This year the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project has become more open about providing a safe space for people who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.
The organization, which Doug Riley founded in 2002, officially opened its Victims Services Center last week at 4050 Pennsylvania Ave. It is the first of its kind place in the Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska region for LGBTQ adult and youth survivors of trauma, neglect, domestic violence, sexual assault and hate crimes. People in Kansas City should be proud that it is in midtown.
Melissa Brown, program director for Kansas City Anti-Violence Project, said the center provides advocacy, crisis intervention, case management, emergency services, support groups for adults and youths, criminal justice advocacy and hospital advocacy. The nonprofit is funded by grants and donations. It offers safe, confidential and free therapy services to survivors and operates a 24-hour crisis hotline at 816-561-0550.
The organization is affiliated with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs based in New York. Its goal is to prevent, respond to and end all forms of violence against and within the LGBTQ community.
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The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs in an October release reported that for 2014 it had received 2,166 reports of intimate partner violence. That was down nearly 20 percent from the 2,697 reports received in 2013. “This decrease between 2013 and 2014 follows an increase between 2012 and 2013, and variation in the total number of reports received each year are a normal occurrence from year to year,” the group noted.
Keeping track of such violence is not an insignificant matter. Brown explained that the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project started because of a murder-suicide involving an LGBTQ couple. It has grown since to include education and outreach services and community training.
The group provides technical assistance, going into schools and working with educators to ensure their policies are in compliance with Title IX and are inclusive. At its previous location, which was undisclosed, the project provided only limited, safe and confidential services to clients. It can do more now in response to a greater community need.
“If a 5-year-old decides he wants to come out and is having issues with the school, we’ll go into the school,” Brown said. If a 95-year-old is a victim of sexual or domestic violence or hate violence, the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project will get involved.
The new location houses the Youth Department and Education and Outreach Department. The Youth Department provides advocacy for LGBTQ youths and young adults, experiencing violence, trauma or neglect. The training it provides in Missouri and Kansas includes how to advocate for LGBTQ youths and promote resiliency for them.
The Education and Outreach Department offers training on domestic violence, sexual violence and hate crimes in the LGBTQ community in Kansas and Missouri for adult service providers and community organizations.
In addition, the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project has a liaison in the Kansas City Police Department, training officers and other staff to ensure that this community is inclusive and that Kansas City is a safer place for its LGBTQ citizens.
It’s an ongoing struggle. Last year two transgender persons were victims of homicides in Kansas City.
Brown said the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project held a community healing event and memorial service for the victims of those acts of hate violence. The organization wants people in the LGBTQ community to be able to walk the streets and live their lives like anyone else, knowing they will be safe.
The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project has also created a trans-people of color support group and provides resources for it.
Brown explained that the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project doesn’t have a shelter, but it works with the other domestic violence shelters when it needs safe place for people escaping violence. In addition, the organization provides a clothing closet and food pantry for people who need it in the LGBTQ community.