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Meet the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Through this regular feature, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) will be introducing you to our member coalitions. Read the rest of our Meet A Coalition features here.

This month, meet the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence (DCCADV):

What is it like to do domestic violence work in the District of Columbia? 

As the Nation’s Capitol, the District of Columbia is neither a state nor territory.  The historical disenfranchisement of District residents creates challenging barriers. Self-determination and autonomy are essential to create social change and until DC has full-representation we must fight Congressional overreach.

What impact does your unique DC context have on this work?

The District has had a significant Black population since the city’s creation, often referred to as “Chocolate City.” As a result, DC became both a center of African American culture and a center of the Civil Rights Movement. This means that domestic violence services must be culturally specific and responsive. There is a huge need for additional funding and support for culturally specific mental health services here in the District.

What are the biggest barriers that survivors face in DC?

DC has one the highest homeless rates in the country. There is a direct correlation between housing and domestic violence, in fact, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness both locally and nationally. In response, we created the DC Domestic Violence Housing Continuum to develop a city-wide procedure to ensure access through a trauma-informed and survivor centered coordinated entry and assessment process.

What’s happening in DC that you’re excited about?

So many things!

We’re excited about the launch of Ujima: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community. Ujima, pronounced oo-JEE-mah, is the third principle of Kwanzaa and means “collective work and responsibility.” Ujima was founded in response to a need for an active approach to ending violence against women in the Black Community. The Ujima mission is to create a world where black women and girls are valued, respected, and safe.

Last year, the DC Girls Coalition was created through an innovation grant from the National Girls Initiative (NGI) of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention). The DC Girls Coalition is comprised of a multi-disciplinary network of youth-serving advocacy and victim service organizations. Together, we strive to reduce reliance on justice system responses to trauma, uplift girls as leaders and advocates, and build a cadre of organizations dedicated to creating and implementing gender-responsive and trauma-informed policies and programs.

Lastly, just this October, we released Stronger, a visual poem by Shehariah Johnson. We’re dedicated to building the leadership of survivor storytellers in hopes of shifting the way that policymakers, media, and the community understands and responds to the complexity of domestic violence. Survivors have a powerful role in changing policy. You can watch Stronger here.

Are there any champions in DC that you’d like to thank or celebrate for their record or work on domestic violence?

We’re grateful to leadership on the DC Council, in particular Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and Councilmember Charles Allen. Their leadership of the Judiciary Committee has seen increased funding for core domestic violence service provision in the District. Additionally, we’re grateful for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee for hosting the launch of Ujima at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Conference this past September.

(Honorable Mention: Diane Cottman. As the mother of our fearless leader, Diane supports all of the Coalition’s events and activities. As a staff, we all agree our family and friends are the real MVP’s. They keep us grounded and supported as we do this vital work).

How is your coalition working to end domestic violence?

The Coalition offers support and services for today, and education, advocacy and leadership to shape a violence-free future for families in the District of Columbia. Our work applies a framework for identifying social, economic, cultural, political and legal factors that have critical implications for those affected by violence, oppression, subordination and discrimination. We leverage our expertise to expand community activism, deepen community awareness surrounding poverty caused by domestic violence and address systems gaps by promoting sound and effective public policy initiatives.

If DCCADV was a musician or music group, who would you be and why?

The Bela Dona Band, because we must pay respect to Go-go! Go-go is a unique style of funk and R&B that originated here in the District. The Bela Dona is an all-female band known for their high-energy performances and dynamic musicianship. The women of Bela Dona are civic leaders and activists, business women, educators, and mentors who take their responsibility to serve as role models to girls and women as seriously off the stage as they do while performing. Each member of the band as their own specialty and passion, just like our coalition staff.

Learn more about the DCCADV: