“Women” Day 14: 40 Days of Haven Reflection

For this reflection I have asked Claudia Delfin to write the reflection today. I felt it would be good to have one of the most amazing women I know write her own thoughts about my post in 2012.

Claudia Delfin, a transgender woman who’s an outreach worker at Corazon San Antonio has made it her mission to speak out against inequality, promote harm reduction, and support the unhoused. She’s been on major local news outlets and has a wonderful article about her El Paso/Jaurez work in American Oxford. In 2013, she was state outreach worker of the year for her work helping addicts find healing through harm reduction tactics, street outreach, peer support and treatment.

Learn more about her current work in San Antonio in a great article in the SA Report: “Claudia has been in recovery for more than a decade, has received numerous awards for her social work. ‘We use our motivational interview skills [that] we learn in recovery coach training, how to engage and encourage them to come out,” Delfin said, “because they … have a lot of trauma.”

Here is her reflection:

As I read the article “Women” written by Gavin Rogers, I related to the article in many ways. As a young trans woman, I had succumbed to violence by males in many settings. I also was physically abused by several men when I was in shelters.

My addiction led me to be homeless and I also prostituted to support myself financially and spent time in prison. I can fully empathize with the woman Gavin wrote about who covered the man with a blanket. I was very codependent and had unresolved trauma. The woman might have been hurt in many ways but she still had a lot of compassion to offer others. We can learn from her.

Claudia at her home in El Paso, with her two dogs, Duchess and Princess.
By: Reed Young, American Oxford “Humanity on the Street:

The article was written very realistically because women go through this abuse from men either verbal, physical, or mental. This can happen in shelters, in fancy homes, and on the streets. Violence against women happens in all social and economical levels.

At first read, the blog post may have words that seem to be stigmatizing such as “slut”, but the word gives me a clearer picture of the scenario and is used to show how most people treated her at the shelter. It’s not easy to live in that reality but one we must understand if we want to connect with her and her powerful story.

The statistics on women’s abuse by men was important to include!!! Even though this article was written ten tears ago, but the abuse of women is still ongoing.

Please reflect on Gavin’s 2012 reflection about his experience in the San Antonio shelter and try to stand in the shoes of these women who find themselves trapped in a system that is hard to escape. However, I know there is great hope if we continue to lift up their voices and stand with women who are in need of support, care, and compassion. -Claudia Delfin

“Women” March 8, 2012

Since I began my blog I have only written about my interactions with the men I have met in the homeless community. The outdoor sleeping area is divided between men and women at night so its more common for me to have longer conversations with the men. However, there are many women who stay in the outdoor shelter and have tremendous need.

When I arrived at the outdoor shelter on Tuesday evening there were cop cars surrounding the area.  It seemed strange…but not surprising because this is a bad part of town so I just quietly walked on by the cop cars and checked into the area.  Once I entered the gates women started buzzing about what just took place.

According to the sources…just before I arrived there was a woman arguing with another man outside the gates where many people gather to socialize (in both good and bad ways.)  The argument started small…then elevated to a fight…and then the woman was physically abused and hit in the face by the man.  I don’t really know what the fight was about.  It does not matter.  It was a tragic but all to common situation.

This was a strange night for me to confront this issue emotionally because I was just returning from Trinity University where I watched a play about women’s rights and issues all around the globe.  (Angela Tarango, a former Duke Ph.D student and T.A who is now a Professor of Religion at Trinity, starred in the play with her colleagues.)  Needless to say…women were on my mind.

Like the men in the shelter, the women come from all different ages, races, and backgrounds.  However, it seems to me that many of the women struggle with different problems than many of the men.   A major one being….abuse.

Physical Abuse
Sexual Abuse
Mental Abuse
Chemical Abuse
Unfortunately, it’s all here at the shelter.

I see it every night.

Violence.  There are women who are abused by men on a daily basis in and around the shelter.  They are talked down to by the men, yelled at, and commonly show signs of physical abuse.   You can see it in their eyes.  You can see it in their smile.  You can see it all over their body.  We can very easily write it off as just another issue on the streets.  But the problem is much bigger than “the streets.”  Violence against women happens at every economic level.  Historically, men have the upper hand over women due to the cultural and religious beliefs of many people.  The same applies on the streets.  The woman here are treated by the other homeless men as second class citizens.

Sex.  Prostitution is everywhere on the streets.  It is not uncommon to witness women selling their bodies as they make their rounds in and out of the sleeping area during the night.  Some cater to the men in and around the shelter…and some cater to business men or others who drive up to the area and pick them up on the side of the road.  The world’s oldest profession plays a huge part in the abuse of homeless women living on the streets.  It’s not always by total free choice.  Quite the opposite when it happens inside poverty.  One women I have befriended is one of these women.  She spends many of her nights at a motel downtown when she posts good business.  They guys here give her attention when they want her body for sex…but when that is not possible they treat her like dirt and call her a slut for acting the way she does.  It kills me.  It seems so one-sided.

In fact, she is a terrific woman.  She just needs to be loved by the right people in life.  The other day she found a cat and started to care for it.  And she wanted to show everyone her new pet!   When I ran into her she needed a rope to make a leash so we gathered up enough lanyards from our ID cards to make a leash.  It was fun.  I saw this practice done by others with pets in the area!

However my favorite story comes from my third night in the outdoor shelter about 2 weeks ago. One evening a women a I were sitting at a picnic bench inside the gates talking about life when a man came into the area completely drunk. As he made his way into the area he quickly passed out on the cement by our table. Quietly, without announcement or scene, she got up, grabbed and extra blanket from her mat and laid it on top of the man. Then jumped back into our conversation. Her quiet kindness blew me away. Why would she care for someone like that after all she has been through? It hit me…

For a moment she was able to focus on something other than sex.  For a moment she was able to participate in true love.  For a moment she was not a slut.

Jesus had many interactions with women.  Some not looked upon so kindly by others…
Read Luke 7:36-50 and John 8:1-11

The truth is shocking. According to the United Nations, one of every three women on the planet will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime. “Although sources of violence may seem diverse, women’s responses sound tragically similar. Besides the pain and strength you will hear in their survival stories, the themes that resound across cultures and geographies are of the indifference of authorities, the familial instinct of denial, and the lack of public outrage about the violence that millions of women experience every day.”

The night the lady was abused outside the outdoor shelter, my friend Angela was helping raise money to help stop the violence against women.  The fight against women’s violence was born of the belief that until the above themes are addressed, these violations named and taken up by whole communities as an unacceptable desecration of human dignity, the violence will continue.

Go online and help fight against violence. There are many great organizations that help fight for women’s rights. Join one of them tonight.

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