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!


  1. This is yet another indicator of white supremacist at work to devalue everything that is black and brown because to them Black Lives Do Not Matter, hence Black owned, operated and culturally specific services to black and brown people DO NOT MATTER! The state's track record of valuing black people is dismal this move by the state is proof positive of that. Brenda Bell-White

  2. They are continuing to wage war on and against us

  3. Antonia and all who have poured heart and soul into Asha Family Services I express on behalf of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence our deep condolences at this loss and solidarity with you in the struggle to provide good services with inadequate resources. Most sincerely we at NCDSV have benefitted from what you've learned in this very hard work by your service on our Board of Directors. Your guidance and commitment are deeply respected and your friendship genuinely valued. Thank you for your support to us even when fighting so hard to keep Asha able to contribute in Wisconsin. With my love, Debby

  4. I am so deeply saddened by this loss to our community and most of all to black women and their children and families. In my mind and heart this is a travesty. ASHA mattered, critically, essentially, big time. And, Antonia, as the founder of ASHA, I know this must be so very hard. Be mindful to remember and remind yourself of all you have done over these years, the impact ASHA has had in the lives of so so many, the legacy you and ASHA have left. And you aren't done. The work isn't done. They didn't make you and they will not break you. You are LOVED and you matter, ASHA mattered, and still does.

  5. Having been there when ASHA was just a dream and being privileged to provide some small effort in its fruition I am sad and disturbed that you will now cease servicing this vulnerable community. Thank you Tony for all you have done.

  6. I thank you all so very much for the continued outpouring of support and encouragement. There has been a national outcry and outpouring of support for the work I have lived for 30 years that was not anticipated. I am encouraged by that and I feel loved, valued and appreciated. I thank you deeply.

    There are so many things that need to be said and examined. At some point, we must ask and find answers to a number of questions and take notice of what is happening around us. We need to ask for example, what is happening to the culturally specific programs throughout the country? Asha is not the only one closed down. We need to ask "Why?" Why are they being shut down? It that the only option? Are they scrutinized more than other programs to find a reason to silence them? Just as my announcement states, there are those in Wisconsin's administration that do not value culturally specific anything. I have to say, dealing with them has been an OPPRESSIVE challenge to say the least. There are some individuals in the current WI administration who have wanted me silenced, shut down and gone for a few years. I cannot tell you exactly why; however, they have faced little resistance to quietly shutting down, defunding or decimated many other Black, culturally specific or minority focused agencies or programs. Thankfully, because of you all who are friends and allies, Asha is not going out silently and the ripples of consequence continue.

    The love of my brother, Moses Drew and his financial support, and true allies at my side is what kept Asha alive and serving victims in the Sherman Park area who not seek services outside the community. Before it is asked what are the DV programs and the WI state coalition doing to help? I need to acknowledge the level of support our agency, the only culturally specific African American DV agency in the State, gets from our DV coalition -- End Domestic Abuse WI. I don't know about how other coalitions work or interact with their member programs, but what I do know is that if it had not been for WI's coalition -- specifically Patti Seger, the Executive Director and Teresa Weinland Schmidt, their CPA, Asha would have been forced to close sometime ago. I am blessed they are my allies and my friends.

    I am thankful you have not kept quiet and thankful I have your support.

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