A Portland Program’s New Approach To Ending The Cycle Of Domestic Violence

By Margaret Foley

A flyer on a university campus introduced Carrie Banks, the founder and executive director of Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue (DVSD), to domestic violence work. “I was studying for a master’s degree in political communication at the University of Arkansas, and I saw a flyer for night advocates at a local women’s shelter,” she said. “I loved the work, but I didn’t know then that I was beginning a career.”

Based in Portland, Oregon, DVSD is one of the country’s only domestic violence programs that uses a restorative justice model to work with both survivors and offenders. In restorative justice, the focus is on repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior by including victims and offenders in the response to the crime to create accountability and make amends.

Banks became interested in the restorative justice model while obtaining her Ph.D. from George Mason University. “I saw a study about a program where rape survivors would go to prisons and talk to offenders,” she said. “They got to ask questions like ‘why?’ and whether or not it was something they did, and they found out it was never about what they thought it was. They got closure, and it made me wonder if something similar could work for domestic violence.”

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Carrie Banks founded Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue in 2006. Photo courtesy of Carrie Banks.

DVSD facilitates professionally supervised, safe conversations between survivors and offenders who have never met before to work toward stopping the domestic violence cycle. Banks began with a pilot program in 2000 in Oregon’s Washington County and officially founded Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue in 2006. The program now operates in five counties in the greater Portland metropolitan area and has worked with hundreds of survivors of domestic abuse.

Two programs form the core of DVSD: the survivor impact panel and the dialogue impact program. To participate in either program, participants are chosen based on a set of criteria and given support; in some cases, they must be referred by their counselors. For the survivor impact panel, a small group of domestic violence survivors speak to an audience of approved participants in battering intervention programs to describe how their lives were affected by domestic abuse.

In the dialogue impact panel, a survivor and an offender with no prior contact engage in conversation in a structured environment that includes support and facilitation teams. “Survivors get out of these programs what they need,” she said. “It can be the act of telling an offender how it impacted them or hearing offenders be held accountable for their actions.”

Because DVSD is the most well-known program to work with both survivors and offenders, Banks has learned to deal with criticism. In practice, restorative justice brings victims into contact with offenders, and the use of restorative justice in domestic violence is controversial because of the intimate, personal nature of the crimes. Critics argue that this type of program has the potential to revictimize survivors, many of whom suffered years of abuse. Most domestic violence programs focus on survivors and don’t include offenders, but DVSD includes them as a core part of its structure. “For the men, it’s a way to give back to the community they harmed, and they learn a lot,” she said. “For many of them, it is really the first time they are hearing about the violence and its effects.”

Another concern is for the psychological safety of victims, who are rebuilding their lives. “Critics are coming from a good place,” said Banks. “What we are doing is having survivors go into rooms with offenders, and some people say that could revictimize them or that it’s not what survivors need, but when survivors find out about our programs, they ask to participate. In the dialogues, it’s a way for survivors to get answer to questions. I see hope and strength in the panels and a lot of things people in the domestic violence community don’t see.”

One-fourth of all women will experience some type of physical violence in their lifetime, but until recently, there have been few avenues to discuss these issues in public. “I’m always looking for ways to bring more people into the conversation about domestic violence,” she said. To foster discussions, Banks is currently working with a local school system to create a program for domestic violence prevention to be used in schools. Two years ago, she started a conversation series to bring speakers on domestic violence to Portland. Past speakers have included Denise Brown, the sister of Nicole Brown Simpson, and ex-NFL player Ray Rice and his wife, Janay, who discussed his termination from the Baltimore Ravens for a domestic violence charge and how they are working through it.

More recently, the #metoo movement is bringing sustained attention and energy to issues of violence and harassment. “I’ve never seen anything like this before in terms of consequences and public accountability,” Banks said. “It’s amazing when people speak out because there is always backlash and criticism for speaking your truth. I think the speaking out will continue because there is strength in numbers with such a tremendous amount of #metoo. People are reading their stories, realizing that when they speak out, they will not be alone.”

For more information on Domestic Violence Safe Dialogue, please visit their website.


Margaret Foley is a writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. You can read more of her writing and connect with her at http://www.margaretfoley.com.

Cover photo by Christian Gertenbach via Unsplash

Copyright © 500 Pens. January 2018

A Salon Where Women Who Cover Their Heads Can Let Their Hair Down

By Barbara Spindel

The January opening of Le’Jemalik Salon and Boutique in the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn was, for Huda Quhshi, the realization of a cherished, long-held goal. “At 17, I sketched out what my dream salon would look like,” the 37-year-old cosmetologist recently recalled. “I’ve always loved beauty. It’s something I always had a passion for.”

Yet for Quhshi, a Yemeni-American from Greenpoint, Brooklyn who wears a hijab, her passion came with a complication. Women who cover only allow men who are close relatives to see their hair, making salon visits a fraught endeavor.

“When I wanted to get my hair curled or blow-dried, I’d try to find the most secluded area, a salon that was on a side street, that barely had any windows, and that seemed small enough that there wouldn’t be too many clients walking in,” Quhshi said, adding that a stylist once hastily moved her into an uninviting hallway after a man walked in midway through her appointment. Over the years, hijabi clients told her stories of beauty parlors that stuck them in basements or others that erected makeshift dividers but then rushed them through in an effort to remove the unsightly barriers as quickly as possible.

Le’Jemalik means “for your beauty” in Arabic. Photo by Sue Jaye Johnson.

Quhshi, who had spent most of her career freelancing, carried her supplies from home to home because many of her clients didn’t want to worry about being in a public space where men might enter. She found herself coloring hair in settings without proper ventilation or doing makeup without adequate lighting.

And so her vision for her own business involved making it a women-only space; Le’Jemalik (“for your beauty” in Arabic) is thought to be New York City’s first salon to cater to hijab-wearing women. Men are allowed in the reception area but not through the double doors that lead to the salon floor and to the downstairs bridal shop, which houses a collection of brightly colored, intricately laced and beaded gowns.  

Quhshi stresses, though, that Le’Jemalik is “open to all women”: among her clients are Muslims who don’t wear hijabs and Orthodox Jewish women, who, like hijabis, only allow males who are close relatives to see their hair. A beaming Quhshi says the community response to her opening has been “unbelievable.”

She has been especially moved by the encouragement she’s received from women of all faiths, whether in person or on social media. “I think women are excited to support another woman who opened a business that’s specifically for women,” she said. The support has been meaningful given the widespread misconceptions about Muslim women who wear hijabs. “A lot of people have this misunderstanding that we are forced to be covered up by our husbands or by our family, and we’re not,” Quhshi, who is married and has three teenage children, said firmly. “It’s a decision that we make based on our faith.”

“If a woman goes out in a bikini, she made that choice on her own,” she continued. “I can’t tell her, ‘You’re underdressed.’ And it’s the same thing for us. Just like she has a choice to reveal her body, we have the right to cover our bodies. It’s a beautiful thing, to me, to be able to cover up and kind of say not everybody gets to see my beauty. I show it to who I want to show it to. It’s my choice.”

Quhshi is aware that some see a contradiction between covering up out of modesty and focusing on beauty. (She’s been asked, “Why would you even do your hair if you’re going to smush it under that scarf?”) “Just because we cover it up to the outside world doesn’t mean we don’t want to look beautiful,” she explained, adding that she socializes often without her headscarf, but at women-only parties. “We want to pamper ourselves as well. We want to get our nails done, we want to get facials.”

“With everything that’s going on, I feel like everyone’s come together more than ever,” said Huda Quhshi. Photo by Sue Jaye Johnson.

The timing of the salon’s opening is striking. In a period when hate crimes against Muslims have surged, when the Trump administration has tried twice to restrict travel to the United States with what many consider a Muslim ban, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions is threatening to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities, Quhshi has created her own sanctuary for Muslim women.

She demurs a bit at this interpretation. She is, in her words, “not a political person,” and she says the daily conversation at the salon revolves around personal lives, not politics. Still, she does see serendipity in the timing. “It took so long to build this place, but I think it was meant to happen when it happened,” Quhshi said. “With everything that’s going on, I feel like everyone’s come together more than ever. All religions are coming together and saying we are all human and we’re here to support each other. Sometimes something bad happens but a good thing comes out of it, and I think that’s what’s happening right now.”

Of course, there are concerns. Quhshi and her husband have family members in Yemen; they worry about the worsening conflict and humanitarian crisis there. Closer to home, she hears troubling stories from her community: travel postponed, Muslim-Americans who were out of the country when the ban was announced and who struggled to get back home. “It’s installed a fear in all of us. It just makes no sense,” she said. Then she smiles and adds, assuredly, “But we’ll get through it.” 

kate-barsotti-pen-bw257Barbara Spindel is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Slate, the Atlantic, the Daily Beast, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Barnes & Noble Review, Details, Tablet and other publications. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies.

kate-barsotti-pen-bw257Photographer Sue Jaye Johnson is a documentary artist working in radio, photography, film and interactive technologies. A two-time Peabody Award winner and a 2017 TED Resident, Johnson’s work frequently looks at the role of women in society.

Copyright © 500 Pens. May 2017.