When Ana Trusty saw an advertisement on Facebook about an organization in Spokane written in Spanish, she couldn’t believe it.
In the nearly 10 years she had lived in Spokane, she had never seen a resource directed at the Latinx community. That resource was Mujeres in Action (MiA), a volunteer-based organization that helps survivors of domestic violence and educates the community on sexual violence from a Latinx perspective.
Shortly after, Trusty became a volunteer.
A few years before that, Hanncel Sanchez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) candidate who moved to Spokane for better educational opportunities, was completing a degree in women and gender studies from Eastern Washington University and volunteering at Lutheran Community Services as a sexual assault advocate. It was here she noticed a gap in services — there was no organization in Spokane that was able to offer help to Spanish-speaking assault survivors.
After expressing that realization, she gained support from Lutheran Community Services and from the YWCA. Sanchez then became the founder of her own volunteer organization, Mujeres in Action.
MiA continued as entirely volunteer-based with not a single person receiving compensation for the work they were doing. Then in January, the organization received a large grant allowing it to hire three staff members. Sanchez became the executive director, Trusty became program coordinator and a housing advocate was created alongside the program “Puerto Seguro,” which places participants in secure and safe housing.
Despite new-found resources, Trusty said, it is and always has been survivor-led.
“We don’t make people do anything they don’t want to do, they choose what their needs are,” Trusty said. “If they want to stay in a relationship but they need help and their abuser is diminishing the value of what they think is important, then we find a way to help that works for them.”
Currently Trusty is helping somebody find the resources to pay off a medical bill they received. This is not uncommon, she said, as health care advocacy ensures survivor needs are met and that they are treated with dignity and respect.
“We see a lot of barriers with health care,” Trusty said. “There is a law that says everybody is allowed an interpreter when seeing a doctor, but administrative services are not in that law.”
What this means for a potential patient is that often an interpreter is not provided when initially making the appointment or communicating with anybody other than the doctor.
They group is helping and has helped at least 15 families, some of which, Trusty said, are no longer in need of MiA’s services. While each family helped is a win, the issue is ongoing. Even after a family has been placed in housing, MiA is still available to assist should other issues arise.
“Now we’re going to start seeing a community that feels seen and heard, that feels like they’re a part of Spokane,” Trusty said. “I think that’s really empowering and a move in the right direction.”
"We want to elevate the Latinx community,” Trusty said. “We want to elevate our community on what healthy relationships look like, break patterns that we’ve culturally learned and eradicate domestic violence in the Latinx community.”
MiA has just recently begun partnering with other Latinx organizations in the Spokane area such as Latinos in Spokane, the Hispanic Business Professional Association and World Relief. The more people it can partner with, the more people it can reach, and Trusty believes this will bring MiA into the light.
The organization only has a small staff, so student volunteers are vital, Trusty said. The ways in which volunteers can get involved vary by need and interest. While some students are managing social media for MiA, others like junior Hannah Preskin are searching for the best Spokane resources that meet their needs.
Preskin has been volunteering with MiA for the last four months and said the organization combines all her passions—women’s rights, Spanish, policy work and immigration.
“We help lots of people who need lots of support in all areas of life,” she said.
A major area where people need support is in resource acquisition. There are very few resources readily and easily available to the Latinx community in Spokane, Preskin said, so she is working alongside MiA and a few other organizations to create a printed directory that can be distributed to those that need it.
“It’s very important to be working for MiA,” Preskin said. “Being able to use my time and privilege to find these sources and educate others on the issues of domestic violence have made me dedicated to not only creating change on the personal level, but making policy changes for immigrants and women on a state or national level.”
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month, a time when publicity around the issue tends to increase via social media and other platforms. For MiA, it’s the first year it'll be creating extra awareness through the organization.
The main event will be a simulation called “Caminando en sus Zapatos” or “Walking in their Shoes.” Tickets range from $10 to $25 depending on the character you choose to be. Either way, the choose-your-own-adventure style simulation will put the participant in the shoes of a domestic violence survivor and allow them to see firsthand the implications of their every action and what the process looks like for a survivor.
Caminando en sus Zapatos will take place on Oct. 15 and 17. More information can be found at: https://www.miaspokane.org
In addition to attending events, Trusty said MiA is always looking for student volunteers interested in helping and broadening their perspective.
“I knew about the inequality and hardships that [the Latinx community] face but knew little about what I could do to help,” Preskin said. “This has been something that takes very little of my time but instantly I can see the impact I make.”