CORA Statement on Domestic Violence Homicide & Safety Planning

How Bay Area Community Can Support Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

CORA is heartbroken by the murder of Karina Castro, a mother of two and member of our community. We send our deepest condolences to Ms. Castro’s family, and are supporting her family and community during this unimaginable time.

This event is a reminder that San Mateo County and the broader Bay Area community can work together to support survivors who need to escape abuse and want help. One thing CORA encourages is learning about safety planning for loved ones who may be in an abusive relationship and creating a safety plan if you are a survivor yourself.

A safety plan focuses on strategies to escape an abusive situation safely. For every survivor it will be different, but some key components might include times that are safest to escape, locations the survivor can go to that are unknown to the abuser, code words between the survivor and a trusted friend, a hidden go bag, and a secondary phone to avoid location tracking. In 2021, 96% of CORA’s clients completed a safety plan.

Anyone who faces abuse in their relationships can reach out to CORA, anytime, any day.  We want everyone to have information to safety plan and access to services they need as swiftly as possible.

Proud to Celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride

CORA is proud to celebrate Pride Month this June alongside LGBTQ folks and allies in San Mateo County and across the nation. Pride Month is an important time for us to come together to celebrate one another’s identities while increasing awareness of the harm that happens to LGBTQ folks and fighting against transphobia, homophobia, violence, and discrimination.  

The Bay Area has a long history of standing up against violence and oppression against LGBTQ+ folks, including in 1966 at Compton’s Cafeteria in the Tenderloin, where transwomen resisted against police violence and abuse. The Pride parade is an honoring of this continued tradition of resistance against police brutality at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 in New York City. In echo of trans activist, Donna Personna’s Pride mantra, “It ain’t a party. It’s time to act up.”  

Intimate partner violence and systemic oppression are woven together. They influence and strengthen each other. When we hold prejudices against a group of people, people are more likely to justify causing them harm because of their identities. We are also less likely to intervene when they are harmed by their families or loved ones. LGBTQ+ folks have higher rates of intimate partner violence and sexual assault than heterosexual and cisgender people. BIPOC LGBTQ+ folks are disproportionately affected and experience increased barriers to receiving services from police, shelters, hospitals and other social service providers. Our trans family and friends are extremely vulnerable and in need of our support to be out and in relationships where they feel safe and loved.  

Our relationships should be places of refuge, where our partner(s) build our confidence and encourage us to share our light – not tear our spirits down.  

CORA provides support for all survivors of intimate partner violence and leads workshops for LGBTQ+ folks on red flags and healthy relationship skills. June is not the only month we make a strong commitment to increasing safety and support for LGBTQ survivors. Please reach out if you or your loved ones are experiencing harm in their relationship.  

We strive to increase our services and awareness of abuse in the community. Pride Month is not just a recognition that we get to exist and have relationships. We hope that it is a celebration that encourages us to live healthy lives with people who love and respect us. When we are loved and respected for who we are, we create safer and healthier communities for us all. 

A Greeting from CORA’s New CEO

A Greeting from CORA’s New CEO

“Hello CORA friends, partners and supporters,

I am Karen Ferguson, the incoming CEO for CORA and I want to take this opportunity to say hello!

I am a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years in non-profit humanitarian and social service leadership. I do believe my expertise in cross-cultural clinical psychology and my extensive non-profit, executive-level experience building and maintaining community-based partnerships will be a great fit with the mission, values and work of CORA.

I have spent my career committed to programming and advocacy on behalf of the immigrant and refugee community particularly. My passion for programs aimed at supporting any individual whose home is no longer a safe place has been unwavering. CORA’s mission to eradicate domestic violence is deeply compelling to me and the high-quality, community-based programming is exactly the type of organization to which I am drawn.

The mission of CORA, the impact of COVID and this upcoming transition in leadership will require hard work – but I ready to join the team, and together we will roll up our sleeves and meet these challenges head-on. Not only am I confident in our ability to do just that, – I am excited by what we can accomplish together.

I look forward to meeting everyone as soon as possible!”

Introducing Our New CEO

Dear CORA friends, partners, and supporters,

Today the CORA Board of Directors is proud to introduce our new CEO, Dr. Karen Ferguson, to the full CORA family. Over the last five months, the Board of Directors completed a comprehensive search process and we are thrilled to announce that Karen will sit behind the leadership desk beginning in early May. We look forward to the organization’s evolution and growth under her leadership.

Karen is a licensed clinical psychologist and has over 20 years in the non-profit humanitarian and social service leadership fields. She brings a perfect blend of expertise in clinical psychology and non-profit, executive-level experience to CORA, and she has a long history of building and maintaining community-based partnerships.

She has spent her career helping and championing the rights of the immigrant and refugee community. Most recently, she served as Executive Director of the Northern California branch of International Rescue Committee (IRC). There she led offices throughout the Bay Area, overseeing a staff of over 120 (themselves from diverse refugee and immigrant backgrounds), and ensured quality, comprehensive services for newly arriving immigrants. Programming focused on housing, financial support, education, and employment, and were aimed at enabling families to achieve self-sufficiency and thrive in their new American communities.

Further, Karen’s past experience includes both the building of high-level processes and hands-on assistance with vulnerable communities. Prior to her work with IRC, Karen spent 10 years as the Alaska State Refugee Coordinator where she designed and implemented refugee resettlement, immigration, and anti-trafficking programs throughout the state of Alaska. Before that, she served as the Clinical and Department Manager for Outpatient Mental Health Services, where she developed and supervised clinical activities for outpatient mental health services for Alaska Native and American Indian clients.

Karen is a frequent presenter on social justice issues. Her expertise has been highlighted in many media outlets, including Public Radio International, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, Ms. Magazine, the SF Chronicle, and the American Psychological Association Monitor to name a few.

Karen holds a BS in Psychology from Brown University and an MA and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. Besides Alaska and other US locations, she has lived and worked in American Samoa; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Haifa, Israel; and Kampala, Uganda.

CORA’s mission is nothing short of ending domestic violence, and we are proud to offer safety, support, and healing to many individuals each year. Karen’s experience, knowledge, and passion for the cause are not only a perfect fit for CORA’s mission, but promise to bring unique methods and pioneering ideas to the table, driving CORA into an even more innovative space and offering ever stronger and more effective services to those in need.

We thank you for your ongoing support through the important process of identifying CORA’s new leader. This next chapter in CORA’s history will be a vibrant, powerful one. We look forward to partnering with you as we grow and strengthen the vital programs CORA brings to the community.


Kevin Imboden
Chair of CORA Board of Directors

An Update on the Executive Director Search

Greetings CORA Family,

As you know, CORA has been actively searching for our next executive director for the last four months. We’re proud to say, thanks to the commitment of our staff (including interim executive director Jill Morris) and the leadership of the CORA board, that the search has been fruitful and we are on schedule.

CORA is a passionate organization with an important human rights mission. Our executive director should reflect these traits. We also understand that they will be asked to steer the organization in further growth and enhancement of client services. With these in mind, CORA has executed its search and we’d like to share with you where we are in the process.

CORA has worked with an executive search firm since October of 2020 to find the ideal candidate. The search firm located and screened many candidates, finally bringing five to the board-led Executive Director Search Committee. In late January the committee interviewed those candidates and selected three to move on to the next round.

In the next few weeks, a group composed of the CORA board, managers and staff will perform a final set of interviews with the remaining three candidates. Next steps will depend on the outcome of those interviews, but we look forward to sharing outcomes with you whatever the result.

This is an exciting time for CORA. Despite a year of challenges, morale is high and possibilities are blossoming. The organization remains nimble, strong and more committed than ever to addressing domestic violence in our community.

Thank you for your support and patience through this process. We look forward to the day we introduce you to our new executive director!

Kevin Imboden
CORA Board Chair

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