Equity & Action
At Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh (WC&S), we believe that all individuals have a right to safety, autonomy, freedom of choice, and equal access to resources. However, systemic discrimination and racism* will continue to impact equal access to resources and, consequently, endanger individual’s safety, autonomy, and freedom of choice. Our staff has observed that clients from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities and disability statuses frequently face discrimination when contacting law enforcement for help, applying for public benefits, submitting housing applications, requesting interpreter services at court hearings, and seeking medical care.
As an organization grounded in anti-oppression, taking action against systemic discrimination and racism is vital to our mission of ending domestic violence.
Systemic racism and intimate partner violence are both rooted in the misuse of power and control. We commit to using our platform to support social movements beyond IPV that address systemic oppression and institutional violence based on identity and culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, religion, disability, age, and more.
This document is intended to set forth WC&S’ strategy and articulate the actions to which WC&S is committed, both short-term and long-term.
- WC&S intentionally and meaningfully collaborates with community partners whose missions align with reducing systemic barriers that make it harder for survivors from diverse backgrounds to achieve self-sufficiency. We will continue to strengthen these partnerships and explore new partnerships to ensure that we comprehensively meet the needs of all survivors.
- We will explore external data and analyze internal data to gain a better understanding of the challenges and barriers faced by clients across different demographic groups and will adjust or re-design current programs and launch new services as needed. This includes taking a deeper look at our internal data to identify and address any disparities in service delivery and outcomes for our clients across different racial and ethnic groups. This was established as a goal of WC&S’ 2019-2022 Strategic Direction and Operations Plan, and the work is ongoing.
- WC&S will participate in a robust staff training initiative focused on building diversity, equity, inclusion, and welcoming as core components of our organizational culture. For many years, WC&S has incorporated these topics into new-staff orientation and monthly staff training sessions. Moving forward, we will continue to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts not only among staff members but among the Board of Directors, volunteers, vendors and within our network.
- WC&S will improve internal processes, such as responding to discrimination among clients and employing equitable practices when recruiting new staff, volunteers, and board members.
Criminal Justice System
- WC&S acknowledges that our movement’s history has not always been inclusive of the voices of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, and that has caused harm. We commit to amplifying these voices that are too often left unheard as we work for a better future for all survivors.
- WC&S recognizes the unintended consequences of reliance on the criminal justice system for helping clients to obtain justice, autonomy, restoration, and safety. Our actions to rectify these unintended consequences will include participating in conversations about police reform and accountability, exploring and implementing alternative, community-based solutions when survivors are not comfortable involving the police or courts, and learning from other IPV programs that implement survivor-centered transformative justice alternatives. When exploring ways to strengthen laws and practice around domestic violence, WC&S commits to include communities that experience systemic discrimination in all discussions.
Other Partner Systems
- WC&S is committed to public policy and systems advocacy work to make all systems that victims/survivors use more equitable and accessible, including housing, healthcare, food access, Victims Compensation programs, and public benefits programs.
Maintaining a Long-Term Commitment to Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression
In June 2020, the Equity & Action Collaborative, a group comprised of board and staff members, was created to proactively address racism and social justice within the organization and ensure that WC&S upholds its value of anti-oppression at all levels of the organization. This was an official step toward continuing an ongoing commitment that had been informal to this point.
Our goal is to be as welcoming, supportive, and culturally competent as we can at WC&S. We follow the Sanctuary Model and the Women’s Center Business System, both of which involve commitments to continuous learning and ongoing improvement. As an agency, we have intertwined our anti-oppression work into these existing commitments.
We understand that we can only do this work by stepping outside of our comfort zones, educating ourselves, and taking accountability. We know that we will make mistakes. We encourage feedback from clients, staff, and the community on this document and—more importantly—on how we live out this document in our work. We continually aim to improve our services, our methods, and our efforts to gather feedback, and we strive to be humble while doing so. We commit to addressing any mistakes directly and striving to make immediate, impactful change.
*Systemic discrimination can be described as the behaviors (such as policies and practices) of institutions that have disparate impacts on or disadvantages for populations with certain characteristics (such as race, gender, or religion).
**Intersectionality is the interconnected nature of the many categories of an individual's identity. Since they are not mutually exclusive, the systemic oppression that individuals experience can be compounded by different identity characteristics. When a person experiences oppression based on one facet of their identity, they are more likely to experience oppression in any other area of their life.
At the heart of the work we do to end intimate partner violence is the idea that people in a relationship are equals, and that a healthy relationship is one built on trust, respect, and love. Partners in a healthy relationship see one another, support one another, value one another, and prioritize one another’s health, safety, and feelings first and foremost. Without these tenets of trust, respect, and love, the opposite takes hold— disregard, division, devaluing. At best, this is unhealthy. At worst, it turns into a relationship where there is an imbalance of power and a misuse of privilege and control: an abusive relationship.
We must recognize the parallels between how an abuser treats their partner and how white society treats people of color. As Women’s Center & Shelter advances our mission of preventing and responding to intimate partner violence through social change, we find ourselves looking to the heart of our work as it extends to society, for what are we as a society if not in relationship with one another? When members of a society may disregard, divide, and devalue others with impunity, the entire society bears the scars of the abuse. How many more people of color must be murdered to prove that? How many more people of color must have the police called on them for doing nothing but living in their own skin before this is acknowledged?
Dismantling systems of oppression has always been the foundation of our work to end violence, for we cannot be against violence in the home and not be against all violence. WC&S promises to work to end all violence by elevating and amplifying the voices of the Black community—and all disenfranchised communities—now and always. We promise to be anti-racist and anti-oppression and to speak out for justice and equity. We promise to foster love, trust, and respect among all people. To paraphrase a quote originally made about the news, we will strive to play an active role in comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. Being uncomfortable is not only okay – it is really the only way to create the space for this much needed, long overdue systemic and societal change to happen.
To the Black community and all communities of color – we know you are hurting. WC&S sees you, we support you, we value you, and we love you. We hold in our hearts a vision of a unified, healthy society that values every single member. A society that is just, equitable, welcoming, and loving toward all. Only then will we fully live into our work to end violence.
Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh -
June 4, 2020
Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh Condemns the Abhorrent Acts of Violence Against Asian American Communities.
Since the beginning of the global health pandemic, the United States has seen a significant rise in violent hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. These acts of violence are rooted in gross misinformation and hateful ignorance. Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh (WC&S) vigorously condemns these violent acts against AAPI communities. We stand in solidarity with the families and with those who lost their lives in Atlanta on March 16th, 2021 to an act of senseless, domestic terrorism.
In the past year, Stop AAPI Hate has recorded more than 4,000 hate crimes inflicted on Asian Americans. With the continuation of dangerous rhetoric regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely that those numbers will continue to rise.
WC&S stands unequivocally on the side of racial equity and intersectionality that must come forward in the fight for social justice. As an organization, we will ensure that we continue to give breath to the voices of marginalized people, including those of the AAPI communities, that so often go unheard.
Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh -
March 18, 2021