Crafting a domestic violence-informed response to the unique experience of Black domestic violence survivors in the United States requires listening to the voices and lived experience of those survivors. Like other marginalized survivors in systems impacted by racism and colonization across the globe, Black women have to navigate systems that often have penalized and punished them instead of being a support. For example, due to systemic racism and stereotyping, Black survivors are more quickly labeled as ‘difficult’ victims. Distrust of formal systems based on historic racism can make it harder for Black survivors to reach out for the help they need. When survivors do not feel like their experience will be seen and understood, they will not avail themselves of those interventions. Harms become compounded, including the unnecessary removal of children by child protection, when Black survivors are penalized for not using those formal systems.
In this episode of Partnered with a Survivor, Ruth & David interview Courageous Fire, the Executive Director of Courageous Fire LLC , who is a domestic violence survivor and a leader in the movement to create culturally-specific responses to domestic violence in the Black community. Courageous Fire which works exclusively with Black victims & survivors of domestic violence in Iowa. Her model of community assistance is self sustaining, and community driven. She takes cues from the grass roots experiences of Black survivors within her community to bring holistic assistance which isn’t ‘cookie cutter’ but deeply meets those survivors on multiple levels. In an innovative adaptation of the concept of reparations, Courageous Fire believes that domestic violence survivors deserve to be compensated for their pain and suffering. She wants the abuse (not just the abusers) to “pay survivors back” in practical and financial terms.
Additional themes in this episode include:
Why the Black community has typically resisted contact & reliance on formal services as a way to protect themselves & children
Why calling the police is not safe for Black women
How systems, which are supposed to keep us safe, have harmed Black women with impunity because of their bias, judgements, assumptions about victim behaviors through a culturally ignorant/arrogant lens
How Courageous Fire LLC helps to bring bring holistic healing & a pathway to financial independence for Black survivors of domestic abuse
How to recognize & see the dynamic resistance of Black survivors as a strength not a deficit.
You asked, we answered. Amidst our current, global political and social upheavals, during movements, activism and testimonies, legal cases, fear and victim-blaming – we’ve heard your voice asking for clarity, insight and thoughts about how all of this is reflected in the Safe & Together Model. Many of the stories and news pieces we hear about from our partners all over the world involve complex questions, yet the beginnings of change and hope are based on the sound, simple principles of the Model.
To that end, in our new podcast, “Partnered with a Survivor,” S&T’s Executive Director and Founder, David Mandel and Ruth Stearns Mandel offer a raw and intimate glimpse into their personal and professional partnership and what it means to truly partner with a survivor, raise a family based on S&T principles and engage in social change at every level. This is a podcast for practitioners and parents, partners and employers, coworkers and friends – and anyone else who may want clarity, understanding, hope and healing.
What does it mean to give consistent consent? What is coercive control? How do you probably see it or feel it every day? This is a podcast you’ll wish you had heard when you were a teenager. In unsure, confusing times, it’s our goal to widen the audience for the Safe & Together Model-associated material to survivors, their family members, and even perpetrators. For professionals familiar with the Model, it will offer another angle on the issues addressed by the Model. For those who don’t know Safe & Together, it offers a connection to the themes and ideas behind the work.
These podcasts are a reflection of Ruth & David’s on-going conversations which are both intimate and professional and touch on complex topics like how systems fail victims and children, how victims experience those systems, and how children are impacted by those failures. Their discussions delve into how society views masculinity and violence, and how intersectionalities such as cultural beliefs, religious beliefs and unique vulnerabilities impact how we respond to abuse and violence. These far-ranging discussions offer an insider look into how we navigate the world as professionals, as parents and as partners. During these podcasts, David & Ruth challenge the notions which keep all us from moving forward collectively as systems, as cultures and as families into safety, nurturance and healing.
Note: Some of the topics discussed in the podcast are deeply personal and sensitive, which may be difficult for some people. We also use mature language to describe some feelings. Finally, we use gender pronouns like “he” when discussing perpetrators and “she” for victims for two reasons: 1.) statistically, more men are perpetrators than are women when it comes to domestic violence, abuse and coercive control; and 2. For clarity’s sake, sticking with one pronoun causes less confusion for the listener. We know there are many men who are in abusive relationships and we are not invalidating their situations.
About the podcasters: David and Ruth are committed to creating systems and cultures of nurturance and safety. David Mandel founded the Safe & Together Institute which trains systems in domestic violence aware practices from a child safety lens. Ruth Stearns Mandel is a survivor of complex abuse, child abuse and domestic abuse growing up in a cult. She is a former teacher and trainer using her experience to clarify messages and complexities around abuse and survivors.