The Eastern PA Conference will explore this fall how domestic violence is experienced and addressed by people who face injustice, neglect and other disadvantages because of their race, ethnicity, disability, nationality and other circumstances that relegate them to the margins of society.
“Seeking Justice and Mercy: Social Justice for Marginalized Communities Experiencing Domestic Violence” will be the broad focus of a weekend Zoom webinar Oct. 15-16. The conference Domestic Violence (DV) Committee is organizing the Friday evening (7-9 PM) and Saturday morning (9 AM to 12:30 PM) event, its fourth annual seminar and its second held totally online.
These yearly educational events—always held during or just before National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October—are targeted to churches but are open and helpful to everyone. Past seminars have focused on DV and the church, DV and men, and DV and families with children.
Maria Sofia Gattorno, an attorney at HIAS PA’s Domestic Violence Initiative, will keynote the webinar, following introductions and devotions on Friday at 7 PM. At HIAS she provides free legal services to immigrant and refugee survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault who reside in Chester County. She represents survivors before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and in Immigration Court, while advocating to increase access for such survivors.
“Already vulnerable, immigrants are much more likely to experience abuse than non-immigrants, and are far less likely to leave their abusers,” reports HIAS of PA’s website. “Our advocates help immigrant survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault gain independence through legal status.”
Gattorno, who is from Puerto Rico, previously worked as a bilingual legal advocate in domestic violence cases at the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey. She guided clients through various legal processes, such as obtaining protection from abuse orders, divorce, custody matters and immigration reliefs.
“Voices of Survivors” will follow Gattorno’s keynote, featuring testimonies and reflections by a diverse panel of women—including one who is deaf—about their struggles for justice and equity in seeking help and healing to overcome domestic and intimate-partner violence.
Saturday’s agenda will feature more panelists sharing how non-mainstream cultures may be uniquely impacted by domestic violence, and what needs to be done—in the faith community and beyond—to respond to their challenging needs and circumstances.
Brief workshops will ensue to offer more focused insights on addressing domestic violence in the lives of persons who are immigrants and refugees, deaf, LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer-plus), and members of racial-ethnic communities.
This webinar should reveal new information and insights; and it may stimulate ideas and opportunities to address the societal scourge of domestic violence made worse by social marginalization, injustice and inequity.