Catalyst Community: Shelterhouse’s Intersections

The word “community” is defined as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular interest in common. Catalyst Midland has launched a series titled “Catalyst Community” focusing on different communities — sometimes geographic, sometimes a common interest. 

Intersections is a new program for LGTBQ+ individuals offered by Shelterhouse, a nonprofit that provides safety, shelter, advocacy and counseling to survivors of domestic violent and sexual assault.In this week’s Catalyst, we focus on Intersections, a  new program for LGTBQ+ individuals offered by Shelterhouse, a nonprofit that provides safety, shelter, advocacy and counseling to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. 

Amy McDonald is passionate about helping individuals find their authentic selves in a safe, non-judgemental environment. McDonald is the Counseling Services Director with Shelterhouse of Midland and Gladwin Counties. She is one of two AASECT (American Association of Sex Education Counselors and Therapists) certified therapists in the Great Lakes Bay Region. She has her master’s in counseling from Spring Arbor University and a post-grad certification in sexual health and sex therapy from the University of Michigan. McDonald has a background in addressing a variety of topics related to sexuality and sexual wellness. 

Catalyst Community: Shelterhouse’s Intersections
Amy McDonald, Counseling Services Director, Shelterhouse of Midland and Gladwin Counties


Amy McDonald is the Counseling Services Director with Shelterhouse of Midland and Gladwin Counties.LGBTQIA+ people often experience unique challenges: lack of support or acceptance of who they are and limited safe places. (LGBTQIA+ is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual). They may feel that they are in an uphill battle and feel exhausted in ways that can lead to serious mental health problems and severe psychological distress. 

Because the domestic violence movement has historically focused on heterosexual relationships, many LGBTQIA+ survivors do not know where to go for help. These survivors have often been marginalized, underserved or inappropriately served by agencies that lack inclusivity or understanding of their real needs. They are not alone, and help is here. Shelterhouse is excited to announce the formation of a much-needed group: Intersections, formed specifically for LGBTQIA+ survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Intersections is a new support group developed at Shelterhouse to address some of the unique struggles members of the LGBTQIA+ community face. Intersections received its name from professor Kimberlé Crenshaw who coined the term ”intersectionality.” Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics intersect with one another and overlap. The view that survivors of domestic and sexual violence can face unique challenges and are sometimes treated differently is aligned with this concept. 

Shelterhouse strives to bring an intersectional approach to all of their services, allowing for a more holistic understanding of the individuals they serve in order to support them on their path of whole-person healing as they navigate complex traumas while also facing oppressive systems in their daily lives. 

Shelterhouse strives to bring an intersectional approach to all of their services, allowing for a more holistic understanding of the individuals they serve.For example, a person who is a BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color), and transgender who has been harmed by an intimate partner will experience trauma and find recovery differently than a heterosexual or cisgender survivor. 
 
Cisgender means that most people who are assigned female at birth identify as girls or women, and most people who are assigned male at birth identify as boys or men. These people are cisgender (or cis). It is important for agencies that provide support and healing services to be aware of these intersectionalities and to be intentional in the support and counseling they provide. This is exactly what Intersections intends to do: to help survivors heal their whole, authentic selves. 
 
Intersections is a new support group developed at Shelterhouse to address some of the unique struggle’s members of the LGBTQIA+ community face.While domestic violence occurs in all types of relationships, LGBTQIA+ survivors face unique obstacles. Isolation, a key control tactic used by almost all abusive partners, is often exacerbated when services are not available for those in same-gender relationships or to someone who is transgender. LGBTQIA+ survivors are welcome at Shelterhouse. Past experiences with bullying, lack of support from helping professionals, or trauma can make it especially difficult for LGBTQIA+ survivors to reach out for help. 

Shelterhouse’s facility has individual suites for all shelter residents. This level of privacy can be especially important for transgender survivors. In addition, Shelterhouse staff have special training in working with LGBTQIA+ survivors. All of these factors will enhance the quality of this new program and are in line with one of Shelterhouse’s mantras for those who have experienced domestic or sexual violence, “Asking for help can be your greatest strength. You are welcome here.”

If you are interested in joining Intersections, are experiencing or have experienced domestic or sexual violence, free and confidential help is here: simply call Shelterhouse at 877-216-6383. 
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