Understanding culture helps Rose Brooks Center understand survivors of domestic violence

By Susan Miller, CEO of Rose Brooks Center

As an agency that has provided shelter and services to survivors of domestic violence for the past 35 years, Rose Brooks Center has come to truly understand the importance of delivering services in a culturally competent and sensitive manner.

We know that domestic violence affects individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, class, age, immigration status or religion, and that on average, one in four women experience domestic violence at some time in their life.

Based on our survivors’ experience and responses, we also know that a “one size fits all” approach is ineffective, and that we must tailor services to their needs that are more responsive to the additional burdens of discrimination, family and community pressures, language barriers, and immigration issues.

We have worked hard and with compassion to offer services differently than we might have 10 years ago. In therapy, staff are conscious of how cultural values and beliefs can impact effective therapeutic services. This sometimes means integrating more traditional Western ideas of therapy with the culturally specific beliefs which we all carry.

For instance, a bilingual therapist recently worked with a woman from Honduras, “Ana.” Ana had left the abuser, but suffered from acute headaches, anxiety and difficulty in moving forward. She worked closely with her therapist, yet, felt that something was missing in order for her to thrive.

Ana finally confided that she felt she needed to work with a curandero, or healer, but had been embarrassed to tell her therapist for fear she might think she was strange. However, the therapist was highly encouraging, and supported her as Ana located a local curandero. Then Ana returned to work further on more traditional therapeutic techniques, with a new lightness in her step. With this culturally integrated approach, Ana’s mood improved dramatically, her headaches stopped, she immediately found a new apartment to live in and, she felt, a new chance at life.

The path as a survivor of domestic violence is unique for everyone, and at Rose Brooks Center, we recognize and respond to these differences.

We have also recognized how every person at Rose Brooks Center plays a role in creating a safe, trusting, and healing environment, not only for those we serve, but those we work alongside. Most importantly, we have learned that becoming culturally competent is a continuous journey that must be measurable and sustainable. And that it is personal.

For me, the journey toward cultural competency has inspired much self-reflection. It has made me continuously aware of what I don’t know and what I need to learn. I have learned how my own behavior might sometimes send unintentional messages of exclusion rather than inclusion, or how my own beliefs, values, and biases can get in the way of really listening and understanding, and how understanding the influence of culture is so important to truly help eliminate barriers for survivors of domestic violence.

In the end, it is through the celebration of diversity that we can build upon our own strengths, truly advocate for one another and build the trust that is needed to save lives and create a community free from violence.



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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.



About Bridget's Blog

Bridget McCandless

Bridget McCandless, MD, MBA, FACP, HCF President/CEO

Bridget McCandless is the President/CEO of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City and is a Board Certified Internal Medicine Specialist with an interest in chronic disease management and poverty medicine. She shares her thoughts and perspectives on health and policy issues that impact the health of the community as a whole.

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