The Center for Hope and Healing (CHH) was founded in the mid-70s and remains committed to eliminating sexual violence in their community. RALIANCE is proud to call the organization one of our 2019 grantees to receive funding for their critical work through our partnership with the National Football League. We have great respect for the organization’s long history on the front lines of sexual violence prevention.
“We have set a clear mission to reach those who historically have not been reached in our communities,” said CHH Executive Director Isa Woldeguiorguis. “We work to center the margins of our communities and to address the oppressions that are at the root cause of sexual violence—that includes racism, sexism, heterosexism and xenophobia along with many of the areas of oppression that folks in our communities continue to face and that contribute to their additional vulnerability to sexual violence.”
We caught up with Woldeguiorguis to discuss the work CHH has done around examining and improving organizational policies, practices and outreach strategies in order to better serve transgender women of color survivors in the community.
RALIANCE: Why does CHH seek to specifically reach transgender women of color?
Woldeguiorguis: Trans people’s experience of sexual violence indicate shockingly high levels of sexual abuse and assault. One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives. Trans women of color are at the top of the list of people who exist on the margins facing the root causes of sexual violence. They are a community who faces sexual violence, physical violence and harassment on a daily basis.
RALIANCE: In 2019, the team received a grant from RALIANCE. Can you share the type of work the grant supported?
Woldeguiorguis: Changing the culture of an organization—and even a sector—to be more responsive to certain communities is very important. We can’t serve a community well if we haven’t gotten our house in order. Even seemingly small actions such as starting meetings with our gender pronouns make a difference. So, we brought in trans women of color—partners, consultants, community members—to dialogue with us and to teach us.
RALIANCE: Since the pandemic started, what new challenges have your constituents faced and how is CHH helping to resolve it?
Woldeguiorguis: One of the things that often happens in systems that sexual assault survivors must utilize, such as health care, is to write off trans women and particularly trans women of color as either mentally ill, substance abusers or sex workers. During the pandemic, a lot of what we’ve done is provide concrete resources like money, food and PPE. Folks need supportive services, but they need to survive; they need food, they need their lights on, they need their rent paid, so that’s what we focused a lot on during the pandemic.
RALIANCE: What are some organizational policies, practices and outreach strategies that can better serve transgender women of color survivors in the community?
Woldeguiorguis: That’s a big one. It starts literally from recruitment. Who are you hiring to join your team and how are you advertising these roles? How are you treating people once they’re there? It is important that the organization closely consider hiring, onboarding, orientation and training practices if our goal is to provide culturally relevant and inclusive services to the community.
Also, it’s important to build relationships. Find out who your local providers supporting transgender women of color are. Find out what they need. Educate yourself about their resources. On our CHH social media accounts, we amplify trans-led organizations, sharing knowledge to the wider community and how to access resources. We encourage people to follow us and learn more that way as well.
RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit www.RALIANCE.org.