Quick Escape
News - WTLC: Ending the Cycle of Violence and Exploitation
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Underserved Populations


Domestic violence and human trafficking can affect people of all backgrounds. However, not all populations of survivors have equal access to recovery—countless factors contribute to a person’s ability to find support, and there are a number of populations for whom reaching out for help is especially difficult.


One such population is LGBTQIA survivors. Our society’s commonly accepted narrative of domestic violence is heavily gendered, portraying women as victims and men as perpetrators. So what happens when your experience with abuse doesn’t fit neatly into that structure? What if in your situation, both the person causing harm and the person being harmed are women? Or both men? Often these experiences are dismissed as not “real” abuse, causing survivors in same-gender relationships to struggle to find help. Along similar lines, transgender survivors might not seek help due to common misconceptions surrounding gender identity, fearing their gender won’t be respected, their experiences will be doubted, they will experience further violence, or they’ll be assumed to be an abuser themselves.


Another underserved population in our community is survivors who are reentering society from the prison system. Whether a survivor is in prison in connection to their abuse (self-defense, forced sex work/sex trafficking, coerced drug use, etc.), or due to a completely unrelated situation, they often have unique recovery needs that address the trauma of incarceration. Often, however, they are left without resources and without support, having to choose between returning to the person who caused them harm or ending up unhoused. Some service providers additionally have eligibility restrictions barring people with criminal backgrounds from participating in their programs, leaving this vulnerable population without access to the resources to heal.


Survivors with immigration concerns also have unique barriers that often prevent them from accessing services. These survivors might have language barriers, they might expect not to be able to receive services due to their citizenship status, or they might be afraid that seeking help will directly lead to imprisonment or deportation. This issue is compounded when a survivor’s immigration status is used as a method of maintaining control in an abusive situation. In both domestic violence and human trafficking situations, the person causing harm might use citizenship status to isolate the survivor, taking control of identification paperwork and threatening deportation if they leave. Social isolation and fear of legal consequences of their residency in the US often leave these survivors without an avenue for recovery support.


There are countless other populations with equally restricted access to services, and while WTLC makes it a priority to be available to all survivors, we know there continue to be ways in which we can improve our accessibility. Because of this, we are committed to continually taking a critical look at our programs to identify areas where we can do better. We also prioritize flexibility across programs, recognizing that each survivor’s unique experience with domestic violence and human trafficking will require an equally unique response. All survivors deserve the resources to heal from situations of violence and exploitation, and it is crucial that we make sure resources for recovery are available to everyone. For more information on our services, contact info@wtlc.org or (877) 531-5522.


More than a Shelter: WTLC’s Mobile Advocacy Services


Since 2017, WTLC has provided Mobile Advocacy services to the communities of North Orange County. What is Mobile Advocacy? Mobile Advocacy is an expansion of our services, previously only available to Shelter participants, now provided to participants in their homes or other safe locations in the community. These services include: individual and family counseling, case management, and legal advocacy services.


In addition, once participants graduate from our Shelter program, they continue to have access to all services through our Mobile Advocacy program. This has led to many positive outcomes, including reaching those survivors who will never come into Shelter, improving safety and functioning of participants that receive services for a longer period, and also increasing the number of survivors who enter Shelter as a result of having a positive experience with their Mobile Advocate first.


Mobile Advocacy is also a benefit for those survivors who would not otherwise be able to access services due to transportation, child care, or other safety barriers .This program not only allows WTLC to meet survivors where they are but it also provides the opportunity for interventions to include members of a survivor’s family, who may also be at-risk or who can support the process of safety and re-stabilization for a survivor. Expanding our reach to include all survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, and not just those who enter shelter, has allowed us to make a greater impact on the people we serve and to reduce interpersonal violence overall.


Survivors Find Courage in Court


Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking are modern-day epidemics that tragically impact people of every age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and walk of life living in Southern California, as well as in all other parts of the world. Because these are sensitive topics that many survivors do not feel comfortable disclosing or discussing, many people do not realize the amount of assistance that is available through local court systems to those who have survived Domestic Violence and/or Human Trafficking.


Our legal services department works with individuals like Maria. She is an undocumented immigrant and a survivor of domestic violence. Maria came to WTLC after an incident that left her on the streets. When she heard about our services, she was overjoyed to have a safe place to stay and to learn that not only did she qualify to apply for a U-Visa, she had also already obtained much of the documentation that would help support and strengthen her application during the processing stage. She is working with our legal advocates to ensure that her application process is smooth. What normally would cost thousands of dollars, we are able to provide at no cost to her.


WTLC’s Legal Services Team works directly with survivors like Maria to educate and support them as they seek to obtain legal protection against those who have caused them harm. Survivors meet with a caring and professional Legal Advocate to understand their legal options and develop a strategy to accomplish their goals. From there, survivors are able to receive assistance with obtaining domestic violence restraining orders, child custody, visitation, or other court orders, and may be eligible to receive a variety of immigration-related services. As a Department of Justice certified organization, WTLC’s legal services support survivors as they realize their legal goals, providing information about court processes and procedures, helping them prepare for their court hearing, and accompanying them to court on the day of the hearing. With the help of WTLC’s Legal Advocates, many survivors have found the courage to stand up for themselves and obtain legal protection against their abusers. Together, we can march forward as we choose to live every day with less fear! For more information on our services, contact info@wtlc.org or 714-992-1939 x 122.

happy old man

Elder Abuse


Like Domestic Violence, Elder Abuse can take many forms. The person causing harm can be a family member, a caretaker, or a stranger; the abuse might be physical, financial, sexual, or involving neglect; it might happen at home, in a care facility or hospital, or anywhere else. The one unifying feature is that a person is using their power over an elderly person to control them and cause them harm.


The National Council on Aging reports that while 10% of Americans over the age of 60 have experienced a form of elder abuse, only 7% reported the situation to authorities. Often those who experience elder abuse are dependent in some way on the person causing them harm, whether that’s because of physical or mental disabilities, financial concerns, or social isolation. If the person causing harm is a primary caretaker, the person being harmed might be afraid that they will face retaliation or abandonment if they say something. If the person causing harm is a family member, the survivor might not report abuse due to a sense of family loyalty, fear that the family will side with the person causing them harm, or fear that they will be moved to a facility where they will be even more isolated. Because people are often hesitant to report Elder Abuse, it is important to learn to recognize warning signs of abuse.


A person experiencing Elder Abuse might show a change in behavior, becoming withdrawn, anxious, irritable, or depressed. They might have unexplained bruises and injuries that don’t seem to go away over time. They may have weight loss or show a decrease in hygiene, wearing stained or dirty clothes and looking messy and unkempt. They might have a sudden change in their financial stability, have important documents go missing, or have a family member or friend show up who is suddenly able to afford a lifestyle they couldn’t before.


It’s also important to recognize the signs of a person who is causing harm to an elderly person. This can be a family member, friend, caretaker, or stranger. They might isolate the elderly person, keeping them away from friends and family and insisting on accompanying them wherever they go so they can answer questions or speak for them. They might also dismiss the older individual as senile and insist that they know best.


Changes to our mental and physical abilities are a natural part of aging. As we get older, we often need to trust our support networks to step in and help out a little more. Elder abuse is a fundamental betrayal of this trust—a person takes advantage of the fact that someone is dependent on their support and abuses their position of power. This Elder Abuse Awareness Month, join WTLC in taking responsibility for the well-being of the elderly—make a commitment to take notice, ask questions, and advocate on behalf of the older members of our community.

Previous Updates from WTLC


Beyond empowering survivors to reject stigma and shame and voice their experiences of sexual assault, the #MeToo movement has forced us as a society to have an uncomfortable conversation about the systems we have in place that allow such abuses of power to occur. This conversation was long overdue, and now that it has our attention, it’s crucial that we continue to present opportunities to discuss, learn, and engage with the topic.


WTLC’s Community Education program works within the community to encourage and facilitate these conversations, providing workshops and trainings to schools, businesses, and the community at large to encourage a society dedicated to the safety of its members.


Many adults balk at the idea of having serious conversations with the children in their lives about issues connected to sexual assault. And that’s fair—it can seem like a difficult topic to approach. But in order to provide a safer future for younger generations, it’s imperative that we begin these discussions early—especially since many of these topics involve issues that already affect kids in their daily lives.


For example: a little boy pulls a little girl’s pigtails at recess, even though she has told him to stop. Too often when something like this happens, the situation is dismissed with “Boys will be boys” or “He’s only doing it because he likes her.” Instead, we should recognize this as an excellent opportunity to sit both children down and explain the concept of consent. It’s as simple as telling them how important it is that they do not touch other people without their permission, and reaffirming that they are allowed to say no to situations that hurt them or make them uncomfortable.


For older children and teens, this involves having open and honest conversations about healthy relationships, and making sure they know who they can safely go to with questions or for help. One way to introduce these topics is to encourage them to examine situations that are portrayed as romantic in popular media that might actually be warning signs of unhealthy behaviors. For example, if a TV show has a character whose jealousy is presented as a romantic display of affection, you might discuss why that situation could become uncomfortable or unsafe.


Power imbalances exist throughout our daily lives. Most of these imbalances are not inherently harmful or abusive, but each of them has the potential to be. A workplace needs to be a safe environment, and to achieve this, businesses can implement regular trainings and workshops to both teach the fundamentals of sexual harassment prevention and also encourage each staff person to reflect on their own power in the workplace.


For example: supervisors hold power over their employees; teachers hold power over their students; landlords hold power over their tenants; and law enforcement officers hold power over private citizens. Recognizing the power you hold can and should change the way you interact with people as you go about your workday. By encouraging each staff person to examine their own position in a workplace, businesses can encourage a healthier and safer environment for all their employees.


Possibly the most important factor in creating a society of #MeTooNoMore is putting faith in our own community. Together we have the power to make change, to hold ourselves and our community to a higher standard, and to demand a safer society where no one has to live in fear.


We can make a commitment to continue the conversation started by the #MeToo movement, vocally standing with survivors by questioning unhealthy narratives in popular media, pushing back against victim blaming and misogyny, and educating ourselves in ways to support survivors who come to us for help.


Together we can end the cycle of violence and exploitation.



Fairhaven-kindness rocks 2

In December, Community Advocate Ana went to Fairhaven Elementary School to do a presentation on bullying prevention for about twenty parents and educators. The workshop discussed how to recognize the signs of bullying, how to initiate conversations around bullying with the kids in your lives, and where to find help if you discover bullying is affecting someone you know.

The adults in attendance were so inspired to maintain a safe school environment for their kids that they decided to launch a weeklong, school-wide celebration of kindness. This month during the week of Valentine’s Day, students and teachers alike celebrated kindness and made a commitment to keeping their school a safe and compassionate environment.

Kids wore purple in support of kindness, discussed why it is important to be kind to others, and participated in crafts that helped process the lessons they were learning—including Kindness Rocks, small painted stones that remind you just how much kindness rocks!

Children spend so much of their time at school that it’s critical that it exists as a safe, supportive, and compassionate environment for each and every student. By challenging the entire school to choose kindness, Fairhaven Elementary made an important stand against bullying, demonstrating their commitment to the safety of the children who spend their days in their care.

What is bullying?


  • Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior repeated over time that involves a real or perceived power imbalance
  • There are many types of bullying, including verbal, social, physical, and cyber
  • More than one in five students reports being bullied (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016)


What can we do to help?


  • Support the child who is being bullied
    • Let them know it isn’t their fault
    • Give them space to express their feelings without judgment
    • Discuss what they should do and who they can talk to if they feel unsafe
  • Support the child who is bullying
    • Make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable
    • Address underlying issues contributing to the behavior
    • Help identify productive activities that encourage cooperation and teamwork, and show support for these efforts
  • Build a community that does not tolerate bullying
    • If you witness bullying, intervene
    • Make it clear that the behavior is unacceptable and will need to stop
    • Talk to other children about what they should do if they see someone being bullied
    • If a situation is beyond your abilities, bring the behavior to the attention of someone who can help (parent, teacher, etc.)

Human Trafficking: Under-reported and Overlooked

Like Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking is a crime based in an abuse of power over another person. This form of modern-day slavery involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain labor, domestic servitude, or a commercial sex act against another person’s will.

According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, out of all fifty states and Washington DC, California had the highest volume of calls to the National Hotline for Human Trafficking in 2016. Orange County alone saw 225 human trafficking survivors seeking assistance that year. Human Trafficking victims can be any age, gender, race, or nationality, and because human trafficking is a crime based in control, survivors often feel dependent on the person who is causing them harm. Even after leaving the abusive situation, a survivor might encounter many barriers to independent living.

WTLC received a million dollar grant from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in 2017 to grow our Human Trafficking programs. To be spent over the course of two years, these funds have helped build our housing program and supportive services to meet the varied needs of survivors of human trafficking. In a 2008 study by the US Department of Health and Human Services, service providers and law enforcement personnel were asked to describe the needs of survivors of human trafficking. A common response was, “What DON’T they need?” Survivors might need any combination of medical treatment (either one-time or ongoing), emergency shelter, clothing, food, counseling, job training, permanent housing support, transportation, childcare, identification paperwork, immigration legal services, language assistance, and more.

WTLC’s Human Trafficking Program works with survivors to address all aspects of their recovery needs.  The Bridge Housing Program provides shelter options so survivors can transition into independent living without the added stress of housing instability; Clinical Advocates help survivors process and recover from the trauma of their experiences; Legal Advocates work with survivors to identify their legal options, helping them navigate the court system with confidence; Case Managers provide a range of additional supportive services ranging from the provision of basic needs to financial empowerment services to resource and referral support.

Human Trafficking is a crime that is all too often ignored or overlooked—with your support, we can ensure all of Orange County’s survivors are able to find independence and recovery.