Sakhi is happy to present a guest article from one of our allies, Sharon Stapel, the Executive Director of the NYC Anti-Violence Project (AVP). We will be working with AVP in the future, providing cultural competency support for their outreach to the South Asian LGBT community regarding intimate partner violence; and learning from them as we do our own work so we are sensitive and open to the issues faced by LGBT survivors of violence. As Sharon notes, the intersections between our communities are greater than our differences; in fact, our “communities” are not distinct, but intertwined in many ways.
Executive Director, Sakhi for South Asian Women
Violence and identities – Where We All Intersect
By Sharon Stapel
Executive Director, NYC Anti-Violence Project
At the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) we work with people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) – that is, we work with people through the lens of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is, of course, only one lens to see through: our clients have many other identities, such as parent and community member. Some of clients identify as people of color, as immigrants, as members of particular neighborhoods or boroughs throughout New York City. At AVP we are identified as using one primary lens, that of LGBT identity, but we recognize and embrace the diversity of everyone with whom we work.
At AVP we know that violence often occurs because of who we are or who we are perceived to be. Racism, anti-immigrant bias and homophobia and transphobia can put all of us at risk of violence. We know these oppressions intersect and also make it more difficult to access help – if the institutions that we engage with are also treating us poorly because of institutional bias, those of us who are subject to this bias will not seek help from those institutions. Violence based on hatred or fear of identity against those in the LGBT community may look different at first glance, but this violence is about the perpetrator’s bias, not about who we are in the world. And we know that every person deserves to be safe to be who they are.
We learn constantly from different cultures, perspectives, ways of engaging with communities and institutions and we learn these things from the people we serve. We also learn a lot about diversity and identity from our community partners. In 2008 we went to India and worked with NGOs and community-based organizations there. We learned about community-based models of violence prevention that relied on community members, not law enforcement institutions. Throughout our thirty years in New York City, we’ve learned about and worked in coalition to develop violence education and prevention strategies from our partners and colleagues in the five boroughs.
We are excited to deepen our partnership with Sakhi for South Asian Women. We think that AVP’s work has much in common with the values and goals of Sakhi. We think that there is so much to explore in the intersection of all of our identities – we are so much more similar than we are different in our work to end violence of all kinds and against all people. We look forward to exploring the ways in which we are the same and breaking down the barriers that would perpetuate the idea that we are so different that we can’t understand each other. We think that at AVP we have much to give to and much to learn from all of the people who work with Sakhi. We must explore the richness of our diverse experiences.
At AVP we know it is imperative to work with all allies to end violence. We know that in a world as diverse as ours, we cannot tolerate violence based on actual or perceived identity, because if we do, we are all vulnerable. We look forward to working with Sakhi – and with all of you – to continue to work together, incorporating our full selves and our best strategies and methods, to end violence.