Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Asha Ends Domestic Abuse and Sex Trafficking Victim Services

            After nearly three decades of serving the African American community in both Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, Asha Family Services, Inc. (Asha), has discontinued its Sherman Park Community based services to victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking. As the only local provider of culturally responsive services to African Americans in these cities, Asha has a long, rich and successful history of providing exemplary victim services that remain unmatched. The organization has designed and implemented innovative programs, services, and strategies that are created by African Americans and intended specifically to address the complex challenges faced by African American victims in the community and all groups of victims housed within prisons.  One of several unique qualities of Asha’s victim service model is who benefits. Asha’s client base continues to be approximately 66% African American, 28% White, 4% Native and 2% Latina. However, Asha and the work of the agency have now come to an end.

            After 28 years of support for its culturally specific and other services to African American survivors from the State of Wisconsin, Asha will no longer be receiving State Domestic Abuse funding. For many years, Asha’s work was deeply valued and strongly supported by the State of Wisconsin. Yet, in recent years, the shift in the state’s political climate has created an environment where culturally responsive services focused on helping those with the greatest needs is no longer a priority for some, despite the wealth of evidence supporting the need for such services both locally and nationally. A host of growing research continues to indicate a strong need for culturally specific services particularly in minority communities experiencing significant levels of poverty, unemployment, crime and other social ills.  Due to the lack of funds, we cannot continue our critical work of supporting domestic abuse and sex trafficking survivors in the community and within prisons. As such, it is painful to end the provision of direct victim and abuser-behavior services in the community we love.

          Note that we have ceased all Asha services that include: Regular office hours, Crisis calls and response, Intake assessments, Advocacy and accompaniment, Individual counseling, Case management, Youth and Teen Dating violence services, Anger management, Ujima Men’s Services as well as work with victims and abusers in prisons. We have transitioned our caseload of victims and survivors to other supported domestic violence victim serving programs.

            Please understand that the decision to dissolve the agency is terribly difficult. It is not only the loss of access to community-based, culturally specific services and employment for Asha employees, as well, it is a horrible loss to the community and the State. For nearly 28 years, Asha continues to be the only African American, culturally specific, domestic abuse organization in the State of Wisconsin. Accompanying that, I am the only African American, Executive Director of a domestic violence organization in the entire State, comprised of 72 counties and over 73 victim-serving programs. This aspect in itself has been arduous at times and extremely demanding. It is uncomfortable, exhausting and burdensome, because I am the only one. Being the only one to make certain that the voices of African American victims are heard, I am often pulled in multiple directions daily to serve on committees and be present at tables for meetings upon meetings. Simultaneously, I am challenged to be present for discussions where policy is formed or for providing expertise in a variety of areas such as, domestic abuse and sex trafficking victim services; cultural competency with African American populations and 30 years of working with men and women in prisons who are perpetrators and/or victims.

It has been an honor and a privilege to learn from and serve victims and survivors of abuse and violence in Wisconsin and across the country. 

It has been an honor and privilege to work side-by-side with a host of incredibly talented personnel and volunteers in service to all victims and to those in the African American community of Milwaukee and Madison. 

It has been an honor and privilege to learn from and work along-side some of the smartest, passionate and courageous activists and advocates both locally and nationally. As well, it has been an honor to mentor some of the brightest rising advocates and those who are now shining stars in the field. 

It has been a humbling journey.

            Much love and thanks to those who found value in our work. I continue to believe God is in Control, and prayerful that a change will come.  

For further information: Contact Antonia Drew Vann at: antoniaadv@gmail.com      

More to come!

Rape in the Military, Domestic violence, sexual violence, murder, sex trafficking