By Natasha Rizvi
Sakhi staff and interns, along with a new batch of Sakhi volunteers, recently participated in the annual Sakhi volunteer training designed to prepare young women and men to join Sakhi and contribute to ending violence against women. The intensive four day training gave an opportunity for many of the overarching issues involved in the movement to end violence against women to be introduced to the new group joining Sakhi. The topics ranged from macro perspectives on violence against women to the crude realities of the legal remedies and limitations that exist in the criminal justice system. Other topics covered included safety planning for survivors of domestic violence, the fact and truths of vicarious trauma, and the importance of self-care.
The attendees of the training were comprised of people who have previously been exposed to domestic violence on varying levels as well as those who were fairly new to the complexities involved in accessing justice. Current volunteers, Moiuri Siddique, Radhika Nayar, and Neeta Singh spoke to the volunteers during the training, sharing their experiences in volunteering with Sakhi and how they have been impacted by working with survivors and an organization committed to ending violence against women. Regardless of the level of experience in the field, all of us came together to discuss difficult questions such as, “Why do women stay?” Together, we learned about the pervasive nature of domestic violence, rather than the physical or verbal abuse that normally comes to mind, and discussed the additional layers of violence that exist for immigrant women.
Domestic Violence Intern Natasha Rizvi notes that many of the survivors she sees at Sakhi are recent immigrants to the United States and do indeed face many additional barriers. As we learned at the training, many survivors believe that they will be deported if they report abuse; some have been given the wrong information about the police and are therefore convinced that they should not seek assistance. These barriers and the lack of English proficiency exacerbate the experience of domestic violence and social isolation, making the idea of seeking help so much harder to conceive.
One of our Domestic Violence Program Advocates, who on a daily basis helps survivors of domestic violence navigate the multiple systems involved in obtaining protection against their perpetrators, found the training to be extremely informative. In particular she felt that that the workshop entitled “Police Response to Domestic Violence & the Barriers Immigrant Women Face” presented by guest speaker Jessica Penaranda of Safe Horizon’s Domestic Violence Police Program, was especially useful in understanding how daunting it can be when women call 911. Our Economic Empowerment Coordinator adds that having worked with Sakhi for a few weeks now, the training really helped to put her work into perspective. One of her favorite parts of the training was the presentation by guest speaker Maria Herminia Graterol from the United Nations, who gave a global perspective of violence against women. Through narrating her own experiences and presenting on the global oppression of women, Ms. Graterol reminded Sakhi staff and volunteers of their place in the bigger picture in the movement to end violence against women. Our Economic Empowerment Coordinator found her to be truly inspiring and motivating.
All volunteers, staff and interns, whether old or new, were excited about continuing to be involved with or starting their involvement with Sakhi in order to eliminate violence against women. It was inspiring to see that awareness of this issue has motivated so many people to come out and dedicate their free time to this cause. As an organization, we look forward to seeing more of the enthusiasm, dedication, commitment and passion that this new batch of volunteers brought to the training. The energy level was amazing and inspiring and we hope to retain and translate it into the work we do at Sakhi.
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