Innovation Ecosystem

The courage to speak the truth about domestic violence

Kate Bramson, Deputy Executive Director at Sojourner House, gives voice to how domestic violence is connected to housing insecurity

Photo by Shannon McDonnell, communications manager at Sojourner House.

Kate Bramson, the Deputy Executive Director at Sojourner House.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 2/5/24
Kate Bramson, the Deputy Executive Director at Sojourner House, reframes the conversation about her agency’s work around domestic violence in Rhode Island, during a time when domestic violence against women seems to be surging.
How can the news media do a better job in how it reports on domestic violence in Rhode Island? Why are some men so threatened by Taylor Swift and not by Donald Trump? How many legislators would be willing to make the trek uphill from the State House and visit the impromptu memorial on Olney Street to Miya Brophy-Baermann, who was murdered in a drive-by shooting in August of 2021? When will legislators start asking pointed questions to the McKee administration about the reasons why there are hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid invoices owed by the state to service providers who are helping those Rhode Islanders at risk of homelessness? When will the McKee administration, in its new enthusiasm focused on school attendance records, emphasize the role that domestic violence, lead poisoning of Rhode Island children, and chronic conditions such as asthma caused by air pollution all play as causes of school absenteeism?
It was a busy, busy week for Attorney General Peter Neronha, who flexed his legal prowess to protect Rhode Islanders as the state’s public health advocate. The Attorney General co-sponsored the 2024 Summit To End Childhood Lead Poisoning at Rhode Island College on Friday, Feb. 2. Two days earlier, on Wednesday, Jan. 31, the Attorney General joined with R.I. DEM Director Terence Gray to announce actions to protect Providence’s Mashapaug Watershed on the south side of the city — to enforce the Clean Water Act and prevent pollution from stormwater runoff to prevent toxic algae blooms and high levels of bacteria. The announcement took place at Save The Bay headquarters.
On Friday, Feb. 2, the Attorney General announced that his office had prevailed in stopping efforts to dismiss the criminal case against the construction firm and the employee charged with illegally dumping thousands of tons of contaminated fill during the construction of the Route 6/10 Interchange.
Also on Feb. 2, the Attorney General announced this his office had filed a lawsuit against landlord Amanda Weinberger for her failure to remediate lead violations identified by the R.I. Department of Health after multiple children residing at her Smith Street property were poisoned over the course of two years.
Further, on Friday, Jan. 26, the Attorney General announced that his office had filed a lawsuit against a car dealership for deceptive sales and advertising practices, in violation of the state’s consumer protection law.
Also, on Monday, Jan. 29, the Attorney General’s office refiled the news release sent out on Friday, Jan. 26, detailing the results of a hearing at which Superior Court Justice Robert D. Krause sentenced Isaiah Pinkerton for his role in the murder of Miya Brophy-Baermann. The news release provided in great detail the results of the investigation into the drive-by shooting, the use of spent casings from the scene to identify the ghost gun used in the shooting and the DNA from the shooter, as well as the collaborative partnership with the Providence police and the Attorney General’s investigators.
Finally, on Monday, Jan. 29, ConvergenceRI published the in-depth interview with Attorney General Peter Neronha about the ongoing crisis in health care delivery in Rhode Island. On that same day, his office made public the application by the Centurion Foundation to purchase two Rhode Island hospitals, under the regulations of the Hospital Conversions Act.
It was a very busy week for the state’s public health advocate.

PROVIDENCE – In her career, Kate Bramson has done many things. As a reporter with The Providence Journal, as a top aide to Dr. Megan Ranney at Brown, and as policy, fundraising and communications director with ONE Neighborhood Builders, she has often found herself on the front lines of change in Rhode Island.

Now, in her new position at Sojourner House, she has found a home where her talents and skills can be put to good use – working to advocate for women who are survivors of domestic violence.

Here is the ConvergenceRI interview with Kate Bramson, at a time when violence against women seems to be surging.

ConvergenceRI: Women in Rhode Island are at greater risk for housing insecurity, according to a recent study. How does that contribute to domestic violence? How can Sojourner House help to change the equation?   
: Of the 52,422 Rhode Island households living below the poverty line, 53 percent are female households, more than double that of male households [25 percent] and couples [22 percent].

The connection between domestic violence and housing insecurity is undeniable. For years, reports across the nation have cited domestic violence as one of the leading causes of homelessness. At Sojourner House, we have firsthand knowledge of that truth. More than 95 percent of our clients are considered low-income. In a state with a decades-old housing crisis, the greatest barrier most of them face when trying to leave abusive partners is securing housing for themselves and their children.

Since many abusers attempt to control their victims by making them financially dependent on them, most of our clients come to us with very limited resources. Although safe housing presents a natural pathway to freedom, many are unable to secure this on their own due to financial limitations, bad credit history, fears of retaliation, or worry that their unstable immigration status may create additional problems.

Recognizing these limitations, we offer a wide range of shelter, transitional housing, rapid rehousing, and permanent supportive housing options.

In 2023 alone, Sojourner House provided:

  •   8,505 shelter bed nights to 109 clients.
  •   15,836 bed nights in transitional housing to 86 clients.
  •   43,880 bed nights in rapid rehousing for 251 clients.
  •   21,816 nights in permanent supportive housing for 86 clients.

In recent years, we have provided more shelter to clients than ever before. In 2018, our Board of Directors made a deliberate decision for Sojourner House to begin developing our own housing.

Within the past two years, we’ve purchased five properties, and we continue expanding our housing portfolio. Currently, we own or lease more than 150 units statewide to provide permanent supportive housing for victims – because we know this is the most effective way to help victims and their families transition out of very dangerous situations and into safety.

In my new role as Deputy Executive Director at Sojourner House, I’m committed to strengthening our housing program and continuing to remove barriers that survivors face in accessing support.

ConvergeneRI: What can the news media do differently in its coverage to change the way that it addresses and talks about misogyny spewed out by folks such as Donald Trump?  
BRAMSON: Reporters should always be cognizant of the biases that people carry and must challenge inflammatory statements from anyone they cover – but especially from politicians and those who have a platform for sharing their views widely.

When anyone’s misogynistic comments skew the dialogue toward contempt or dislike for women, reporters must seek other sources who can counter such views.

It’s also important to recognize micro-aggressions that someone with misogynistic views might use. Fundamental journalistic values require that reporters strive to be accurate, fair, and thorough. Reporters must remember that those values offer wide latitude for them to seek out different perspectives.

This goes far beyond misogyny, though. It is crucial that reporters are attuned to racism, sexism, ageism, and all other types of bias and that they strive for balanced coverage of society’s most pressing challenges.

ConvergenceRI: How does the latest change in your career path reflect the way that professional women and mothers can find a greater balance in the workplace?

BRAMSON: Finding balance in the workplace is important for everyone, not just women and mothers. I have always worked to strike the right balance, and some days on that balance beam are easier than others.

I am incredibly lucky that nearly all of my workplaces have understood the value of finding that balance. When my own children were young and I worked on the breaking news desk for The Providence Journal, I requested the 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift so that I could always eat dinner with my family.

Even after I became a business reporter, I maintained those hours for several years. For me, preserving family dinners was incredibly important. And yet, when major breaking news events occurred, I had days when I worked much later into the evening to keep reporting about something that was urgent, critical, and could not wait until the next morning. 

This step on my career path allows me to incorporate all the perspective I have gained from prior workplaces and to approach our work at Sojourner House in a respectful way that recognizes all workers have outside lives and responsibilities.

We do important work here every day, and Sojourner House understands the value of teamwork and knows that one individual cannot carry the burden alone for a particular type of work.

Our onboarding for new employees includes an emphasis on the importance of self-care, and our staff appreciation committee works year-round to create new opportunities for staff to decompress.

Sojourner House recognizes the need for everyone to step away from their work and find ways to enjoy their own personal time so they come back to work refreshed and ready for the next day. In my role, preserving that balance and respecting it is incredibly important.

ConvergenceRI: One of the strengths of Sojourner House has been the way that it validates survivors’ stories. How will you continue to promote that work?

BRAMSON: Validation is an extremely important part of the healing process after abuse. It may seem small to some, but phrases such as, “We believe you,” “None of this was your fault,” and “You are worthy of love and respect” hold great power.

Within an abusive relationship, a victim's emotions are routinely manipulated, disregarded, and devalued. Our advocates understand this, and they take great care to remind their clients of the courage they are demonstrating in seeking support and sharing their story. Our clinicians and case managers do a phenomenal job of creating time and space for clients' voices and opinions to be heard.

Outside of direct client care, our team also uses validating language in our community outreach efforts, both in educational settings and through our social media platforms. I will do everything that I can to uplift and continue all of this great work.

Kate Bramson is the Deputy Executive Director at Sojourner House.

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