Local nonprofit Mujeres in Action serves domestic violence survivors in Spanish

click to enlarge Local nonprofit Mujeres in Action serves domestic violence survivors in Spanish
Young Kwak photo
Hanncel Sanchez founded Mujeres in Action to serve the Inland Northwest's Spanish speakers.

When Hanncel Sanchez was earning her degree in women and gender studies at Eastern Washington University, she volunteered her extra time at a sexual assault helpline. Even though she knew sexual assault was an issue for Spanish speakers, she noticed that they weren't the ones calling in.

In 2018, Sanchez founded Mujeres in Action, or MiA, a nonprofit that provides bilingual crisis intervention and culturally specific care, safety planning, emergency housing, and companionship services to Latinx families facing abusive relationships at home. (MiA prefers the non-gendered term Latinx, which will be used throughout this profile.) They are advocates for survivors at doctors appointments, in courts and with employment searches, while also trying to hold government agencies responsible for language access to public information.

About 7 percent of Spokane County's population is Latinx, but the community is spread out and often isolated, says Ana Trusty, communications director for MiA. That isolation makes communication difficult, plus it puts community members more at risk for abuse.

One of the first steps MiA takes is raising awareness within the Latinx community about what abusive relationships can look like.

"There's a perception that domestic violence has to be physical," Trusty says. "[But] we look at the Power and Control Wheel, which is something that I would highly recommend. It changed my life, and it changes the way that I view all the -isms — racism, sexism — all of it."

Created by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, Minnesota, the Power and Control Wheel is a diagram that shows how abusers can use isolation, intimidation, guilt, children or money to harm and trap their families.

click to enlarge Local nonprofit Mujeres in Action serves domestic violence survivors in Spanish
Young Kwak photo
Hanncel Sanchez, left, and Ana Trusty seek to help non-English speakers navigate complicated legal systems.

While abuse can happen to anyone, most domestic violence is aimed at women. The people coming to MiA reflect that. MiA staff and volunteers create welcoming, safe spaces for women to talk about their experiences at home.

One of Trusty's favorite days recently was a spa day in which Spanish-speaking volunteers gave free pedicures to anyone who stopped by. While the women were being pampered, they also talked about experiences at home.

"That's how we got people to listen about consent and healthy relationships and birth control," Trusty says.

One of MiA's main programs, Mente y Corazòn (or Mind and Heart), is an evaluation service that listens to each woman and gives her control over what services to request.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

To donate to Mujeres in Action, text DONATE to 509-383-8038 or go to their website, miaspokane.org. To view the silent auction, visit givebutter.com/c/miaspokane/auction. To ask how you can volunteer your time, email [email protected] or call 509-869-0876.

"A person comes in, and they need maybe housing, or they need help with immigration law, or they have a case at the courthouse that they need support with, or they need a protection order," Trusty says. Or it might be helping make a doctor appointment, getting their child services at school or learning about food stamps. "We meet survivors where they're at."

The number of people coming to MiA doubled last year, leaping from about 150 to nearly 300 people served in 2022.

As MiA gains trust in the community and the word of their work spreads, they're hoping to add more robust, in-house mental health services, eventually as a provider with the state Department of Health. MiA is also working on a capital funds campaign to build eight to 12 new housing units for women in need of an emergency place to stay.

Also, to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage month and the nonprofit's fifth anniversary, MiA is hosting a Sequins and Velvet gala in September. Tickets are sold out, but volunteers are still needed, and the silent auction is available to everyone online.

Even though MiA seeks to serve the Latinx community, anyone can come to them for help. Trusty notes that people from various immigrant and minority backgrounds are turning to MiA for support, because the staff understands what it's like to navigate complicated systems as nonwhite or non-English speaking people.

"In Spokane County, there is no access to justice unless you speak English," Trusty says.

While legal advocates push for better language access to government information, Sanchez also made sure to create another 24/7 abuse hotline, this time staffed by English and Spanish speaking volunteers, to make sure her community always has someone to call for help. ♦

This story has been updated to accurately describe the type of advocacy work done by Mujeres in Action.


OTHER WAYS TO HELP YOUR COMMUNITY

RIVER CITY YOUTH OPS uses urban gardening to educate and empower teenagers in West Central. Paid summer programs expose young people to organic food from seed to table, plus build skills in community engagement and job readiness. Participants help beautify the neighborhood by transforming vacant lots into community gardens. Donations go toward sponsoring a participant or building the capacity of the program. Volunteers can also help on the farm or at events, like the Emerson-Garfield farmers market, as individuals or groups.

More information at YouthOps.org

KYRS THIN AIR COMMUNITY RADIO is a local radio station broadcast from Spokane's Central Library and dedicated to filling gaps in local media. Reporting spans local environmental, LGBTQ+ and women's issues, plus national public broadcasting like Democracy Now! and the Bioneers' podcast. DJs also spin deep dive indie rock, blues and hip hop music. KYRS is volunteer run and listener funded. Donations go toward the $20,000 the station needs every month to keep the airwaves full. You can also link your Fred Meyer Community Rewards card to KYRS to support local stories with every grocery run.

More information at kyrs.org

CATCH SPOKANE runs basketball leagues to mentor young hoopers and catch kids at risk of falling through the cracks. Coaches are dedicated to player development, emphasizing confidence, teamwork and long-term growth through leagues, tournaments, and a college recruitment mentoring program. Programs are available for boys and girls from elementary to high school. Donations help cover gym fees, equipment and individual player scholarships.

More information at CatchSpokane.org

Evening Light Lavender Festival @ Evening Light Lavender Farm

Sun., July 14, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
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Eliza Billingham

Eliza Billingham is a staff writer covering food, from restaurants and cooking to legislation, agriculture and climate. She joined the Inlander in 2023 after completing a master's degree in journalism from Boston University.