Inter-Departmental Correspondence



January 18, 2008


February 5, 2008







Honorable Board of Supervisors


Supervisor Mark Church;
San Mateo County Domestic Violence Council



Culturally Competent Response to Domestic Violence



Accept this Report on the Domestic Violence Conference: Improving Outreach in our Diverse Community


Domestic violence crosses all social, economic and racial boundaries. In far too many cases, victims of domestic violence do not report the crime, choosing instead to suffer in painful silence. This is particularly prevalent in minority communities. Battered women may face communication or cultural barriers. They may lack access to legal and social services. In some cases, their abuser may use their immigration status as a tool of control.

Last fall, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors partnered with CORA (Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse), the Domestic Violence Council and the Human Services Agency to co-host a public education forum and outreach event to develop strategies to improve the “culturally competent” domestic violence services to underserved communities in San Mateo County. Several organizations generously helped to sponsor the event, including the San Mateo County Superior Court, District Attorney’s Office, Probation Department, Health Department, San Mateo County Health Foundation, Mills-Peninsula Health Services, Soroptimists, San Mateo County Bar Association, San Mateo County Police Chiefs and Sheriff Association and the San Mateo County Commission on the Status of Women.


Improving Outreach in Our Diverse Community

The San Mateo County Domestic Violence Conference: Improving Outreach in Our Diverse Community was held on October 12, 2007 at the College of San Mateo. The half-day forum drew more than 300 participants from stakeholders groups, service providers, survivors, educators, clergy, law enforcement and community leaders to develop strategies that would prevent and respond to domestic violence in a culturally diverse San Mateo County.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Sujata Warrier. Dr. Warrier is the Director of the Health Care Bureau, State of New York Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and provides technical assistance on the issue of domestic violence and battered immigrant women, and trains health care, law enforcement, criminal and civil justice and human and social services professionals. A main focus of Dr. Warrier’s keynote address was the need for an 18-month outreach and communication plan.

The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion with participants from traditionally underserved communities. Representatives from the Prenatal Advantage Black Infant Health Project, Asian & Pacific Islander Institute, Community United Against Violence, CORA Kumares/Kumpares, Youth Commission, Tongan Interfaith Council, and CORA Promotores made presentations.

The forum culminated in small group breakout session to brainstorm strategies to improve “culturally competent” domestic violence prevention, early intervention and response services in San Mateo County. The strategies will provide the basis for an 18-month outreach plan to educate and inform underserved communities in San Mateo County. The plan will include 6, 12 and 18-month benchmarks.


The forum provided common ground to explore and begin to define “cultural competence” - in short, to better appreciate and understand how issues come together and connect, not just for individuals, but also for groups of people, taking into consideration race, class, religion, gender and sexuality in addition to ethnicity. The forum allowed participants to shift understanding away from what Dr. Warrier described as “totalizing culture,” and to move towards understanding our community’s “diversity, contradictions, contrasts, ambiguities, and the interconnections between various internal systems that structure power.”

In the small group sessions there was a generally strong desire to increase outreach and education that is culturally competent, as well as to improve collaboration, cooperation and communication among agencies that provide domestic violence prevention and intervention services. The following is a summary of the primary strategies voiced by conference attendees:

    Increase awareness and demystify issues for non-traditional victims (including undocumented immigrants, LBGTQ, male victims/survivors, pregnant women and elders) and for victims concerned that reporting abuse will result in Child Protective Services (CPS) intervening;

    Increase public awareness of programs for youth, including school workshops and referral services and training for parents and teachers;

    Prepare service information in multiple languages;

    Increase education and training of cultural awareness of health care and law enforcement professionals regarding barriers to domestic violence reporting and access to services;

    Demystify the court system’s process in handling domestic violence cases by providing better information, including better dissemination of contact resources, step-by-step charting of the process and improved access to court interpreters;

    Improve collaborations of traditional domestic violence services with related services such as substance abuse, mental health services, shelter services and counseling to domestic violence perpetrators;

A Development Committee has already been formed by the Domestic Violence Council to work closely with community groups and the Domestic Violence Council Legal Process Committee to develop an 18-month plan predicated upon the above strategies.

The draft plan will be presented to the Board of Supervisors at the end of the fiscal year.