KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a national movement meant to bring more attention to the signs and impacts people face from domestic violence.
While victims can face long-lasting impacts from domestic violence, one group of people can have an even harder time healing from it — immigrants. Many may face unique challenges when trying to find resources to get out of their situations and recover from abuse.
"Barriers like language barriers and cultural differences, financial barriers, and sometimes immigration barriers," said Fatima Ahdaoui, who works with YWCA Knoxville. "They may have an immigration status that does not make them qualify for resources."
YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley offer multicultural resources for women who need help, connecting with them and helping them overcome several issues. The program connects women with advocates who are familiar with their backgrounds, helping them navigate resources and services.
The first step when working with them is to do safety planning, in case a woman ends up returning to their abuser. Many victims may return to their abusers for several reasons, including financial challenges or feelings of guilt.
With a safety plan, women may be able to stay safe while living under the same roof as their abusers. The plan may also help them flee violence, in case they need resources again. As part of the safety plan, the YWCA asks victims who are immigrants to also have their identifying documents nearby.
"The immigrant women, we need to have a unique safety plan with them," said Ahdaoui. "They have this misconception that there is no help out there. Maybe because they are financially dependent on the abuser. This will make it hard for them to be on their own to support themselves and to support their children."
When a woman arrives at the YWCA, advocates also assess their needs. First, they find out what they immediately need help with, such as housing. For that, they can refer them to shelters and help them move into transitional housing.
Then, they can help them move into permanent housing. The organization can also connect them with immigration lawyers, Ahdaoui said. YWCA also connects them with the culture they're from, helping them feel less isolated.
Anyone who needs multicultural domestic violence services can reach out to the YWCA online, or go to one of the organization's three locations. They are listed below:
- Downtown Knoxville: 420 West Clinch Avenue, 37902
- Oak Ridge: 1660 Oak Ridge Turnpike, 37830
- Phyllis Wheatley Center: 124 South Cruze Street, 37915
They can also call YWCA at (865) 523-6126 and ask for a culturally specific advocate to help them. Officials said they can help and connect with interpreters if nobody in the office is available who speaks their language. Support groups also meet once per week to help victims.