn how to see the signs and defend themselves against the vicious cycle of domestic abuse.
Domestic violence is defined as violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving the violent abuse of a spouse or partner. According to WomensLaw.org, victims who identify as immigrants or undocumented immigrants face more unique forms of abuse due to the power that some abusers may hold over them in terms of deportation or withholding their chances at citizenship if their abuser is the victim’s sponsor. However, this workshop works to take away that fear and legitimize the abuse of survivors.
The director of ISSO, Jesús Pérez, wanted the workshop to broaden ISSO’s reach and help more students in need. “We want them to feel like this is a place where they can learn, but also they can come to [ISSO] if they are facing such a situation,” Pérez said.
Many people have endured and survived abuse without even knowing it, most commonly being women in marriages. Marital rape is a serious issue within domestic violence, with many people simply dismissing the abuse due to them perhaps believing that they can’t suffer at the hands of their partner.
This misconception was broken down by one of the moderators and Brave House employee, Gloria Kimbula. “The expectation that someone who is married has to have sex. Marital rape can also be not allowing someone to use birth control or other types of protection to get constantly pregnant, forcing them to not have a choice.”
To help break down the cycle of abuse, the students who attended the workshop were given worksheets. One worksheet, labeled “The Power and Control Wheel,” displayed various forms of domestic violence, such as using intimidation, isolation, economic abuse, or the abuser’s privilege to inflict pain and fear onto the victim. Another worksheet, “The Immigrant Power and Control Wheel,’ focused on the specific dangers domestic violence brings to Immigrant households, including sponsor abuse, delaying citizenship on purpose, and being discriminatory against your immigrant partner.
The final sheet, “The Client’s Safety Plan,” was an outline of a plan to escape an unsafe home. With numbers to call and a layout of how to make your own plan, this was meant to outline what someone would need in order to safely and effectively get themselves the help they need. The Brave House described these papers as guidelines and suggestions meant to guide the victim in the direction they want to go in while giving them a chance to know that there is a way out of a dangerous situation.
A Brave House youth advocate, Leora Sammett, highlighted the need for the destigmatization of domestic abuse. “[The moderators] are able to bring some really great and thoughtful reflections on how we can best approach talking about domestic violence so it’s not something that taboo or stigmatized,” said Sammett.
With a prepared and welcoming workshop hosted at ISSO’s headquarters in Roosevelt Hall 117, the idea of a safe space was presented and reassured throughout the event by the means of positive reinforcement.
The moderators also answered any and all questions that the students raised during the event, offering guidance and different methods of approaching specific situations. For example, one method approaches a domestic violence situation by planning out an escape to have a stable life after leaving the abuse; another method focuses on finding safe spaces where you can exhale and talk out your struggles. The methods of helping someone out of an abusive situation varies case-by-case.
ISSO and The Brave House invite students to visit their respective organizations, reminding students that there is always a safe space to go to and resources to seek.