This year, I became actively involved with Amnesty International, an organization I have known of since I was in high school, but only just learned of its origins. Amnesty started with the simple act of one of my favorite past times (still a current happening for me), and that is letter writing. In general a nice, simple, and thoughtful letter in the mail from someone you love always warms the heart and brightens your day. But did you know letter writing can also save lives?
One of the reasons I always tell people not to be sorry, when they find out I have been in an abusive relationship, is because in the end, I am grateful for everything that has come of it. I believe God guided me through this nightmare so that I could serve a purpose in life, and that purpose is to help be a guiding for others in this situation. As a result of sharing my own experiences, it has led others to reach out and seek advice and guidance--sometimes for themselves, and sometimes to figure out how to be a supportive friend or family member. In fact, I get a number of folks reaching out to seek out resources and advice on how to help a friend or family member in an abusive relationship. So, I thought I would share some helpful tips and advice in case you're feeling overwhelmed, helpless, and/or frustrated.
We've all heard of the bystander effect. It is what happens when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation. More than just expecting someone else to intervene, when it comes to witnessing sexual assault or intimate partner violence, sometimes we just don't know how to intervene. However, there are many ways you can be an effective bystander, instead of a product of the bystander effect.
I gave a talk at Cal State Northridge today, and one student asked me what to do if someone keeps contacting you through social media, creating new accounts every time you block that person, or trying to reach you through contacting your friends. This is called cyberstalking. I told her I didn't think there was a perfect answer, based on my own experience, but in the least after you've asked the person to stop and done all you can to stop the person from contacting you, there are reports you can file with the police, so I wanted to share that info here (especially because I forgot the name of one of the reports!)
Earlier this year, I became one of the founding members of Amnesty International's LA Chapter. I know it's hard to believe there wasn't one before, but that's the truth. As a group, we decided to focus on women's and refugees' issues. From there, to help refugees in our community, we became involved in helping resettle those who have been granted resettlement in LA. This process has opened up my eyes to things I never thought about--things many of us have never thought about. What happens when a refugee gets resettled?
This summer I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I've had some pretty amazing experiences in my life, if I do say so myself. In my work with Amnesty International, our LA chapter is committed to helping refugee resettlement in LA. We were connected with IRIS, the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Service, one of three refugee resettlement agencies left in the LA/OC areas (I'll get into this in another post), and one of our first tasks was to help welcome a family from El Salvador and take them to their new home in LA. I did not expect all the emotions I experienced that day, and the love and joy I witnessed that day is indescribable--though I'm going to try to describe it to you.