VAVP Receives Federal Grant to Address LGBTQ Violence, And They Need Your Help
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A local LGBTQ group has received a federal grant to investigate violence affecting sexual minorities in the Richmond Area. The federal grant was given to the Virginia Anti-Violence Program by the Office of Violence Against Women. Southerners on New Ground (SONG), has partnered with The Virginia Anti-Violence Program (VAVP) to identify and engage LGBTQ youth (age 14-20) in conversations about violence and healthy relationships in the hope of understanding and fighting the problem.
The numbers behind violence affecting sexual minority youth reflect a dire need for further investigation. In a community study conducted by the Equality Virginia Education Fund and the Virginia Anti-Violence Project (VAVP), 26% of those asked experienced sexual violence as an adult while 36% experienced sexual violence as a young person. 41% of the respondents had been in an abusive relationship at some time in their life. Salem Acuña, Field organizer for SONG, believes that the lack of discourse on the issue within the community has led to misconceptions about the problem. “the LGBT Movement and community has a difficult time acknowledging and confronting the reality that LGBTQ people are also targets and survivors of intimate-partner violence,” said Acuña. The VAVP, along with SONG, is working towards “breaking down this myth”.
While traditional different-sex relationships have often been the subject of study, this look into same-sex relationships and the violence experiences by partners, is a new and important field. The study hopes to go through several steps to gain a broader understanding of the issues faced, and then use the results to develop narrow questions and topics for focus groups.
According to Jackie Rene, community advocate of VAVP, the survey is the first step to forming the questions for the focus groups. Once this information is gathered, Rene and VAVP hope to understand “where, how, and what kind of information people are receiving about sexual violence and what kinds of information people need.”
In the same study mentioned above, less than 5 out of 59 sexual and/or domestic violence agencies had “knowingly served any LGBTQ people in the twelve months preceding the interviews.” The researchers concluded that “nearly everyone interviewed requested educational materials and training opportunities on addressing violence in LGBTQ communities and expressed interest in participating in a statewide effort to improve and increase services to LGBTQ survivors of violence.”
LGBTQ youth is only one of three groups that the organizations are working on through the grant. LGBTQ people of color, and LGBTQ elders will also be addressed. SONG will be conducting the focus groups for LGBTQ people of color in addressing issues of violence, relationships, sexuality, and race. As far as the scope of the project, “right now it’s only regional”, says Maria Altonen, VAVP Program Coordinator, but “our intention is to, with further funding, spread it statewide.”
“Overall, I think this project is really critical in helping us build healthy, vibrant, and strong LGBTQ communities in the Richmond area”, said Acuña. The VAVP and SONG have begun outreach into the LGBTQ community by bringing their survey to ROSMY, Godfrey’s college night, Virginia Commonwealth University, and putting it online.
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