The Network/La Red is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities. Rooted in anti-oppression principles, our work aims to create a world where all people are free from oppression. We strengthen our communities through organizing, education, and the provision of support services.
The Network/La Red was formed in 1989 when a group of formerly battered lesbians came together to address domestic violence in lesbian and bisexual women’s communities in Boston. In 1991, we were incorporated under the name New England Women’s Support, Inc. d/b/a The Network for Battered Lesbians. The name was changed to The Network for Battered Lesbians and Bisexual Women in 1996, and in 2000 to The Network/La Red, with a mission of working with survivors of partner abuse in the lesbian, bisexual women’s and transgender communities.
In 2010, the wording of our mission was changed to explicitly name and acknowledge our ongoing work with gay, queer, polyamorous and BDSM communities. This change represents both a more accurate reflection of The Network/La Red’s ongoing work over the years as well as an acknowledgment of the range of identities and labels members of our communities may choose to use.
Our direct services began in 1992 with an ongoing support group. In 1993 the hotline opened, in 1998 the safe home program began sheltering folks, and in 2000 the advocacy program was added. Today, The Network/La Red is a national resource and model for domestic violence service providers, batterer intervention programs, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer and/or transgender organizations beginning to address partner abuse in our LGBQ/T communities.
The Network/La Red defines anti-oppression as the beliefs, actions, and policies that aim to eliminate the imbalance of power within our society. Partner abuse happens because the abuser wants to gain and maintain control. It reflects and continues the culture that allows and rewards using power to control and/or exploit groups of people. The Network/La Red links domestic violence to all other forms of violence, oppression and abuse, because the values and tactics behind each are identical. Therefore, in order to do our work effectively, we believe that we must intentionally and consistently do the following:
• Identify, confront, and take action against all forms of oppression
• Root our work in the experience of survivors
• Develop and encourage survivor leadership
• Support the ability and right of individuals — especially survivors –to make their own decisions
• Recognize that individuals can simultaneously experience multiple forms of oppression and privilege. For example, while a white lesbian experiences oppression, she also benefits from white privilege.
• Work in solidarity with other movements striving to end oppression and violence
• Hold ourselves and one another accountable to these principles.
We believe that the experience and voices of survivors should lead our organizing to end partner abuse in our communities. The concept of “survivor-led” has always been at the core our work at The Network/La Red. Some examples are as follows:
• The organization was founded by survivors of partner abuse (and a few non-battered friends), many of whom had been members of an ongoing support group for battered lesbians. Every aspect of the organization – from the organization’s by-laws to outreach materials to our analysis of domestic violence – has been developed with survivor leadership.
• We hire for life experience and actively recruit survivors to apply for board, staff, and volunteer positions. We strive to have survivors represent the majority of board, staff, and volunteers. We do not require that staff, volunteers or board leave an abusive partner in order to be part of the organization.
• We seek out feedback from survivors who work with us in support group context on a variety of questions ranging from feedback about outreach materials to setting organizational priorities. At least one of the co-facilitators of our support groups must be a survivor.
In addition to (and underlying) these concrete examples, is the belief that those who have experienced partner abuse are the experts – both on the issue in general as well as on what is best for their own lives. We believe that survivors of partner abuse should always be part of designing organizing efforts and services so that these services are relevant to the realities of survivors, are empowering, and don’t re-victimize those who participate in them.
For more information or to get support, contact us.