Interviewed by Mischa Webley, NECN Staff Writer
Bri Condon is Executive Director of Bradley Angle, a social services organization on North Albina working to support survivors of domestic violence
Tell us about who Bradley Angle serves and how.
Established in 1975, Bradley Angle is the oldest domestic violence shelter on the West Coast. Our mission is to serve all people affected by domestic violence. We do this by placing people experiencing—or at risk of—domestic violence at the center of our services and providing them with safety, education, empowerment, healing, and hope.
Since the onslaught of COVID-19 we have served 277 survivors of domestic violence through emergency-based housing, short and long term housing, culturally specific services, economic empowerment and LGBTQ culturally specific services.
We believe that lived experiences & the need for a culturally specific match between provider and participant is crucial to the effectiveness of our work. 82% of the survivors we serve identify within communities of color. 83% of our staff identify within Communities of Color
What challenges do survivors face when trying to leave an abusive situation and what challenges do providers face when trying to support them?
For survivors, being able to find a stable and safe place to live is crucial to living a life free from violence. Financial power in a relationship is too often held by an abuser rather than the survivor. Survivors can lack the necessary finances to flee an abusive relationship and survivors that do leave the relationship can face incredible financial hardship.
The most common challenge service providers face when supporting survivors is that while they work to address a lack of resources due to past abuse, they must also do a great deal of listening and extending support in order to counteract the influence of traumatic events on a survivor’s self-worth. Locating culturally specific service providers for survivors is even more of a challenge.
A common control-tactic used by abusers is to isolate their partner so that they are not allowed to communicate and connect with others. Abusers will make their partners feel as though they are not worth being helped. This often leads to the deterioration of a survivor’s connectedness to their allies and a clear path for a safe exit.
What should someone do if they are in an abusive situation or know someone who is?
My colleague, Alexxis Robinson-Woods, Bradley Angle’s Programs & Services Director, suggests to “Stop and think about what that person really needs, before you act make sure you are aware of how your help will affect the physical safety of their person and yours.”
It is very important to listen first, and only if a person is in a space to receive your external reflections, you can then decide whether to offer them assistance or not.
Many organizations have temporarily closed due to COVID-19, but the Gateway Center is still currently functioning and still helping survivors with restraining orders and connecting them with resources such as SEI, Impact Northwest, Bradley Angle, Call to Safety, Other Domestic Violence Shelters, Catholic Charities, Multnomah County DA’s office, Legal Aid, etc.
How has the Covid-19 situation affected your work?
Nationally, domestic violence crisis lines are seeing a rise in calls as the stay-at-home order forces survivors and their abusers to remain indoors together for extended periods of time causing high-stress situations. We have personally experienced a need from the survivors we support for more frequent contact and communication in order to offer encouragement and emotional support.
We have experienced more difficulties in helping participants secure equitable housing and/or transitioning out of our programs into safe housing. Safety planning for survivors has also gotten more difficult as traditional plans and options we would recommend to survivors become limited.
Bradley Angle’s Resource Center located in North Portland has been a reliable source for survivors to access food in our on-site pantry. Due to food scarcity and recommended social-distancing practices, we have needed to scatter times for accessing food resources and limit how many people can access the food bank at a time.
How can communities best support survivors of domestic and sexual violence?
Please be aware of what’s going on around you and don’t assume the stay-at-home order keeps everyone safe. If you haven’t heard from a friend who was in challenging circumstances, no news doesn’t mean everything is going great. Know your neighbors and be involved with your community to increase the safety and well-being of all.
To solve socially complex challenges, we must begin with an awareness of the problems and issues in our community. We need to learn from history in order to grasp the full scope of domestic violence. Where in history was violence power? Although these two words sit next to one another in my sentence, violence and power, they are in direct opposition to one another.
What is strength? Talk to anyone who works at Bradley Angle and you will know it instantly. Together we can build and provide funding to fuel social service offerings that connect the root of oppression, the roots of generational trauma, and truly meet the needs of our community.