News (USA)

Kansas City group opens rare LGBTQ domestic violence center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A quiet office in a busy entertainment district is a rare space for LGBTQ people to find help in times of crisis or to meet others for support and friendship.

The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project‘s new domestic violence and sexual assault services center also is the only such center in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, filling a gap for a population of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people who often struggle to find help in domestic violence situations.

Other services — such as food, clothing, job counseling and legal and medical advocacy — are available, too, according to executive director Justin Shaw.

The center also wants to mend the long-standing mistrust between LGBTQ populations and police, Shaw said, noting that only 3 to 5 percent of the organization’s clients contact law enforcement in times of need because they don’t believe they will be taken seriously.

“They know that if they call here the staff will understand their unique circumstances when it comes to violence,” Shaw said.

Many areas of the country have only one LGBTQ anti-violence project and several states have none, said Chai Jindasurant, co-director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy for the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

And the few LGBTQ-specific shelters that do exist are mainly for runaways and homeless, he said.

The Kansas City project was a godsend for Monique Ross, a 23-year-old black transgender woman from Kansas City, who says she was assaulted by an ex-partner, for whom an arrest warrant was issued.

Workers at the center, which opened in February and is tucked inside an office building, helped her quickly get a restraining order, find emergency housing, transportation, food and clothing. It also helped her find a job and she goes there for a group meeting with other transgender women of color.

“There was no place to go before. They are there for you all the time, with all kinds of help,” she said. “I’m a very bold woman who is very out about being transgender. There are a lot of men and women who are much more reluctant because of the way society is and it’s good to meet each other.”

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