As I prepare for my national intimate partner violence and abuse (IPV/A) seminar/workshop tour that begins this spring, I'll be acknowledging well-respected and noteworthy organizations committed to helping end this despicable and potentially life-threatening behavior.
The Network/La Red is one such organization. Located in Boston, Massachusetts, it has evolved to adapt to the changing times -- and therefore better serve the community. According to the organization's mission statement, "The Network/La Red is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities."
According to its website, "The Network/La Red was formed in 1989 when a group of formerly battered lesbians came together to address domestic violence in lesbian and bisexual women's communities in Boston. Initially the group worked to educate the community and existing programs/resources for battered women about the existence of woman-to-woman battering and the need for programs to address it." In 2000, after a couple of more name changes, the organization became The Network/La Red, "... with a mission at that time of working with survivors of partner abuse in the lesbian, bisexual women's and transgender communities." And in 2010, the organization underwent a change in mission.
Recently, I had a conversation with M. E. Quinn, licensed clinical social worker and the organization's Director of Organizing and Education.
Evans: What's the meaning behind the title of your organization, The Network/La Red?
Quinn: Because we are a bilingual organization and provide our materials in both Spanish and English, we wanted our name to reflect that. La Red means "The Network" in Spanish, and our full name is The Network/La Red. The name is meant to represent a web of support for LGBQ/T survivors both from other survivors and from other members of the community.
Evans: Would you explain in some detail why the organization decided to change the direction of its mission in 2010?
Quinn: As The Network grew, we began a safety net for so many survivors who were not accepted in mainstream programs, such as transgender individuals, gay and bi men, people who practice SM, and people who are polyamorous. By 2010 we had been serving these communities for years and we decided to officially acknowledge this work in our mission.
Evans: On a typical day or week -- if there is such -- how many individuals call your hotline? Can you provide an understanding of the levels of severity of those calls?
Quinn: Because of the nature of our work and the amount of crisis we work with, there is no typical week. We average 2,500-3,500 calls each year. These include calls from survivors we have been working with over time who may want support; new callers in crisis who need immediate shelter or safety planning; and people who are calling to ask questions for the first time about their own or a friend's relationship when they begin to notice patterns of abuse. The calls range in their severity of immediate danger. For example, some people's partners are actively stalking them, and they have to move from or to another state to try and get free, and have had to change their names. Some have survived extreme violence and death threats. In these situations, so much of our support goes into helping the person get out of their circumstances as safely as possible and connecting them to resources that can help hide or protect them.
Evans: You state that The Network/La Red is a "national resource and model for domestic violence service providers, batterer intervention programs, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and/or transgender organizations beginning to address partner abuse in our LGBQ/T relationships." What are the challenges that come along with this distinction?
Quinn: One challenge is that we are asked to do so much with relatively little funding. Overall, funds for domestic violence programs are far outstripped by the need, and recent budget cuts have only made that worse. And LGBQ/T partner abuse receives only a tiny portion of that funding. While we are extremely excited about the recent move to include LGBQ/T survivors under the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), this is creating a demand for partnerships, trainings, and technical assistance for social service providers on a national and local level that has been difficult to meet by our small team.
Evans: Please describe a couple of success stories of which you're most proud/that touched you the most.
Quinn: For me, it has been wonderful that survivors we have worked closely with over time have kept in touch. It has been wonderful to see people's lives change and get better over time after they have left their abuser. Seeing this change in people's lives, their strength to be able to survive abuse, and then their ability to heal and thrive, is the most rewarding part of this work.
To learn more about The Network/La Red, visit: http://tnlr.org/