Partnered with a Survivor: David Mandel and Ruth Reymundo Mandel

Season 2 Episode 13: An Interview with Courageous Fire: Reparations & the Unique Experience of Black Domestic Violence Survivors

July 12, 2021 Ruth Stearns Mandel & David Mandel Season 2 Episode 13
Partnered with a Survivor: David Mandel and Ruth Reymundo Mandel
Season 2 Episode 13: An Interview with Courageous Fire: Reparations & the Unique Experience of Black Domestic Violence Survivors
Show Notes Transcript

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 children 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 that 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. 

If you want to know more about Courageous Fire & the work please go to:  and

For related episodes:
Season 2 Episode 9: Finally! A realistic feature film about coercive control: An interview with Chyna Robinson and Tracy Rector

Now available! Mapping the Perpetrator’s Pattern: A Practitioner’s Tool for Improving Assessment, Intervention, and Outcomes The web-based Perpetrator Pattern Mapping Tool is a virtual practice tool for improving assessment, intervention, and outcomes through a perpetrator pattern-based approach. The tool allows practitioners to apply the Model’s critical concepts and principles to their current case load in real

Speaker 1: [00:00:16] And we're back and we're back.  [00:00:17][1.1]

Speaker 2: [00:00:19] This is partnered with the survivor, and I'm Ruth Mandel, the strategic relationships, e-learning and communications manager.  [00:00:27][8.0]

Speaker 1: [00:00:28] And I'm David Mandel, the executive director of the Safe and Together Institute, and this is our podcast where we chat with each other about issues like domestic violence. If you're joining us for the first time, we came together and started talking Ruth from her survivor perspective, mine from my, my professional experience and and we had all these amazing conversations. And then we said, Why aren't we taping this? And you thought, Why  [00:00:53][25.5]

Speaker 2: [00:00:53] aren't we having other amazing cameras?  [00:00:55][1.1]

Speaker 1: [00:00:55] That's right. Why are we adding other people in and so partnered with Survivor was born, so thank you for joining us. And today we will  [00:01:04][8.7]

Speaker 2: [00:01:04] actually, we have a I'm very excited about this episode because, you know, one of the main principles of safe and together is partnering with survivors and really, truly honoring their experience of the world, their unique needs, their unique context and not demonizing it and not trying to push them into services which don't really fit their needs. And so really, when you truly bring partnering down to its, you know, its most concrete application, we need to start investing in community solutions. We need to start investing in solutions that those people who are most represented in the systems like child protection criminal system that they are putting forward because they know their needs in their community so well. So we've invited courageous fire of Courageous Fire LLC. She's a she's a social enterprise, and she works exclusively within the black community with domestic violence survivors. And so I'm going to read her bio, but we're really going to have this conversation and discover what she does, what the model she uses is and what the outcomes are and the concrete applications. And I think that it's going to be a great way to kind of transition into our conversations with different communities about their needs. So this is from her website. I'm a black woman who discovered that I was in an abusive marriage, not the typical kind of abuse, the sneaky kind, economic, sexual, spiritual, verbal and emotional. Nearly every mainstream resource that was supposed to help me and my girls failed us. I didn't act like the typical victim, the 15 years it took for me. We're all a waste unless I can change that narrative for someone else. I have nine years of experience creating and delivering curriculum, have studied, leveraged and helped individuals and teams leverage their Clifton strengths. My greatest gift is taking my life experiences and converting them into educational currency. My greatest joy is using that gift to create permission for my black sisters as only as the only agency in the state of Iowa focused on doing this just for us. So welcome courageous fire. We're really happy to have you here.  [00:03:45][161.1]

Speaker 3: [00:03:46] Thanks. I'm happy to be here.  [00:03:47][1.2]

Speaker 2: [00:03:48] That is a really powerful statement. And you know, from a survivors perspective where we experience the way that the system responds to each of us in our different places in the world that we are in our unique experiences. I am really touched that you are transmuting and transforming your experience to reach out to other survivors in your community and really connect with them surrounding their needs and fulfill those needs. So we were incredibly inspired, really, because this is sort of like the ultimate partner. You know, you, you are a survivor. You became a professional and you're working within your community to bring solutions. And so I wondered if you could talk a little bit more about your work and what it seeks to achieve for survivors and how you partner with them.  [00:04:52][63.7]

Speaker 3: [00:04:54] Thank you so much for that question. It wrote A partner with survivors. The first thing with within the black community, black women in particular, is you have to really get at what makes us not want to access what's already there, right? Because there's no sense in recreating the wheel. I knew that there is a hidden something that makes us shy away from the things that we need. I even knew that about myself, but I couldn't figure out why. What I came to find out was there are specific reasons, so number one is the strong black woman stereotype. We don't ask for help because we've internalized this idea that we're supposed to be strong and that we're not supposed to need it. So there is a shame and saying there's something I couldn't handle on my own and now I have to ask for help. Number two, 9-1-1 is supposed to be what you can call if there's an emergency. Unfortunately, black women are concerned about the backlash from that for two reasons. It is statistically shown that a lot of the times the perpetrator with a black woman is a black male, so we don't want to turn on in over to 9-1-1 because of the very high likelihood that they will be mistreated for something that is unrelated to the domestic violence incident. We want help, but we don't want them unnecessarily harmed either. Number two systems that are put in place to protect us often have the result in discriminating instead of safety. And so people like Marissa Alexander was actually sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting a bullet into the wall next to where her abuser stood. Moments after he tried to strangle her to death. So 9-1-1? Is it something that we can handle for those reasons, number three? We're afraid of the judgment of our own people. Bill Cosby is a perfect example. Serial rapist. And by the way, I just found out today he was released on a technicality. It was overturned. Yeah, so I don't even know where to go with that. But he's the perfect example. A lot of black women surprised me by being outraged that he was being put through the legal system behind this, and they called it. You know, they're always trying to get the black man. And it's like, No, the black man is a serial rapist like. So we're not supposed to say anything about our dirty laundry in front of the white community. And if we say it, we're going to be ostracized. Knowing those things, my solutions had to not only be effective, but they had to be solutions that felt safe for us. So that's the part.  [00:08:10][196.0]

Speaker 2: [00:08:11] And that's, you know, one of the things that seems to get lost in the mix of our systems just because they're so impersonal and because of the way they've been structured is that safety is a primary importance to people who have been traumatized and asking people what they need is a really important exercise. And that doesn't happen a lot within our systems. And I imagine that it doesn't happen a lot for black women even more or for, you know, minorities, indigenous people, as well as within the LGBT community. We get told what we need and told what we're supposed to do. Now you talked a little bit about the history of how you came to this work, but where was it that you really determined that you wanted to create these community solutions in order to fill these gaps that you were saying?  [00:09:07][56.4]

Speaker 3: [00:09:09] Surely it was. It was during my own process. Every time I had an experience where I was retraumatised while I was trying to get help, I made a mental note. It is at this point of doing so much of that type of curriculum creation, as I saw my own problems, I take notes. Mm-Hmm. And I just kept looking at all of the things that kept dropping me or my daughters or both of us off. And I was just like, OK, what if I get out of this? I'm going to look back at these notes and figure out what this was like.  [00:09:45][35.7]

Speaker 2: [00:09:45] Yeah, I definitely want to kind of put a pin in the fact that your daughters were victims and these failures as well, that it wasn't just you, but the children and their well-being and their safety were being impacted as well. Can you speak a little bit more to black women's unique experience within the system? And that can be if you want, if you feel comfortable talking about your own experiences of systemic failures within that system?  [00:10:12][26.7]

Speaker 3: [00:10:14] Yeah, absolutely. So the legal system was a big part of the failure in my family's situation. So because I didn't have pictures of, you know, gruesome injuries because it was not physical abuse for me at all. And the physical abuse that my daughters experienced were the type that you don't actually understand in the midst of it that that's what it even is. So there's no presence of mind to take pictures or file reports or any of that. So because there was none of that history. It was as though it didn't exist, so I was in the custody and divorce situation. I was being pressured by my legal representation to do joint custody. Because I didn't have that proof. And that is the scariest thing for a survivor with children to be told that you're going to have to do it. And I was literally told if you don't cooperate with what makes sense and what we know a judge will say yes to. We're going to drop you as a client.  [00:11:23][68.9]

Speaker 2: [00:11:24] Yeah, yeah. And that's a that's a really common gap in the legal system that they sort of demand physical harm in order for them to move forward in any material way, which, particularly when it involves children, is super dicey and really traumatizing for those kids. A lot of at least my own experiences is that a lot of that is hidden behind a wall of what we've been taught is OK for people to engage in in regard to discipline or marital relationships, and that is definitely cultural. What kind of cultural barriers did you come up against as you were trying to explain to people that the perpetration wasn't physical?  [00:12:12][48.3]

Speaker 3: [00:12:15] Oh man, Ruth, I cannot tell you how many times I was interrupted in the middle and basically told I should thank God that he didn't put his hands on me. Yeah, thank God he did Unisa's like, oh my goodness. And now that I've had a chance to come to the professional side of everything and do my research. Psychological, sexual coercion, all of these types of things have been proven to have longer lasting impact.  [00:12:47][32.5]

Speaker 2: [00:12:49] Then physical. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can't imagine, though, that the amount of frustration that I would feel feeling all the different pressures from different places to stay silent or to comply with the systems as they are. Because that's the way that it's done. And that's really what is challenging is, is that there's these rigid boxes and these are the services we have. And either you fit into them or you're not the perfect survivor victim and we just don't want to work with you. I mean, us, you see this all the time.  [00:13:24][34.6]

Speaker 1: [00:13:24] I see it all the time and I'm thinking, you know, once we started doing the interview, I'm thinking about how I was initiated into thinking about services for survivors 30 years ago by some, some some amazing advocates. And their point at that point was that we're exactly what you just said, Ruth, and creates what your experiences. We try to fit survivors into our boxes of services, right? We don't really listen to their needs and then let alone let them be diverse or different in their needs or unique in their need to want to stay connected to their culture of their community and be safe. Because I mean that to me, as you said this and this is so important to me, it's sort of you have the right to be connected to your culture and community and be safe. And people are like, Well, if you really want safety, you've got to pick up and leave and move somewhere else. You know, you have to stop going to the church you go to, like, give you and somebody said this recently to me, which is that domestic violence is still one of the few places where we expect the victim to pick up and leave and then blame her when she doesn't. You know, and so it's it's it's this area where we're like, we still have this, this idea that, well, the good victim, as you start talking about good victims, you get into racial stereotypes, you get all that stuff is immediately built into that right? But you you see, you know what, the good victim and what they're supposed to do. There's all these roles.  [00:14:51][86.6]

Speaker 2: [00:14:52] Right?  [00:14:52][0.0]

Speaker 1: [00:14:53] And black women don't fit into those rules and those boxes in a lot of cases.  [00:14:57][3.6]

Speaker 2: [00:14:57] I think it would be really important for you to talk about how what that looks like  [00:15:01][4.0]

Speaker 1: [00:15:02] the concept of a good victor, because there's a whole kinds of right and we get about a good woman is in the eyes has been defined as a white woman. Right? You know, throughout, right, throughout our history. So can you speak a little bit about that in the comics or experience?  [00:15:17][15.4]

Speaker 3: [00:15:19] Yes, absolutely. And that was some of of of my experience as well. So a black woman when she is in trouble, doesn't cry. She doesn't. She doesn't even look disheveled, usually like she will put on like makeup. She will do her hair. She will wear a certain outfit because all of these things are the way that we get big and get ready for whatever we're getting ready to face. So we don't look pitiful. So our voices carry and they're loud. But if you are a victim or if you're in real trouble, then you're going to sound quiet or you're going to sound timid. But that's not our culture, right? If I'm afraid or upset or worried, I'm probably going to be louder. I'm probably going to look like I don't want to be bothered, but that's defense, because I don't know whether or not you're going to really help me. So I'm going to throw that up just in case I get the rejection I'm expecting, right? So that it Disneyland land, it's hard on me when I receive it, and that doesn't mean that I'm nonchalant. I don't care. I'm just that. These are the ways that I gird up for what I'm accustomed to getting. And so when I get to the place and I, I say that I need help. A lot of times they want a lot of personal information in a public space, like you walk up to a counter or a window or whatever that type of a thing. And we are our culture is very much based on. You know, you don't tell your business, right? So we look for trust. And normally, right, when I go into this place, I'm looking at white faces. So that's already something that makes me not want to trust because of systemic racism and the way I've generally been treated by a face that looks that way. So I have to push past that and talk about it. But you don't. You're not giving me a place to talk about it. You want my name, you want my age and you want to know what my situation is before you can triage me. I don't feel safe and comfortable giving you that. And so the the what's the word I'm trying to find? It's not eggs. It's. The reluctance that you see from me looks like resistance. Mm hmm. But it isn't. It's just I hope that I'm not getting ready to do something that I'm going to regret that's going to add more to what I'm already dealing with. Yeah. When you start to tell your story, typically you get interrupted. If you look like me and you get asked, Well, what exactly do you mean by that? Maybe they're looking for clarification, but that is a signal to me that the rejection or you not believing me or me having to prove that I'm a victim is happening. So now other defenses start popping up, so you might see things like a stone face or you might see things like rolled eyes. Or you might you might see a posture that looks what people would term as aggressive. It's not aggression, it's just defense. Right? You know, it's a growing up that you continue to do each thing that you encounter. And the minute that you tell a black woman what we've been told often or what I was told again by my legal representation, if you're going to continue to speak like that. I'm at this conversation is over. Wow. So speak like that for a black woman typically means if you're using any language at all, and it's not that the language is directed at them, it's just language. Well, that's how we talk in our community. Yeah, that is actually an adjective. Comedians talk about it all the time. It really is. It's an adjective. It's just a word to us. It's not. I'm cursing you out. You know, in our cultures, I don't know if I'm casting you out, you know, because then you out. You know, you won't be confused. But if I put it in as an adjective, that's exactly how I'm using it. If I get loud because something is triggered in the conversation, and of course, if I'm being victimized, there is going to publish figures in what I'm telling you and my story. That doesn't mean I'm yelling at you. That means something was triggered inside of me. And as big, passionate, powerful people in our community, that's the way we respond by getting louder. And I'm sure you've noticed that I just got louder talking to you.  [00:20:33][314.6]

Speaker 2: [00:20:33] I love it. I love it. Because in reality, people who are professionals should not be afraid of especially cultural emotive responses or feel like they have to do anything but witness to the fact that we're pissed off. We're angry. And there's a complete and total right that we have to feel that way. And I call it cussing adjacent like it's not you're not cursing the person out. You're just trying to punctuate how the situation is really screwed up. And I made an intentional sort of bid that I was going to curse on this podcast and use my anger as a survivor to try to habituate professionals to the fact that we get to be. We get to be angry and they get to learn how to listen because it's not. We're angry necessarily at them, but we are angry that we know how the systems responded to us. We're angry that we start to feel like maybe that's the response that we're starting to get. And that's totally impeding our ability to get safety and to tell our story. So use I love using anger and using anger in an appropriate way is something that our culture has not learned how to do. They believe that that truth and getting what we need should be done through the mirror compliance, particularly with women. And now, once you learn how to use anger as a beautiful tool, you are a beautiful boundary setter and I love you for that.  [00:22:09][95.8]

Speaker 1: [00:22:10] So do it. I'm thinking about so many things, you know, I'm thinking about how professionals don't get enough support and direction, not to personalize anger, you know, not to personalize it and not to not to take it as, Oh, you're somehow you're telling me I can't help. You are wrong. And you know, this goes across culturally. You know, I was talking to an Aboriginal professional who is working with Aboriginal people. You know, they were from. And he's saying, Look, I'm working with these people who are just angry and depressed, and they don't know why. You know, just it's just it's just all this anger and depression there. And if one, if you don't, if you personalize that stuff or you personalize that anger, that frustration or that that distrust that you're talking about creates, you know, that distrust is so important to recognize. But then you don't know you don't have an understanding of the history and the structure. And you know, and part of what we're doing now and it's small, it's not on the level of a history history, but we're now telling people really simply in our work to say, explore whether the system has helped this person before or not or made things worse. Like part of your assessment of somebody in front of you should be of actually the system's usefulness to them to make things better or not, you know? But I think it's that that's that sort of anybody coming you come in and part way the story, right? Somebody had their life, whatever they've had, the life experiences, they may have dealt with those professionals before they likely have. They've had their their their story listened to or not listened to that I'm the next person coming in. I need to actually ask, did did who did you talk to before and did they make things better for you? So anyway, that's those are the things that are on my mind. As far as we're as we're we're out of here. Yeah.  [00:24:07][117.3]

Speaker 2: [00:24:08] Again, going back to the to the anger thing because you're talking about it in the context of the professional kind of coming in midstream to somebody is history of already having interactions or fears of the systems that we are told we need to engage. Right. And with black women, their unique vulnerabilities and the fact that the systems have been used purposefully in ways to contain, control and demean, diminish and and harm them. That means that our emotional intelligence as professionals needs to be incredibly high where we realize that we don't have power and control over everything that we're not the first people to step into the situation. That we're not a hero in this person's story. We are not the hero of this person's story. We are not the savior of this person's story. We are the partner in this story. So we ask, we affirm, we acknowledge and we collaborate, and those are really important distinctions. I don't know if that lands for you in your in your model of how you're working with people with your tools.  [00:25:28][79.8]

Speaker 3: [00:25:29] It absolutely does land. A friend of mine was listening to some services and she said, You know, you should to rearrange the way that you do those and you know, you should make it an acronym out of that. And I was just like, Oh, OK, so I am starting in my community now become known for doing the work with black women just period. And so sometimes I'll get calls from people who are trying to figure out what to do as a victim. Still. They're not a survivor yet. And so the victim triaged is the first part that I now have started doing as a formal thing, rather than just fielding calls or emails or texts. And that is seeing she understands what type of abuse she's dealt with in a. She's sure that if not, making sure she understands where she needs to go to get that identified and then helping her see what help she needs to get to the next place that is culturally specific and that is here for her in this area because now people are starting to come to me and say, You know what, I do this and talk to me about what they do. So now I have a small network that is growing about black, female, trauma informed therapist. And I know that trauma informed and domestic violence informed are not the same, but it's closer than nothing. You know, both have been clueless is the way I like to say it. And so I'm starting to find out other things that people are doing in this area. There are certain places that that black women can go and just get help for their kids as far as clothing and stuff like that that don't give them these really low ceilings of what they can buy and box them into certain products that don't work for their kids. I mean, simple stuff like hair products. We don't have those well, I'm sure you don't, but they still need those. So what can you do for that? Agencies that understand that about us and provide those services? So that's the victim tries to piece. Then there's the advocate support the people that support. The victims and survivors need to take care of themselves. Luna is here. Amani is here and there's so Nyssa is here. There's so many agencies that serve communities of color, and most of them are people of color. So we have been just battered over the last year or so, not just in the black community, but in the BIPOC communities with stuff that has been going on and helping them understand individualized ways that are sustainable to take care of their mental well-being. While they do, the work that we need them to do is the next part that we do. Community training for the black community is huge because they don't understand what we need. Black men think we don't need protecting black women, think that other black women don't need protecting. That blew my mind. But it's true because of that whole holding up the banner being strong. We don't know that agencies that are here in the communities like the community centers and churches completely missed the mark about what black women need. So getting invites into those places and talking to them about dynamic resistance, about intersectionality as it relates to black women. So they understand and then literally so they can see what's been invisible for them all this time about black women and what we really need is part of the work that we do to and then bottom line survivors. Even if this is the first relationship that they came to understand that they were in, that was violent. I can guarantee you it wasn't the first one they experienced. Right? I guarantee that. And so there's a predisposition that is there the whole what is written on my forehead? Yes, there is something written on your forehead. Let's let's identify those things. And then let's get you back to a therapist who can help you close off those vulnerabilities. And that's called empowerment through the arts, and it's about ending those cycles because so many of us get proud of getting out of something and that we find John and he's just like Mike. We approach and we didn't catch it, so we went over to Michael. We were so proud about getting away from that then and now. Here we are again. And stillness in the cycles so that the generations behind us can have something better to look forward to. I realized I did exactly what my mother did, exactly what I watched. I married my father. My ex-husband was emotionally abusive in the same way that my father was emotionally abusive. But since my mother didn't know that and I didn't know that the good things about my ex-husband that married the good things about my father or what I pulled into my my view of a good man. Right? And so to break that cycle for my two daughters who are coming behind me, I had to figure out what made me not expect healthy relationships, right? And so to understand that the cycle continues. And so that's how we those are the parts of the work that we do. And it actually spells out that it's now because I've changed,  [00:31:03][333.3]

Speaker 2: [00:31:04] almost like you're vaccinating yourself against domestic violence there. Exactly. It reminds me of there is a program in the UK called the Freedom Program. It's not as comprehensive. It just has that one little piece that you mentioned about going through your own history and understanding why you're choosing the things you're choosing. One of the main concerns I've always had about those programs is I don't want survivors to be held accountable in ways that they shouldn't be held accountable. How do you avoid doing that in that context?  [00:31:34][30.3]

Speaker 3: [00:31:35] Yes. So in a six week program, it's not just identifying and saying this is what happened, it's also laying the blame at the person who planted it right. So when we find out a certain predisposition, we find out who got it  [00:31:52][16.3]

Speaker 2: [00:31:53] because  [00:31:53][0.0]

Speaker 3: [00:31:53] these people that brought these it, they didn't just stumble into the room and accidentally drop something on the floor and didn't realize it, and they walked out. No, they came and planted that thing because it was going to serve something they wanted to control with you. Now, they weren't thinking about the fact that once they finished the control that they wanted and they moved on, that there was still there, they didn't care about that part. And that's the part that we don't realize as as the as the victim survivor. We didn't realize that the people were coming and just building on this stuff that the previous predators had planted already. So we do the identification piece and then in the journaling piece, they get to tell that person. That planted that poison. How do they feel about how that is impacted so many areas of their life in the future, so they literally get to shake their finger in that person's face in their journaling and they get to tell them, You know what? I used to feel like this. I used to be ashamed. I used to feel like I was stupid. But you know, and now I know it's use. I'm going to put it on you, and I'm going to leave it here with you when I leave this journaling exercise because you deserve to hold it. I don't deserve to hold it.  [00:33:04][71.1]

Speaker 2: [00:33:05] That's powerful. That's really powerful. There are so many different pieces to what you do, and you just described roster tools, but I really want to understand something about dynamic resistance. Like, can you go a little bit deeper into that concept?  [00:33:24][18.7]

Speaker 3: [00:33:25] Yes. God bless Hillary Potter for her work and for coining that term. So it is her attempt to try to put the Black Woman's fight into a couple of words is what she did. And literally, I'm flipping here it in my model because I always have to read it so that I can try to start there and then explain what this means. So it's a theoretical model that describes the challenge in situations confronting battered black women and their resulting responses. Now she's started with the battered black woman, but I would argue that this is the black woman period. So the dynamic part is characterized by constant change. So you think about trying to walk on, trying to walk across the room and there's a rug that runs all the way across the room and you're told you have to stay on this rug, but everybody keeps pulling the rug in different directions and you don't get to fall down. You don't get to step off the rug, you have to stay there and you have to stay on the road and make it across the room. That's the dynamic part. So it's not just what black men don't think we need to be protected from. It's not just how our society thinks we're supposed to protect the children. The black men, be the breeders, be the workers, be the nurturers, be all of that, but also be quiet. Also be humble. Also, don't take any credit for anything that you do. Give it all the way to someone else. All of that. But then there's the whole constant barrage of newcomers that get to be in front of you that constantly changes as well. So every time there's this little peek out, look, we should look at those black women. There is a thing that they're dealing with. We should pay attention. Then something else pops up every time that it's more trendy, easier to deal with, nicer and neater. And that's part of the dynamic part of the resistance. Oh my gosh, is the refusal for us to accept or comply with it? So I know this is sticky, but I'm just going to go ahead and say it. We are truly almost an extinct creature in a sense, so we know that we're being hunted. But then we'll also be left to ourselves. We're even told by our men that we're not worth being in relationships with because we're too difficult. We have to mouthy which trolling. We're too bossy when really we hold you accountable. Hmm. Mm hmm. And so in a relationship and in specific to domestic violence, a black woman, if you're being verbally abusive, she's going to give it right back to you, right? If your cousin her and demeaning her, she's going to find something to say back to you. If you put your hands on it long enough, she's going to fight you back. Right? So all of these things are the ways that we resist. I read about a woman whose name escapes me right now, who literally was killed by the police, but she put on instead of a license plate. She had put a cardboard sign on the spot where that goes that she said, I have the right to live free and anyone who tries to interfere with this will be dealt with. Hmm. And that was her own way of just trying to make a proclamation of sorts that as a black woman, I deserve to be able to drive my car and not have somebody pull me over just because I'm a black woman driving a car. Yeah. So that whole. Constant change that we experience and us trying to resist it is how a black woman moves through this country through the world, right?  [00:37:29][244.9]

Speaker 2: [00:37:30] And there's no set rules when you're pulling the rug out from somebody. It's not like you can anticipate what's coming next. What failures coming next? What's going to be thrown at you? And that in and of itself is a tremendous trauma because people who look like me move to the world expecting to be treated in a certain way. Right. That's my rug. I have a different rug than you. You know, and and I can knowing that the trauma of walking on eggshells with a with a perpetrator, which is highly traumatic and makes you totally wound up inside for years with lots of different trauma responses. I can't even imagine. I cannot imagine having to walk on eggshells in every space that I'm in that would cause so much trauma and so much resistance to even the slight thought that somebody is about to screw me over or about to tell me what my reality is. Instead of asking me what I'm experiencing, you do.  [00:38:39][69.2]

Speaker 1: [00:38:40] David wants to, you know, I'm thinking about, you know, just listening about how simplistic systems can be when they're looking at survivors in general than let alone black survivors. You know where they're saying, particularly, I'm thinking now I'm going to open up a can of worms to talk about child protection where they're looking to see if, if, if a woman is being protective of her kids. I mean, that's that's the failed model. That's what we're trying to move away from in some sense, because it puts all the onus on that victim survivor. Is he protecting versus the person who's who's choosing the violence? Choose the harm, who's actually putting those kids in danger? But when they do look at, at, at a woman that circumstance, they're top list of things. Did she go to a shelter? Is she accessing formal services, mainstream services? Did she call nine where you listed them earlier? Courageous. You list all this is you call 9-1-1 and then you broke down. All the reasons why those things are could be for many black women. And I'd say it's not a really rational option, I guess really rational reasons not to engage the things. But then we take it down to the next level, but the rug and the moving around. And and then the skills, you know, let's forget for a moment the how and fears that you have to earn those. You have to work those skills and learn them and but you have them. And and that how those skills are invisible, how hard that the effort put into them is invisible. Yeah. You know, an active. And if somebody says to you and then the insult that comes with somebody says to you, well, you're not protecting your kids, could you call the police right? You know, it just sort of or you didn't leave. And I just I'm just sort of that for me. You know, it's sort of the invitation. The the hope for professionals is the who are listening to this look out this term dynamic resistance and you get this image that means that you should go looking for those skills. You should go looking for those those efforts. And part of your job is to validate them, to see them, to reflect them back. Right. And and not to get caught in this. Oh, well, she wouldn't call the police. Therefore, she really doesn't get it. She's picking him over the kids. You know, she she has no insight. She comes from a community where there's all violence and that's just the way people live. I mean, all the stereotypes that people will bring to those conversations. Yeah. Anyway, that's I get I kind of I'm sitting here quietly today and I got a lot of things going on and I'm listening. And I, you know, it's so that's what that's what that's what that's popping up for me. So, you know, so anyway, I love the term dynamic resistance I love. I love inviting professionals and to to look for resistance and not define it as a problem, but a strength. I assume I'm on target, courageous with what you're saying. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. OK.  [00:41:32][172.2]

Speaker 3: [00:41:33] Yeah, absolutely. And then can I just add to what you said, David, because you're just blowing me out right now when you said visibility? Yeah. We the most traumatic part I would have to say of being a black woman is that as different as you say, I am as disruptive as you claim that I am, you don't see me. Hmm. So for you to say we used to be looking for resistance and we should sing that, we should make that visible and we should validate that. And it's just like, Wow. Yes, that's true. But that's the first time I've heard it said to me.  [00:42:11][38.1]

Speaker 1: [00:42:12] Yeah. And that's sad. And that kind of stuff makes me sad and angry because that's really what the work should look like for professionals. If we really want to help people you know, who are coming from communities have been victimized by structural racism, who are going to be angry, who are going to have challenges, who are not going to trust mainstream services. You know that we we and deserve safety and deserve support and connection that that professionals have a responsibility to say, Wait a second, let's reflect on our practice. And how good am I at building a bridge to this person sitting in front of me? Not the generic stereotype victim, but this person? And how good am I at identifying and listening for all the things they're doing right or how hard they're working? I mean, to me, it's the most basic thing. If I'm going to connect with a survivor, I'm going to assume she's working hard to protect yourself and her kids. And then if I don't see that, it's likely my fault, not theirs. So, you know, it's and it's it's my job to look for it. And rarely do you find somebody so beaten down that they're actually not doing anything to protect themselves. I mean, you know, and I really have run into that.  [00:43:27][75.5]

Speaker 2: [00:43:29] Oh, I mean, really, if if we were to to really, truly see people, I think we would see their best efforts despite all of the impediments and the and the inflicted trauma, you know, because it's one thing to say, Well, I don't trust the system. It's another thing to say all of the behaviors of the system as a pattern over time, which have led to that break in trust because of the way that people have behaved and responded to the needs of survivors. You know, it's I think it's it's important for us to really learn that reset ability and it's not a word, but I just made it up that reset ability where we say, I recognize that the anger that I'm feeling and hearing from this person has a long history that I'm unaware of. And that to be humble in the face of all of the things, the challenges that they have had to overcome because of the impediments and the act of perpetration that was put in their way.  [00:44:40][70.9]

Speaker 1: [00:44:41] I remember I haven't thought about this in a long time, and she wasn't a black woman, but this was a blast of anger I got from a survivor that I had to take a deep breath around. I was working with her husband. I was doing a group for men who had been abusive, were being abusive. And he got agitated and group and I tried to calm down. But he left out of their horribly angry and was gone home. I knew I had about 20 minutes. And so I had the obligation to warn her, and I called and called and didn't get her. And so when I did get her, I did. The next thing that I thought was the right thing, which was to call the police because I was worried for her safety. I couldn't imagine walking away at that point. I just I mean, I just along that. I mean, I just can't imagine that, you know. And then the next thing after I call the police, I call her and I get her, and so I tell her I call her and and tell her that I'm worried and tell her the husband who's been to is angry and that he's I think he's coming home. And so she just blasted me with. So you tell me to get ready for beating you, telling me that I should be get ready for beating. And then I and then I said, I said I called the police because I was worried. She says, Oh, now the neighbors are going to hear and they're going to see. And I had to take a bunch of deep, deep breaths to really understand her perspective and say, no, I called because I was worried. All I could say was I called because I was worried about your safety, because that was the truth. And we have she and I eventually got through it. And then when I reflect on afterwards, she's sitting at home watching TV, whatever she's doing right know and the phone rings and dangers coming. And I'm in my office 20 minutes, the other direction. And so of course, she's scared. Of course she's angry. She's lost control of her life again. You know, now I don't think I did anything wrong and. She has a right to her reaction. It's real, it's genuine, it's it's it's yeah, it's  [00:46:49][128.5]

Speaker 2: [00:46:50] I mean, this is that this is the sticky part of dealing with ongoing situations in the moment and assessing their danger and the impact that our own interventions can have. And really owning that. The survivor is having very different experience, very different, very different experience. And they don't need to understand or even agree with our perspective, but that our job is to make sure that they're empowered to take action to be safe, that we are partnering with them and asking them what they need. And that's very difficult in an emergency situation where you think that somebody is about to be harmed.  [00:47:35][45.0]

Speaker 1: [00:47:35] But for me, it's an invitation to the professionals to take that deep breath, to not personalize tonight to understand that there's a different experience going on over there. Whether she's a black woman, she's a white woman, she's Aboriginal woman, and that you don't know what she's experienced, really. And what you can do is listen.  [00:47:52][16.4]

Speaker 2: [00:47:53] Yeah.  [00:47:53][0.0]

Speaker 1: [00:47:54] So I have I have. I have another question courageous, which is about reparation. And no, and I love this concept, you know? You know, and and so you talk about this concept of making for you in this context, reparation means making the abuse itself. You pay the survivor back. So can you talk about because I've never heard anybody talk this way and tie the black reparations? We I know research from a friend of mine talks about kids deserving reparations, wanting reparations, wanting action, change, payback, healing. You know, reparations is a powerful concept, but you've got a unique way of talking about. So can you talk about it here?  [00:48:37][43.5]

Speaker 3: [00:48:38] Sure. Like this entire. Agencies beginning it started with me, so the first thing I wanted was for it to pay me personally back. My children had gone through so much as far as being without because of the financial abusive part of the relationship. And it's like, you know what? Doggone it, when my kids leave this house, this agency and its work will have done enough for me to send them out of here. Not poor. Like when I left my parents house with just the stuff that I went away to college with and a couple of bucks in my pocket from what dad had from, you know, just getting paid or whatever. Like, my kids are not leaving here that way. And this abuse my work against it is going to pay for those kids to leave my house that way. And so as so, the reparations part of this is is growing. So right now, the way that I do it is on an individual basis, survivor by survivor. So when they're in the groups with me, we talk about, you know, as you leave here, what do you feel? Is your thing like, what do you do better than anybody else and that you do easily? And what is that? How can you monetize that and and what part of that got an edge from your abuse that you suffered? Mm hmm. OK. How can you put those two together to make it pay you back? So those are the conversations that I have and and the the the planning that we do around that, you know, the creators, I never thought about it that well, I'm really good at. One lady told me she was really, really good at cleaning like I can clean like nobody's business. I have a system and when I get done, people are shocked. But she has her own LLC now cleaning business. She was in the focus groups that we did last year and I'm proud of her for that because a part of what people deal with, of course, from the abusive situation is what they're not good at what they're, you know, not smart enough to do what nobody will listen to or pay them to do. Well, you know what you're paying me right now to clean. And so me being the owner of that one, the control is being taken away from me. I just flip that whole thing around and slap you back. I flip that whole thing around and made it a thing of, yes, I can do stuff and people will pay me for it. And yeah, now I have a business and people are paying me the plane.  [00:51:22][164.3]

Speaker 2: [00:51:24] That's amazing. I love it. I, yeah, I think I would love to hear it more like you had a focus group last year. What other people have you had go through the the program that have really landed in that reparations spot and made it work for them?  [00:51:39][15.2]

Speaker 3: [00:51:41] Another participant was a lady who knew that she was good at reaching youth. And of course, as usual, you hold back because you want them to shine and you figure if they feel good about themselves and they'll stop beating up on you, whatever way that they're beating up on you. We had many shades of color the conference that Hip-Hop does every year for black girls and to affirm them and just to show them how amazing that they are. She was one of the speakers this year. She was in the focus groups last year and she was a speaker this year. And I purposefully signed up for her group just so that I could see her, and I couldn't even stay for the whole thing because I was double booked on something else. But I sat there, it was virtual. I sat there and I watched her just command the space. But she was told in the abusive situation, you know, all of the things she couldn't be and all of the ways that nobody listens to her and, you know, whatever else. And she flipped that whole thing around and now has become someone who is a speaker and who facilitates things with young people. And she loves doing it. And I watched them react to her. They wanted to exchange with her. They wanted to receive from her. That's a gift. That's a skill. So, so the reparations has has a beginning, but it's going someplace that I'm excited about by 2022. I'm pretty sure there will be an entire expansion part that we're working on right now behind the scenes to literally teach survivors even after the financial abuse and bankruptcies and all that stuff that comes from it. How to slowly rebuild and literally be able to have financial independence, stability and a legacy. Hmm. So again, because they're survivors of abuse is the reason why they get to access this type of help that will be given by a black professional in a way that we can digest it. Because when you go to, you know, things that are teaching you about money management, they always come from this standpoint, this assumption that you have this money already and that you don't work two or three jobs and you know, all these things that they assume that you have no debt or you have very little debt and whatever. That's never our story. I mean, forget the abuse as a black woman, that's never your story. You usually don't come from a rich aunt, uncle, parents and all of that. So this person will be approaching it from the standpoint, using where each person is and then getting them to that financial stability and legacy to be able to leave their children. So, yeah, yeah, it's all about reparations because I don't just want to see black women ending the cycles of abuse. I want to see them be able to look at I gained something from all of that crap. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. It gave me something it didn't just strip me to just take from me. I found a way to wrestle something from the alligator and make it valuable for me.  [00:55:00][198.9]

Speaker 1: [00:55:01] I love that, and I also hear on top of that as part of that that we're legacy. You used it a few times and and I and I guess what I'm hearing and wondering about is is, is is black families have been stripped so much of their legacy over the history, you know, the legacy of their of their of their labor, their legacy of of of their accumulation of wealth. You know, you just think about about about Tulsa and that and the massacre that you  [00:55:31][29.6]

Speaker 2: [00:55:31] know, the legacy of the care of the dead  [00:55:32][1.6]

Speaker 1: [00:55:33] and removal where most of us are just anyway. So I'm really struck by that weird legacy that you've used a few times and the importance of it. And and just, yeah, I hear that that that's the depth of your thinking around this. It isn't just get safe. It isn't just get on your feet, is it? Make the abuse pay you back somehow? Yeah. And I think that's I think, you know, I think it's different because I think a lot of the conversations about finances and abuse are about, you know, getting the abuser to pay money and family court making their abuser pay child support, which are important conversations, but but may not. Work in every situation, you know, and and and so you're talking about this reparations, no matter what. You know, and and I think that's a it's a it's a great idea.  [00:56:24][51.2]

Speaker 3: [00:56:26] It's really important, David, because I'm dependent on the abuser. Still, what how did I gain my life back? My child separated, and I'm still dependent on that and I'm still hobbling, then I'm still dependent upon this abusive figure in my life to be able to get to a stable place. So we have to get them past that right?  [00:56:52][25.5]

Speaker 2: [00:56:52] Yeah, I I'm amazed by your model and I love it, and I love how connected it is to the real communal needs of the people around you. Because, you know, though, we feel we have to have these impersonal systems, and that's how we've done it really, truly to drill down into this problem. We truly have to be and in a positive way in people's lives. And it sounds like you're really doing that work like that's the real work. Yeah. I know we're kind of winding up where we're we're almost at time end. And I was wondering, you know, what has been some of the responses of survivors from your work? You gave us some examples, but then I'd love to know what the responses of some professionals have been as well to your work  [00:57:48][56.2]

Speaker 3: [00:57:51] when you say professionals, are you talking about therapists? Are you talking about  [00:57:55][3.3]

Speaker 2: [00:57:55] broad yet broad sense? Everybody, everybody, anybody, anybody? Yeah.  [00:58:01][5.1]

Speaker 3: [00:58:02] The response from professionals has been really good, and I appreciate that it's been respectful. You know, as a black woman in our culture is has always been didactic. You know, this whole fancy great term for self-taught, but that's how our our culture has always done this past down information or paid attention to taking mental notes and then gleaned from that and learned and built upon what how we gleaned and learned. So but in a society where everything is based on, you know, degrees and and certain types of recognition making you official or legitimate, I have really been pleasantly surprised that professionals have been have respected the work that we're doing. Mm hmm.  [00:58:49][47.2]

Speaker 2: [00:58:50] All right. That's really good to hear. And what would you want to say to two survivors that are listening to this, or even to the professionals who may be listening to this in other cultures, you know, in Australia with the Aboriginal community or indigenous communities? What would you say to them?  [00:59:08][18.2]

Speaker 3: [00:59:11] My biggest thing for professionals is stop looking at a situation from your lens, please. Please get to know who you serve in whatever way it's going to take, some understand what their needs really are and then meet their needs without approaching the problem. From what you think needs to happen, get to know who you're serving and meet them where they are. However, that's going to look, do that is what I would say to professionals. Whether we're talking about those who actually serve, we talk about the systems, whether we're talking about the legal system. I don't care law enforcement. Just stop doing it that way. Hmm. Mm hmm. For the survivors? My gosh, especially from talking to the black women, there's help they can meet your specific needs. As a black female survivor and the hope for you is free. So with the Crime Victims Assistance Division, I'm a vendor, which means that when I serve you, we're going to fill out paperwork and they're going to pay me. Nothing's going to come out of your pocket. You know, it's a person who looks like you who's been through some of the same things you've experienced, but who has found a way to beat it and thrive out of it for good. And that's what I want to help you do. And you can have it. There's no judgment here. It's a safe space. None of it leaves those rooms when we do it and the community part of you and those three other women with you. Everybody in the groups has said it's been priceless. They still communicate with each other now, and it's been a year out because the experience was beautiful for all of them and the empowerment that you're going to gain the respect for yourself that you're going to be able to gain from it is priceless. And so avail yourself of it because it's here for you. No strings. Nothing. It's just here.  [01:01:12][121.1]

Speaker 1: [01:01:13] That's amazing. That's great. So thank you so much. You know, courageous for for for talking to us and talking about your program and your work and your thinking and your experience and all of that. And so,  [01:01:26][13.4]

Speaker 2: [01:01:27] yeah, and I'm really going to encourage our listeners to really drill down into this episode for the different pieces about how you can learn to partner when you don't understand somebody else's experience and you have a very different experience from theirs. Because I think that this model, this community based model, is a great alternative to services which don't work for survivors, which we are frightened of, which in the past have harmed certain survivors. And I just love that it's out there and I want more of this and one more of this all over the place. Love the place.  [01:02:10][42.8]

Speaker 1: [01:02:12] All right. So we have another episode finish to partner with Survivor. And if you've been listening and you like what you've been hearing, please share it with somebody else. Subscribe to the podcast. It's available on all sorts of podcast platforms out there in the world. And if you missed the beginning show, I'm David Mandel, executive director of the Save and Together Institute.  [01:02:34][21.9]

Speaker 2: [01:02:34] And I'm Ruth Stern's Mandel, and I am the the strategic relationships, e-learning and communications manager. I still can't remember my own title sometimes. And if you would like more information on our trainings, please go to Academy Dot Safe and Together Institute dot com and there is a discount. There are both free and paid trainings and the discount code is partnered all lowercase.  [01:02:59][25.3]

Speaker 1: [01:03:01] And our website is safe together and sitcom and our Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. And they're all out there, they're all out there. It's safe and together, I think is there we go. And we're out and we're out.  [01:03:01][0.0]