Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Bridges" helps domestic violence's Spanish-speaking victims in Williamson County

Hispanic and Latina victims and survivors of domestic violence in Williamson County can turn to Bridges Domestic Violence Center, which serves approximately five Spanish-speaking clients and their children each month.

Tennessee ranks sixth in the nation for the rate of women murdered by men, according to one study. Intimate partner violence impacts one in four women in the U.S.

October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Verizon Wireless recently sent information about its HopeLine campaign to get cell phones to abuse victims and funds to shelters and similar organizations (more on that below).  Verizon was also nice enough to connect to Bridges' bilingual outreach worker Erica Roe-Fehrman, who tells her story and the story of Bridges and its clients below:
Bridges has provided Spanish bilingual services since September 2007 that include answering crisis calls, safety planning and information on the dynamics of domestic violence, working with local law enforcement in crisis intervention, emergency shelter, residential case management, resumes and job search assistance for those in shelter, as well as case management for those transitioning into independent living from our shelter. We also provide assistance with Orders of Protection in Williamson County, resourcing and referrals for community agency assistance, ESL classes, counseling/therapy, Legal Aid, and referrals for immigration assistance with the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. 
In the past year, we have served clients who originated from about 8 different countries. Many of these clients are from Spanish-speaking countries. Our role is to provide trauma-informed services and a safe place for clients to make complex decisions and regain control of their life. For Spanish-speaking clients, their barriers to a life free of violence can include a range of issues. Some issues they specifically face can include things like being highly educated with degrees from universities in other countries that are not recognized by many employers, an extremely isolated life from an abusive partner who allows no access to English classes, their immigration status being threatened or used against them by an abusive partner, not knowing how to access community resources or not having a support system of family for assistance. 
Erica Roe-Fehrman
Bilingual Outreach Advocate
Bridges Domestic Violence Center
I have worked at Bridges for close to four years and for the past two years have served as the Outreach Advocate and Spanish-speaking Advocate.  My educational background is a BS in Cultural Anthropology with an emphasis on Cultural Geography and Latin American Studies. My focus included issues in race, class, gender, socioeconomic barriers and forms of everyday violence. I also studied four years of Spanish and conducted field research on barriers faced by Spanish-speaking migrant farm workers in Appalachia. I am not a certified translator/interpreter or a native speaker but continually strive to provide linguistically and culturally appropriate program services to our clients who speak Spanish. Working in advocacy and empowerment is something I dreamed of while earning an education. To be able to do this on a daily basis in my community is an incredible experience and I feel that I learn much more from the courageous clients I work with than they learn from me.
Verizon Wireless, which has grant-funded program services at Bridges and provided its shelter clients with HOPE phones and calling cards for victims and survivors, is encouraging the community to donate no-longer-used wireless devices, with the proceeds going to support for victims of domestic abuse. The program has collected over 10 million phones since its inception in 2001, creating $18.1 million in cash grants for domestic violence agencies.

HopeLine currently supports several domestic violence agencies in Tennessee with free phones and wireless service for use by their clients. In addition to Bridges, HopeLine also supports Genesis House, Inc., Knoxville Family Justice Center and Legal Aid of East Tennessee.

“The statistics are consistently staggering: One in four women, one in seven men and more than 3 million children are affected by domestic violence each year,” said Jerry Fountain, president for Verizon Wireless in the Carolinas and Tennessee. “Seemingly small efforts—like donating an old phone—can make a difference in supporting families affected by domestic violence.”

HopeLine collection boxes are located at every Verizon Wireless store, and phones can be also be donated by mail using a pre-paid postage label. For more information, visit

Bridges Domestic Violence Center is the only domestic violence program in Williamson County and primarily serves victims and survivors living in Williamson County. Shelter services are also provided to victims fleeing violence from other counties and states when space is available.

Bridges' Spanish-language flyer is here, and Verizon's Spanish-language flyer for HopeLine is here.

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