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Women Against Abuse and supporters gathered in the courtyard at Philadelphia City Hall on Oct. 6. Photo: Brittany Valentine/Al DÍA News

Women Against Abuse launches iPledge campaign at Philly City Hall

The 2021 awareness effort will highlight the disproportionate barriers faced by immigrants and refugees in getting out of abusive relationships.

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On Wednesday, Oct. 6, Women Against Abuse, Philadelphia’s largest domestic violence service provider and advocate, held an in-person conference in the courtyard of Philadelphia City Hall to launch the iPledge® public awareness campaign for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

The event was hosted by Dr. Argie Allen Wilson, Founder and CEO of F.A.I.T.H. Inc. (Family and Individual Therapeutic Healing,) and a new board member of Women Against Abuse. 

“The Women Against Abuse iPledge campaign offers the community an opportunity to get involved in an effort to end domestic violence. And in the 2021 campaign, which we’re calling ‘safer together,’ we’ll illuminate the significant barriers that refugees and immigrants face in trying to break free from an abusive relationship,” Dr. Wilson said. 

Leslie Miller Greenspan, Board Chair of Women Against Abuse, further highlighted the unique struggles that refugees and immigrants face when dealing with abusive relationships. 

Greenspan listed a few examples of what abusers often do, including destroying green cards, passports or immigration papers, not allowing the victim to learn English, threatening to have them deported, threatening to have them separated from their U.S. born children, and more.

“For some survivors, these horrifying tactics of abuse only scratch the surface of lived experiences. And compounding this issue are the added obstacles caused by xenophobia, racism, language barriers and cultural constraints that can prevent a person from reporting abuse or seeking help,” Greenspan said. 

She then spoke about an important finding from May of 2019, when a coalition of national organizations gathered feedback from nearly 600 advocates and attorneys from across the country. 

They discovered that many immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence were too afraid to call the police or go to court to get help.

“Instead, they felt forced to stay in the abusive relationship and try to survive the violence,” Greenspan said. 

“This work has been a collaboration with a lot of partners. In addition to Women Against Abuse, Nationalities Services Center and HIAS PA are among those partners. I’d also like to mention the other domestic violence agencies who continue to do this work in the city: Congress de Latinos Unidos, Lutheran Settlement House, and Women in Transition,” said Deputy Mayor Cynthia Figueroa. 

Greenspan then presented the 2021 iPledge Social Impact Partner Award to Nationalities Services Center, (NSC) for their work in helping immigrants acquire language proficiency, secure U and T visas, gain citizenship, and more.

“Today they serve 5,000 immigrants and refugees each year from over 100 countries around the world. They’re multilingual, culturally responsive, and trauma-informed bridge to wellness program serves immigrant survivors of domestic violence,” she said.

Brenda Nogales, Survivor Services Senior Program Manager, accepted the award.

“It is truly humbling to receive this recognition from Women Against Abuse, a pioneer organization and a leader in addressing the violence that exists in far too many of our homes in our city. This year we are celebrating our 100th anniversary and we are excited to do this for 100 more years,” Nogales said.

NSC began partnering with Women Against Abuse in 2005 when it launched the Domestic Violence Project, an initiative to ensure that immigrant women survivors have access to immigration legal services.

This program, according to Nogales, currently offers legal services, case management, on-site therapy, and wellness activities among other services.

The final award honoree was HIAS Pennsylvania, a non-profit organization that provides immigration legal services and an array of social services to low-income immigrants of all backgrounds.

Cathryn Miller-Wilson, executive director of HIAS, accepted the award.

Speaking of the unique barriers faced by immigrant victims of domestic violence, Miller-Wilson said, “it does render them literally prisoners of their abusers because of the legal status issue.”

“It’s really important to have these specialized services and we’re incredibly grateful to be provided the opportunity to partner with Women Against Abuse, who are on the frontlines of dealing with survivors of domestic violence from every place, from every economic strata, from every educational strata, and of course, from every country,” Miller-Wilson said.

In closing, Dr. Allen Wilson led the crowd through the pledge.

“I pledge to take action as an advocate for healthy relationships. I will believe survivors of relationship abuse, and amplify the voices of those who have been silenced. I will actively work against oppression and commit to being part of the change needed to create a community that is safe and just for every person.”

Those who want to take the pledge can do so at ipledgeWAA.org. 

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