Each month, the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence will be featuring a member program. As we continue to sustain and build our movement against domestic and sexual violence, we must choose all of us! We are excited to get to know the membership and the membership's work. By sharing our stories, getting to know each other, and practicing what we represent, we can rise to any occasion stronger together.
What is your most memorable story serving survivors of domestic and sexual violence? What was memorable about it? Rewarding, challenging, inspiring?
Olga (real name of survivor substituted) came to ROSS in May 2018. She was homeless for several days. Her 4 kids were taken by DHS and were put into the foster families. She was abused by a powerful American man for several years (Olga’s husband has gun retail business). Along with the physical abuse, Olga experienced intense financial abuse as well. Olga had no access to family finances and was given a minimal allowance for food. While the abuser was making over 100K a year, Olga relied on charity for clothing for herself and their four small children. Abuser did not allow Olga to find work. This story came out because her 8 years old daughter shared her domestic situation at school. The process began, the court made a decision to remove her husband from the house. But at the middle of May 2018 policeman came late evening and asked her to leave the house because her husband made a restraining order against her. She spent one night with her kids in the car. As soon as Olga came to us, our advocate started working with her on many issues: safety, housing, employment, mental health counselling, child custody, engaging her in support group meetings. The most difficult was to find safety house for her and her kids. A safe housing situation was the main goal for us because it was the only one way for Olga to reunion with her kids. Our Agency participated in the housing meeting where different Agencies presented their clients to get the spot. And we finally got that spot. It was the first victory in our long way to the housing and at the same time was only the beginning of the long way. Before Olga can move into her new apartment we had to get approval from the landlord first, then approval from the Agency who will pay for her rent. This process was so long. Every day seemed eternity. But we continued to fight. First, we got approval from the landlord, two weeks later Home Forward approved her for the rent assistance. Finally, one month later Olga with her oldest daughter moved to her new apartment. During that time, we hardly worked regarding child custody as well. Olga has several court processes. The woman did not give up and persistently fought for her children. The cooperation between different agencies helped Olga to reunion with her oldest daughter first. Nowadays, Olga is in safe place with her four children and ready to start life again. We still have a lot of issues to work in but the most difficult and important were already resolved.
We encounter cultural barriers while working with the Russian speaking population. In the traditional Russian culture, marriage is perceived as the most important thing and couples who get divorce are seen as failures. Usually, women are supposed to be responsible for keeping the relationship going, thus tolerating abuse for the sake of their marriage and children. In the religious setting women who are standing up for themselves can become isolated and judged by the community, because their religious organization protects patriarchal values and supports men as the head of the family. They experience shame and helplessness, because their community turns against them for leaving their husbands. They have to be very courageous or completely desperate to seek help from social workers. In order to address these barriers, we do a lot of outreach by hosting radio shows, writing articles in the Russian speaking media and raising issues of domestic and sexual violence on social media.
Unfortunately, we don't have any pets but we would be happy to have a cat