Healthy People 2020 At Work in the Community: Domestic Violence Prevention among Refugees
Noah Project, based in Abilene, Texas, advocates for victims and works to end family violence. With funds from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), Noah Project was able to partner with the International Rescue Committee's (IRC) local office to help meet some of the diverse needs of resettled refugees. The Domestic Violence Prevention among Refugees Program reached 50 people and now continues through other sources of funding.
Noah Project has two main program components: intervention and prevention. The intervention programs consist of "shelter and outreach services for victims of family violence," explained Miriam Lieway, Education Coordinator at Noah Project. The prevention programs focus on community awareness to prevent family violence.
Collaborating with the IRC office in Abilene, Noah Project developed and translated brochures for families on bullying and on how to be safe in relationships in languages of the refugee populations: Swahili, Chin, French, and Nepalese (Bhutan).
In addition to translating brochures, Noah Project worked with IRC to identify best communication practices between IRC staff and refugees. "Teaching only takes place if the person learns. We want people to learn and internalize so that they can stay safe. It is all about the person we are talking to," explained Ms. Lieway.
Working with Men
"Several refugees (especially men) have inquired more deeply about domestic violence and how to deal with the stress of adapting to a new culture as a family," said Ms. Lieway. She further explained that refugees "had a venue to express their feelings and concerns and learn coping skills." Noah Project is hopeful that domestic violence and child abuse will not only be prevented but also be detected sooner because of these trainings.
Noah Project's advocacy helped train refugees "to understand how to navigate new family dynamics, problem-solve as parents, and learn what domestic violence means in the United States," explained Ms. Lieway.
While the Domestic Violence Prevention among Refugees Program implemented by Noah Project reached about 50 people, Ms. Lieway believes "the full impact will come over time." Each time a new wave of refugees settle in Abilene, Noah Project plans to provide training.
One goal of this project was to reduce "physical, psychological, and sexual abuse by a current or former partner among the refugee population," explained Ms. Lieway. By providing refugees a "working definition of domestic violence," Noah Project hopes that refugees will speak up if they see violence in their own communities and become "advocates in their own community," continued Ms. Lieway.
Noah Project emphasizes breaking the cycle of violence. "I hope there will be a generational effect," said Ms. Lieway. Hopefully the "upcoming generations will have a better understanding of what domestic violence is and have a deeper understanding of equality," she continued.
"We are especially asking men to speak up because they might be leaders in their community."—Miriam Lieway
During the project, Noah Project staff realized they needed to adapt their program to fit the needs of the refugee communities they were working with. Noah Project's training now has two separate components: the first covering healthy family relationships, and the second addressing domestic violence. Men and women are trained in separate sessions.
Noah Project staff also identified another area for future training. Ms. Lieway and her colleagues are planning meetings with teenage girls to address dating violence and teen pregnancies. "There is a strong correlation between dating violence and teen pregnancy. There is a high percentage of pregnant teens who report a history of dating violence," said Ms. Lieway.
Noah Project empowered refugees to "understand healthy relationships in the United States and the stress put on their families due to cultural changes," stated Ms. Lieway. Now refugees "know where to get help and resources," Ms. Lieway continued.
Lastly, refugees in Abilene, Texas "understand the concepts of bullying and dating violence and how to keep themselves safe and report incidences in schools," said Ms. Lieway. These are all important transformations as refugees resettle in their new homes in the United States.
Talking about Different Types of Violence in the Communities
"It is important to not only focus on spousal abuse but also child abuse."—Miriam Lieway, Education Coordinator, Noah Project
Domestic Violence Prevention among Refugees
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) challenged America’s health organizations to come up with new and innovative projects that could tackle some of today’s most pressing public health issues.
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