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The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Addressing the Legacy of Racism Head-on

Founded in 1985, the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) conducts domestic violence training, counseling, community outreach, program management and technical support.

ICADV has distinguished itself as a leader in anti-racism work among statewide domestic violence coalitions. ICADV took a courageous action acknowledging racism within its institution and making public its commitment to work towards building an anti-racist, inclusive organization with diverse women in positions of leadership.

The following is the ICADV Statement of Admission that appears on their website:

The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which is a coalition made up of domestic violence programs in Iowa, admits that it s a primarily white coalition dominated by white women. We recognized that the combination of racial prejudice and the power that enforces that prejudice exists in all facets of ICADV on an individual, as well as an institutional level. We know that European Americans benefit from privileges that are not available to people of color. We acknowledge that the voices of women of color have not been heard. The institutionalization of white feminist thinking and values creates and maintains an environment within the Coalition that prevents the full participation of women of color as leaders, advocates and women seeking services. We acknowledge that white women in the anti-domestic violence movement individually and collectively share the responsibility for creating this environment. We acknowledge that it is the responsibility of white women in the movement to change this environment.

ICADV found that putting the admission of racism in writing actually opened doors to working with organizations serving women of color, which were previously distrustful of the Coalition and became more willing to work with ICADV.

Over the past five years, ICADV has worked to develop culturally competent programs and practices and continue its antiracism and community organizing work. One of its program initiatives is the Leadership Institute for Tomorrow (LIFT) aimed at increasing the leadership of women of color within the domestic violence movement. Half of the Board of the LIFT program is comprised of white women program directors, many of them nearing retirement age, bringing attention to the fact that succession planning is an important issue for the movement. It is anticipated that through the training and mentoring offered by LIFT, women of color will be afforded many more opportunities to assume leadership positions in domestic violence service organizations throughout the state.

ICADV also helped to establish MUNA, a unique program that provides comprehensive services to immigrant survivors of domestic violence. ICADV understood the importance of having women from immigrant communities serve as an active part of the agency. Community members were hired, trained and mentored to provide services to their own communities, encouraging them to develop services that truly addressed cultural needs. ICADV recognized the importance of flexibility in the hiring process in order not to shut the door to community members by over professionalizing the job requirements.

After a few years, ICADV realized that it was necessary to create a more formal program that could expand the work with, and for immigrant women – making it more visible and more stable - including securing additional funding for the program. The Coalition then made the determination to utilize its resources and seek funding for the MUNA (Mujeres Unidas Por Un Nuevo Amanecer) Legal Clinic.

MUNA works to empower immigrant survivors of domestic violence and helps them develop their skills. Clients are invited to participate, on a voluntary basis, in a community organizing group that educates immigrant women on economic issues and immigrant rights, as well as addressing survival issues such as finding employment. Clients attend the first round of sessions and then they are asked to teach the next cycle of classes. They receive a stipend for teaching classes and educational child care services are provided during the meetings.

ICADV has also demonstrated its organizational commitment to this initiative by having all non-Spanish speaking staff take Spanish classes paid by the agency. Additionally, all immigrant staff attend English classes paid for by the coalition.

For more information about ICADV visit www.icadv.org.