Renewing Hope for Families
From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 6
By Ivanna Lastra
It’s March and that means that the madness of the NCAA basketball tournament is about to kick off. For sports enthusiasts, it’s a time to become immersed in the hype of the season. However, March is also Women’s History month. It’s a time to commemorate those women who have contributed to the progression of society. Women like Josephine Baker, Amelia Earhardt and Frida Kahlo to name a few demonstrated what women are capable of. What better way to honor this celebration than by highlighting an organization led by women, for the women and children of the city who need help?
For the youth of the city who have experienced some form of domestic violence, the WomenShelter of Long Beach (WSLB) has been a safe zone; serving the city since 1977. When their home environment becomes so toxic that they are forced to flee from their families, the WSLB welcomes these youth with compassion and empathy. It is a unique understanding that is offered by the staff at WSLB, for many of them are survivors of domestic abuse homes.
The WSLB provides victims of domestic abuse services to assist in their recovery. The list of services includes 30-45 days of emergency shelter, peer counseling, support forums, health awareness, legal advocacy and much more.
To promote awareness for teen dating violence, the WSLB hosted its’ 2nd annual youth workshop, Feb. 21. The theme for this year’s event was Inspiring Healthy Active Relationship Talk (iHart). Participants at the event were encouraged to interact in group discussions. Known L. A. artist Cyn da’ Poet collaborated with the WSLB youth to write poems, based on their experiences, that were read at the event. Displayed at the iHart event was an art exhibit and there was a skit performed by the Wilson theatre department. The skit portrayed an abusive adolescent relationship “It was a really powerful youth event,” Giovanna Martinez, youth coordinator at the WSLB, said.
Martinez has been working at the WSLB for 14 years. Her passion for serving youth stems from a family history of domestic abuse. Martinez said that she admires her mother for having the strength to remove herself and her children from a cycle of domestic abuse. She now focuses her attention to the youth of the city who have experienced similar situations in their home and equip them with the tools needed for recovery.
Martinez has received awards for her service as an advocate of domestic violence in the Long Beach community. In 2012, the Soroptomist of Long Beach presented her the award for Woman of Distinction Human Rights/Status of Women. “It was very humbling for me. At the ceremony I made sure my mom was there and I thanked her. If it wasn’t for her getting us out of that situation, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Martinez said.
For volunteer and community relations coordinator Tatiana Sere, working at the WomenShelter has bestowed upon her a newfound knowledge of abusive relationships and how prevalent they are in our society. Sere adds that many people have preconceived notions of what a victim looks like, but the reality is that there victims all across the board, regardless of gender, financial status, sexual orientation. “There are a lot of misconceptions (about domestic violence victims). My goal is to educate the community and debunk some of those myths, “ Seré said.
The WomenShelter of Long Beach is about women supporting women in their quest for a better life for themselves and their family. Seré said that the staff try to remind their clients how strong they are. “They come to us in some of the darkest moments in their life when they’ve experienced such hardship and emotional trauma. For them the road in order to recover is daunting. It’s nice to see them (progress in their recovery) get excited, and make plans for their future,” Seré said.