Listening Care: Serenity House Oakland Offers Treatment for Victims of Domestic Violence with Solutions


Charlene Muhammad | The Oakland post

The issues plaguing those affected by domestic violence are often compartmentalized as law enforcement – ​​along with criminal justice and social welfare authorities – attempt to address them. It is a piecemeal approach, advocates say, that does not help victims or perpetrators, and does not lead to lasting solutions to the problem.

Instead, these advocates say, domestic violence must be addressed holistically. Every aspect of the question must be considered. This not only helps end the criminalization of those who survive it, they explain. It’s also a better way to end the cycle of trauma and dysfunction that triggers and maintains it.

Democratic Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) is one such advocate.

Kamlager, a former member of the Assembly who was elected a state senator earlier this year, introduced AB 118, or the “CRISIS ACT,” in December 2020 while still serving in the ‘Assembly. The acronym CRISES stands for “Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems”.

AB 118 seeks to implement a pilot program that would prepare and empower community organizations to serve as first responders instead of the police. This would put domestic violence advocates, mental and public health professionals on the front lines, responding to calls when there are incidents of domestic violence or other acts of violence in people’s homes.

Kamlager originally introduced the CRISES Act as AB 2054 in February 2020.

AB 2054 passed the Legislature unanimously, but Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed it, saying the Office of Emergency Services was not the appropriate venue for the pilot program as proposed in the legislation.

However, its legislative successor AB 118 also passed unanimously in the Assembly and is currently being considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project in Oakland, thinks the bill will pass this time around. She owes her optimism to the pressure elected officials may be feeling due to a growing movement on the streets of cities and states across the country pushing for alternatives to badges and guns in response to the crisis. community.

The Anti Police-Terror Project is a black-led, multiracial, cross-generational coalition that seeks to build a repeatable and sustainable model for eradicating police terror in communities of color.

“This current political moment is sort of creating the perfect storm for bills like the CRISES Act to pass, so I’m hopeful,” Brooks said.

The organization created the Mental Health First Oakland program, a non-911 mobile crisis response to domestic violence, interpersonal violence, substance abuse, mental health and other community crises, according to Brooks.

“I am a survivor of domestic violence, and the police came. And after my husband beat me you-know-what, I was the one who ended up going to jail,” she recalls.

She was 19, black, and a woman in Las Vegas, she said. Under the city’s Primary Abusers Act, police can decide who is responsible for domestic violence.

“That’s how they took me to jail, even though my husband didn’t have a scratch on him, and I was covered in scratches and bruises and bleeding,” Brooks said. “I was targeted as a black woman by white law enforcement, and I was sent to jail, and it happens to women again and again and again.”

Unfortunately, her story is no exception, she says. She thinks race has less to do with her arrest than gender. “We have to remember that we live in a patriarchy, and we also have to remember that the least believed human being walking the streets of America is the black woman. The most stereotypical is the black woman. The image that is being painted of us is loud, crazy, out of control, angry, violent,” Brooks said.

How these stereotypes affect how law enforcement treats black women is not discussed enough in public discourse. But too often, those interactions are deadly or violent, she argued.

Brooks’ personal ordeal, she says, caused her to not believe the police are her friends and would help her. In fact, quite the opposite, they could end up making things worse, she said.

For the duration of this relationship, she had no one to call, so she said she had just experienced the abuse, which she says is true for so many black, brown and Indigenous women.

“They don’t call anyone because they don’t want the police to kill them. They don’t want the police to kill their partners. They don’t want to go to jail,” Brooks said.

The tragedy helped her get into activism and advocacy. Now, the Anti Police-Terror Project is set to release its model for responding to interpersonal violence without police, she told California Black Media.

Members have worked closely with many frontline organizations working on domestic violence because it needs to be a local solution, Brooks said.

The organization provides principles and structures, but ultimately the community has to come together, identify where the safe house is, who the trauma responders will be, who will treat the abuser in a way that doesn’t is not violent and force accountability, without involving law enforcement, she explained.

According to Brooks, the Anti Police-Terror Project does a lot of propaganda and talks to the community, and they found it interesting that the mainstream media’s depiction of abusers resembled the 1984 film “The Burning Bed” starring Farrah Fawcett. In the film, after nearly a decade of abuse, Fawcett’s character Francine Hughes douses her sleeping husband with gasoline and lights their bed on fire.

“They don’t think some families really want to stay together, some families really want help for everyone. And for us, whether the family decides to stay together or not, we know that trauma services and support and work has to be done with both the abuser and the survivors, so those are the kinds of things that we advocate,” Brooks said.


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