shelters for Muslim women are rare, specialized
shelters are not a new concept.
"You can't be everything to everybody as a program.
No matter how hard we try," said Karen Tautfest,
director of shelter and advocacy service programs at
the YWCA in Tacoma.
Tautfest compared Sisters of Sunnah to the shelter
opened by the Korean Women's Association in Tacoma.
"It's fabulous that this kind of culturally specific
resource is now available," she said.
Korean Women's Association opened its domestic
violence shelter in 2004. The $1.2 million facility
is "always full," said Lua Pritchard, executive
director of the Korean Women's Association. The
shelter has served women from 14 countries,
including Muslim women, since it opened.
have been serving domestic violence for years and
(had) no place to hide the victims safely. So the
victims always go back to abusers," Pritchard said.
"It is crucial to have cultural- and
YWCA has individual rooms for women and sets aside
some money in the budget each year for those with
special dietary needs, such as allergies, hilal or
kosher foods, Tautfest said. The organization is
also "happy to meet someone's needs if they ask,"
but she said no shelter can understand every
cultural nuance, and abused or homeless women are
less likely to ask for special considerations.
"The more resources we have for folks, the better,"
she said. The YWCA, which is not affiliated with a
religious group, does not ask the women who stay
there what religion they are, she said. Tautfest
couldn't recall any Muslim women there in recent
the Tacoma Rescue Mission, director Marlene Hamilton
said she was aware of at least two Muslim women who
stayed at the shelter in the last year and she
recalls at least one leaving because the shelter
lacked proper accommodations.
"Some mainstream shelters are accommodating, and
others are not," said Salma Abugideiri, who is on
the leadership team of Faith Trust Institute, a
national organization headquartered in Seattle that
works to eliminate sexual and physical abuse in
faith groups. She also has a private practice in
Virginia where she has counseled many Muslims
dealing with abuse.
Abugideiri said that, in many Muslim cultures, women
are responsible for making the marriage work, so
they feel personally responsible if they are abused.
"Islam … completely prohibits violence, but a lot of
women don't realize that. So coming up in their own
cultural norm, there's a lot of stigma."
Since many Muslims in the U.S. are immigrants, she
said, abusers often use the fear of deportation
against their victims.
if a caseworker doesn't understand Islam, there can
be miscommunication. At worse, Abugideiri said
caseworkers might assume that violence is simply a
part of the religion.
"There's a lot of negative misconceptions about
Islam – that it's a religion of violence. That plays
into how advocates may respond to women," she said.
"God does not want anyone to be abused."
Niki Sullivan: 253-597-8658
Peaceful Families Project (PFP)
(www.peacefulfamilies.org) is a national
organization that facilitates domestic violence
awareness workshops for Muslim leaders and
communities, provides cultural sensitivity trainings
for providers and professionals, and develops
resources regarding abuse in Muslim communities.
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