Community safety and policing

Boston, MA
United States

Social media handle(s) (Facebook), @wab2g (Instagram)

Conducted research to support advocacy for African American women who are caregivers who have lost loved ones through homicide or incarceration related to community violence, as these women are not consistently supported by funding programs, public agencies, and traditional mental health care institutions.

There is a large body of work studying how community violence impacts communities of color, but current research does not focus on female caregivers who are affected by one or both sides of gun violence: homicide and incarceration. These women are an often overlooked, yet deeply vital, demographic within the African American community who require additional support for the trauma following community violence.

We Are Better Together seeks to increase access to mental health and trauma resources for these women and reshape how Boston—and communities at large—address violence. Women with personal experience of community violence lead this work, providing a leadership structure essential to We Are Better Together’s long-term goal: to steer current trauma-response institutions toward a progressive, community-driven system.

In collaboration with Boston University’s School of Social Work, We Are Better Together held five focus group discussions to better understand the perspectives of African American women who have experienced community violence and to learn how best to address this violence communally. Focus group participants stressed the interlocking nature of institutions such as criminal justice, health care, education, and social services, and expressed that current systems are often designed to perpetuate harm rather than prevent it. They shared their personal experiences with feeling dehumanized in these systems.

The stories of the women who participated in these focus groups are helping to educate new audiences about the need for equitable care and services for women who experience community violence. We Are Better Together is using what they learned through these focus groups to advocate for resources for these caregivers, and for policy and systems change such as caregiver’s rights policies. They are presenting their findings to elected officials and government agencies and are planning to publish an op-ed in local media. They are also bringing their findings to health care systems where they have educated doctors about the experiences of women impacted by community violence and how health care systems can better serve these women.

Another important outcome of this project is that the women who participated in these focus groups are sharing their stories and are leading the work of advocating for a more holistic approach to supporting caregivers. We Are Better Together elevated the voices of women affected by community violence through this project, and they are sharing their stories to advocate for changes that will bring services and investments to their communities.