Preventing violence amidst the pandemic: A spotlight on the Center at McKinleyville and National Compadres Network (Part 1)
This blog was written by Alisha Somji, Abena Asare and Lisa Fujie Parks of Prevention Institute
A note of gratitude and appreciation to Hillarie Beyer, Aristea Saulsbury and Jerry Tello for their contributions to the web conference and all the work they do.
Children, youth, and families are experiencing intensified stresses and new traumas as our country and the entire world works to contain the novel coronavirus and save lives. At the same time, community members, practitioners, and advocates across the country are stepping up to prevent violence in homes and meet this moment with connection, care and an unwavering commitment to justice. This blog series shares specific examples of how groups are identifying and addressing community needs, connecting with different population groups and advocating with funders and policymakers in support of children, youth, and families. It is based on an April 14 and 17 PreventConnect web conference.
This first blog of the series unpacks the increased risks for violence in the home during this time of crisis and spotlights efforts by Center at McKinleyville in Humboldt County, CA and the National Compadres Network to support connection and care.
Unpacking the increased risks for violence during the pandemic
Interpersonal violence is often rooted in abuse of power and control. With more and more families experiencing unemployment, housing insecurity, and hunger—and many restricted to their homes and limited in their social interactions, people may feel a diminished sense of power and control. Risks for violence and abuse in the home are likely to be on the rise due to this conflux of factors. In their report A gender lens on COVID-19: Pandemic and violence against women and children, the Center for Global Development unpacks pathways between the pandemic and violence against women and children delineating how economic insecurity and social isolation, to name a couple of examples, contribute to family stress and increase the likelihood of violence against women and children.
We’re also seeing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Brown and Indigenous community—communities that often experience elevated risk for violence—due to structural racism and other forms of oppression that have created inequitable community conditions. This emphasizes the continued need for policies and solutions that center racial justice.
Understanding the impacts of COVID-19 on communities across the country, connection, care and justice are rising as organizing principles for creating safety. Connection is about recognizing the isolation people are facing due to physical distancing and stay-at-home orders and understanding that social connection is a protective factor against violence and supportive of safety. Care is about meeting immediate needs like food, shelter, income, and access to healthcare to help diminish family stressors. Justice represents actions related to advocacy, policy and systems change for health equity and racial justice which are critical for the current moment and long run.
The Center at McKinleyville: Assessing needs and responding with care and connection
In Humboldt County, CA, the Center at McKinleyville is a one-stop location for services, information, and activities in the community. It was created to address disparities in access to health and social services in rural and tribal communities and has been focused on cultivating inclusion and trust among community members. The Center is also supporting healthy relationship skills, mitigating the impacts of poverty and housing insecurity, and initiating changes within multiple systems in the community. Within a week of a statewide stay-at-home order, the Center had already mobilized its reserve funds and reorganized staff to be able to meet emerging needs associated with COVID-19.
Staff launched a rapid needs and assets survey and community members shared both material needs and concerns in supporting their children and the struggles they are facing with home schooling. The Center is beginning to find ways to meet the needs of different populations in the community whether through food, wipes, or parent support. Following the lead of community members and recognizing that they are the experts in their own lives can provide a sense of agency among residents who already feeling very anxious. The Center hopes these actions help address major stressors in families’ current lives, strengthen social connections, and build a foundation of trust with the community for the long term. Aristea Saulsbury, the Center’s prevention programming and community outreach project manager, says “Through the act of ‘care’ we can build connections and work toward justice.”
The Center is also building a case around the importance of nonprofits being strong and having healthy reserves to act nimbly and respond in times of crisis. The Center hopes that this time can be used to recognize how ‘normal’ wasn’t working for many residents and there’s an opportunity to do well for all moving forward.
National Compadres Network: Culturally-rooted virtual healing to honor sacred relationships
The National Compadres Network formed in the late 1980s by men wanting to address the issue of violence and develop strategies that are trauma informed, healing centered but also culturally based. The Network now addresses issues facing all those on the gender spectrum and continues to focus on reclaiming sacred relationships, decolonizing and addressing oppressive practices and harmful gender norms through support, training and capacity building across the country.
The Network has found that pre-existing traumas are being triggered right now. Founder Jerry Tello says, “We are used to things like this in our communities that restrict us but obviously this is at another level. For our immigrant relatives, they have had to hunker down and stay inside because of racial policies by ICE. And we stay inside when cops are around because of the lack of trust. This isn’t new to us, but COVID-19 is triggering the generational wounds and present-day oppression that we face.”
To respond and support communities, the Network is virtually facilitating its healing and support circles that focus on indigenous culturally based practices. Jerry says, “We had to trust the spirit could reach across computers.” The network is also sharing guided meditations, songs, poetry and other healing practices that might help with grounding during this time of stressors, losses, and uncertainties about the future. Community members are also sharing new needs and ways to stay connected during this time. For example, women are supporting one another over text messages as private conversation can be challenging with partners and children around.
The Network recommends communities consider the importance of healing now and for the long term. For example, children returning the schools will require schools and teachers to be prepared to support students in new ways. In the current moment, the Network is speaking up about the importance of honoring oneself and using energy to heal—releasing an energy from past resentment and hurt to positively move forward. “It’s time for transformation to heal wounded patterns of disrespect and ground ourselves in honoring all our relations,” says Jerry.
Stay tuned for part two of this series to learn about how other local and national partners are responding to the challenges posed by COVID-19.