As part of our series highlighting our network members, meet an organization making a difference in the lives of survivors. In this conversation we speak with Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s Executive Director, Dr. Maria Corona.
What brought you to the work of supporting survivors and eradicating violence?
Like many of us in this field, I have personal experiences with gender-based violence, community violence, and institutionalized violence. For the last 8 years, I have worked in community settings witnessing the consequences of violence enacted by individuals, institutions, and systems. I have also extensively reviewed academic literature and conducted research on domestic violence through the lens of survivors and people that cause harm. I never thought I would be in this exact role, but the opportunity emerged at the right time; I now consider it the universe alignment with my calling. I was called to the work of uplifting communities of color, survivors historically excluded, and to transform the way we approach the work of eradicating gender-based violence.
What do you currently do in your position to support survivors of domestic violence?
I am the Executive Director of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence and our mission is to seek to engage all people in a movement to change the social and political systems that perpetuate violence. We do this through education, advocacy, and quality of services. In the last 12 months, I have worked directly with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, supported local programs with complicated cases, expanded our client assistance fund, developed new partnerships at the grassroots and systems levels, restructured our approach to supporting the work of some of our Culturally Specific Programs, implemented cultural strategies in community engagement events, and allocated our resources within communities of color—specifically directing resources to Black and other women of color leaders in Iowa.
How can we support loved ones who have been impacted by domestic violence?
We must be very intentional in the way we support people and loved ones impacted by domestic violence. Many times, we think we know the solutions and bring in our bias and judgement in the conversation. Ultimately, we need to show compassion, believe survivors when they seek help, and give them space to tell us what they need to be safe and heal. There is not one ‘standard’ way of supporting a person experiencing violence, even if we’ve known them our whole life. They are the experts of their own life and know what’s best for them and their families, specially during a crisis. We need to empower them and give them the resources and tools they want/need.
At some point (and if your loved one agrees), you can also brainstorm and plan who and what is the best way to approach the person that is causing harm; what are the resources that person needs? What are the contextual things activating or exacerbating the violence? What does accountability look like in this situation?
What advice would you give advocates working with Latinx survivors of domestic violence during the pandemic?
Our Latinx community (and the world) is experiencing intense grief at this moment in history. Our community is grieving the loss family members and friends, loss of employment, housing, the increase in economic insecurity, the loss of social connections and increase isolation. There is tremendous pain, and we are all experiencing collective trauma inflicted through the COVID-19 pandemic, but also through racial injustices and heightened anti-immigrant environments. The uncertainty and lack of supportive structures and systems during this lingering period of the pandemic certainly does not allow for convalescence. So, when you are working with Latinx survivors of domestic violence, in this moment in time, it is essential to think of multi-sectoral interventions and supports that can address and bring concrete solutions to health and well-being of domestic violence survivors amid the pandemic; this is in addition to addressing the domestic violence specific crisis/need. The work of advocates right now must be multipronged and flexible. We must lean on our local, state, and national partners and work in collaboration with various fields/sectors/leaders/networks to meet the challenging needs of Latinx survivors amid, and beyond, the current pandemic.
How do you practice well-being and self-care?
This is always a hard question. Recently, I am practicing being more present with my son, Ricardo Kawsay Corona Alcivar. I am doing my best to disconnect from all technology, work mindset, volunteer responsibilities/community work, and trying really hard to enjoy his daily changes and peculiarities of a toddler’s development. I am also listening to music more deliberately. And I am napping.