Adriana Gracia, born and raised in Little Village, was inspired to become a social worker by watching her grandmother help others as a child. As a social worker at Rainbow House, she helps women and their children recover from domestic violence.
“When you hear from the mother’s that they see a change in their children, it always resonates with me,” said Gracia.
Gracia, 36, works as a children’s counselor at Rainbow House. Gracia conducts individual and group children’s therapy. Gracia’s goal within the children’s therapy sessions is to help them identify their feelings and teach them healthy ways to express their feelings. Gracia also helps with the teen and adult therapy groups at Rainbow House. Each age group’s therapy session is geared towards different aspects of violence. Teens therapy groups talk more about community violence, children’s groups are geared toward domestic violence, and the women’s therapy group varies.
Rainbow House is located in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. Rainbow House aims to help those who have been affected by domestic violence. They help families remove themselves from the violence and seek safety. On the Rainbow House website, it says that they help those affected through holistic, client-centered interventions, and community based prevention. The program creates a large foundation of support for those affected.
According to FuturesWithoutViolence.org, one in four women have experienced violence by a spouse or boyfriend. Seven million children live in families in which severe violence occurs. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says, 85% of domestic violence victims are women. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. In March, President Barack Obama renewed the Violence Against Women Act, which according to Fox News, authorizes about $659 million dollars to programs that help strengthen the criminal justice system’s response to crimes against women and some men. The money will also go towards legal assistance, transitional housing, law enforcement training and hotlines. The renewal of this act also focuses on reducing sexual assault on college campuses. It also renewed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which adds stalking to the list of crimes. For the first time ever, the act now includes violence against lesbian, gay, transgender, and bi-sexual survivors.
Little Village was predominantly a Polish community between the late 1950’s and early 1970’s. Gracia’s grandmother would help others within the community access everyday things like buy furniture. She acted as a translator when language was barrier.
Gracia’s grandmother expected nothing in return, and this is what inspired Gracia the most. “I wanted to be able to do that, to be able to give back in whatever capacity I can and to feel that I can make a difference even if its in one person’s life,” said Gracia.
After Gracia’s undergraduate studies she worked in child welfare services and also as a children’s counselor at a domestic violence agency. Gracia also worked part time answering hotline calls at the agency. Shortly after, Gracia began working with the Latino Family Institute and provided outreach presentations to communities about mental health. Gracia then went back to grad school and began working with after school programs that helped students and families. After this, Gracia finally made her journey to Rainbow House.
“Domestic violence impacts more than just families, it harms entire communities. Adriana’s job as Children’s Therapist is so much more than helping children heal from the trauma of family violence. It’s also empowering them to develop their own healthy relationships,” said Kathleen Higgins, the executive director at Rainbow House.
When the women and children come to the organization in need of services, they are given an assessment and evaluation. From here they determine whether they can be put on a waiting list, given immediate help, or if Rainbow House does not believe they can help them with what they need they are given a referral. If women and children receive services from Rainbow House they begin therapy sessions.
“Bringing my daughters to Rainbow House has not only helped them, but I have made changes too. I have been learning parenting techniques that have made my family’s life less stressful and more enjoyable,” said Lourdes Ortega, a mother who has been receiving services since 2011.
Particularly for women there are three women’s support groups that meet three times a week. Within these support groups, the women’s experience with domestic violence is talked about, as well as their experience with the abuser, court, and police officials. These groups also talk about different topics of interest. “Recently we had Mary Kay come in and do makeup for all the women,” Gracia said, “They took a lot of pictures.”
If the women want to feel empowered or raise their self esteem, Rainbow House holds different workshops to do this. “An upcoming workshop will be about self defense,” said Gracia, “Their very excited for that.” When the support groups are not geared toward a certain topic, the space is open for discussion. “Each woman receives three sets of card, and depending on the color, it lets us know if there’s something urgent they want to speak about, if there’s something they want to share but not urgent, or let’s us know I just want to listen,” said Gracia, “For the most part their usually all talking.”
Gracia’s work is not only seen by the people she helps but by the people she works with. “By connecting the women and families to local services, Adriana is supporting the community as well as building strong connections between Rainbow House and Little Village, sending the message that Rainbow House is a place to be safe, welcome, and to get help,” says Camille Baker, an intern at Rainbow House. Rainbow House has affected the Little Village community by creating a foundation of support for those in the community in need of their services.
Rainbow House has created a place for women and children to come to whenever they are in need of safety when in a violent situation.
“The women that come here, because of their experiences that they have here, they then are comfortable referring other people from the community,” said Gracia. “Even if maybe their not going through a situation of domestic violence or maybe they don’t think that they are they know there’s someone here that they can give them that referral for something else,” said Gracia. Rainbow House strives to serve the community of women to help further prevent domestic violence, or violence of any other kind. Rainbow House is the answer for help within this community, “I think it’s really comforting to the women in the community,” said Gracia.