Monsoon’s Mobile Multilingual Advocates Program is an inspired application of the San Francisco Asian Women’s Shelter’s (SFAWS) Multilingual Access Model (MLAM). The model is used to train advocates and volunteers who provide services under Monsoon. The model was developed by the SFAWS in the late 1980s as a response to the needs of non-English speaking battered women and their children and is being used by numerous organizations working with Asian communities across the United States. MLAM recognizes the diversity of API communities in the United States and encourages ongoing exploration of API cultures and training of staff as well as volunteers. Because the API communities in Iowa are dispersed, Monsoon added “mobile” to its program to describe its extensive services. MLAM was introduced in 2004 to Monsoon, a recipient of SFAWS’s technical assistance. After receiving state and federal funding from 2007, Monsoon began full implementation of its Mobile Multilingual Advocates Program as it began increasing its roster of advocates and volunteers. The organization hires advocates who are fluent in one or more Asian languages and are familiar with API cultures. Monsoon eschews “professionals” as candidates in favor of “community insiders,” that is, individuals who are trusted by their fellow community members and who are interested in community health and development, and provides intensive training on gender-based violence in API communities – cultural histories and the diverse forms of violence, its effects and prevention measures. Advocates are also expected to be supportive of Monsoon’s core values (feminist-activist framework; survivor-centered; language and cultural diversity; and community engagement) and be committed to confidentiality and safety. Furthermore, for an advocate who will work with sexual assault survivors or in the violence prevention program, which includes dating violence and stalking issues, the requirements include knowledge and approaches related to male and LGBTQ victims and war refugees as well as sexual orientation and homophobia. The program seeks also to enhance services provided by mainstream shelters and crisis centers across Iowa.
Monsoon functions as a resource, advocate and support for the API population in Iowa affected by domestic violence and sexual assault by providing crisis advocacy; safety plans; individual and group counseling; liaising with law enforcement, employers and educational institutions; criminal justice and legal advocacy; court accompaniment; immigration assistance, for example, VAWA or U-Visa applications; medical care support and advocacy; help with housing, education, employment and government benefit applications; finding childcare; assistance with victim compensation, registration and notification; follow-ups; and any information and recommendations related to the needs of victims/survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Monsoon’s services, for example, could include helping a victim first obtain a protective order and find safe housing, and later possibly get legal help from a pro bono attorney and accompany the victim to court hearings. Monsoon also collaborates with organizations and agencies with the goal of providing optimal services for victims.
Following an initial intake, Monsoon’s advocates offer one-on-one counseling to API victims/survivors of gender-based violence that continues as long as the victim feels that s/he needs the service. The counseling service is linguistically and culturally competent.
Every second Saturday of the month, women from the community are invited for friendly conversations over tea or coffee in Des Moines. This confidential event is held in a safe space and is directed at not only survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault but also at women who are interested in building sisterhood while learning about different issues that affect API communities. Monsoon firmly believes that the community should be held accountable on gender-based violence and that individual healing is intricately linked to community healing.
In addition, Monsoon has started Yoni Chats, monthly dialogues on sex and sexuality and healthy relationships among the younger API generation, in Iowa City. The methods include shared stories and creative expression; regular meetings for participants to connect with each other and discuss topics related to sexuality; and journaling.
Sewing and Weaving program are also our method in bringing community members together to begin the conversation…
We are listening...