Iziko, YWFC LA Community Organizer
Samantha Juarez, YWFC LA Community Organizer
Yareli Bautista, YWFC LA Community Organizer
A report recently published by the City of Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights Department highlights what we already know — communities with the highest poverty, unemployment, and environmental hazards experience higher rates of violence against women. Violence and harassment amongst young women and gender expansive youth is a problem, so what are we going to do about it?
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so as community organizers who have navigated many forms of violence, we came together to create a learning space called Survival 101 where we trained in self-defense and provided participants with safety tools like pepper spray and first aid kits. We also used this event as an opportunity to collect narratives and data to uplift the voices and solutions offered by the community. One of our findings was clear: Youth find refuge and safety in the community, not the police.
Domestic violence (also known as DV) is a worldwide issue that is rooted in oppression, colonization, and systemic harm. After generations of silence, we now recognize its enduring impacts and demand change. DV can affect anyone and has a tremendous effect on mental health and psychological development, especially when it has been experienced from early childhood through adolescence and adulthood.
Iziko, a Community Organizer at YWFC LA, comes from an indigenous Peruvian ancestry and grew up in a low-income household. They shared this, “My father grabbed me cause he got frustrated and grabbed me from the table, dragged me from my hair all the way to the bathroom, threw me into the bathroom tub and poured cold water on me… I was four and I remember that clearly.” Iziko also shared an experience of being choked one night by a caretaker, “… that trauma ended up with me having insomnia for the rest of my life.”
Stories like these show how the private nature of less fatal forms of domestic violence means that familial abuse remains, more often than not, hidden behind closed doors. As children, who can we trust when we are abused by our own parents? And why is domestic violence so prevalent in our homes?
Let’s take a step back and see the roots of systemic violence. Looking back allows us to see that modern day sexism, othering, dividing, stigmatizing communities, and physical punishment all have roots in biblical patriarchy and colonization. Religious indoctrination breeds the idea that children aren’t sacred and they deserve to be punished if they don’t conform. The Puritans who colonized New England believed that laziness led to damnation; they used this to justify their enslavement of Black people (cite). Puritans demonized spiritual practices that did not align with theirs. They accused and persecuted women for “witchcraft”, and disrupted the peaceful ways native societies interacted with their neighbors and families. This type of persecution has lingered throughout time and impacted the ways our people and cultures have survived colonization.
As children of genocide, spiritual persecution, and psychological warfare, it is no surprise that our communities have endured generations of interpersonal violence. Evidence has shown that fear activates the amygdala with high levels of cortisol which is linked to a greater increase in levels of aggressive behavior that keep us in reaction mode (cite). It’s no wonder people are so quick to internalize violence. Not to mention, the mainstream media sensationalizes violence every day. Our current society is plagued with individualist culture that surrounds us in our day to day lives and continues the divisive work of the colonizer. This can be seen in common sayings like: “It’s a dog eat dog world”.
Domestic abuse survivors sometimes hold themselves responsible for the mistreatment they’ve experienced. We can become self-critical, self-destructive, and even suicidal. Chronic abuse creates trauma responses that interfere with our future relationships. The rate of violence that we face is too often and too common much of our reality. We should not be ok with it, especially since it wasn’t how our ancestral communities operated. As young people and survivors, we encourage our community to remember who we were and where we come from.
We were rich communities: rich in culture, rich in spirituality, rich in self-sustainability. We were sold the idea of being poor.
For 30 years, Young Women’s Freedom Center has been exploring ways to come together to support each other in navigating violence through harm-reduction and transformative justice, sharing our stories, equipping each other with the tools to fight back, and encouraging the community at large to be a part of the solution so that young women and trans youth of all genders can experience safety.
Let’s stand together to end violence in our communities. Join us in spreading awareness, supporting survivors, and advocating for solutions. Together, we can create safer, more peaceful neighborhoods for everyone. YWFC is dedicated to supporting projects that empower young women and trans youth of all genders, including those who have experienced the juvenile justice system, criminal justice system, or street economy. We provide financial support, guidance, coaching, and training to inspire positive change in their lives and communities.
We’re thrilled to offer safe spaces like Freedom Circles and Survival 101, where we craft valuable support systems and resources for youth. If you’ve found our efforts helpful and would like to contribute to our work, donations are greatly appreciated through our website. Your support helps us continue these initiatives and reach even more young individuals in need.
#YouthUnited #YouthEmpowered #YouthAction #ChangeMaker