People often ask us
how to improve their services to the Latino community, or more
frequently, they ask how to improve their outreach to the Latino
community. The questions are difficult to answer because, of course,
there is no one Latino community, and certainly no one answer
to the question. Latinos are a hugely diverse people, coming as
they do from 24 plus different countries, and from every hue of
the social, economic, and racial spectrums. What's needed in one
Latino community may be completely different from what will work
in another Latino community.
The questions are also
difficult to answer because the problem is so often mistakenly
framed in terms of improving outreach, as if the essence of the
problem is simply that Latinos don't know about the services.
But when Latinos, or any other underserved community, aren't responding
to an agency's services, the root problem is more likely with
the services themselves, rather than with the outreach. After
all, when services truly match a community's needs, simple word-of-mouth
does much of the outreach for you.
Still, because the
Latino community as a whole is so critically underserved, and
because many people are genuinely seeking solutions, we've tried
to distill some of our thoughts and experiences from our time
working to end violence against women in the Latino community.
The solutions aren't simple. They require recognizing and uprooting
deeply entrenched practices, and they require long term commitment.
But few other tasks are more worth doing, both to set things right
for communities that have been unfairly underserved, and to accomplish
the overall goal of ending violence against women.
There is truth in the
saying that violence against women cuts across all races and socioeconomic
classes. But ironically, this time worn adage tends to obscure
a more urgent truth. Violence against women is heavily concentrated
against women who are poor, young, and disadvantaged; generally
the same women who for so long have been underserved.
It's impossible to
end violence against women and girls until we prioritize the needs
of those who are most oppressed by the violence. Reshaping our
services and advocacy to meet these needs isn't just an agenda
item. It's a necessary, powerful, and very promising breakthrough
step toward liberating all women from violence.
We hope this text serves
as a springboard for your own thinking. And we trust you'll rely
mainly on working with your own local Latino community to set
your course. And though this discussion is aimed at improving
violence-against-women services to Latino communities, we hope
it might also prove useful to improving many kinds of services
to any underserved group.
Outreach to Underserved Communities Starts and Ends with Ongoing
Mechanisms that Assure Ongoing Evaluation of Your Own Programs.
Evaluating your programs
against the specific needs of the Latino community should be an
ongoing task. This requires establishing organization mechanisms
and schedules that keep this work from sliding off the agenda.
For example, establish a set block of time in each staff meeting
for this work. Keep a central running log of comments and suggestions
where all staff must give input. Establish rotating assignments
for gathering relevant information, such as reporting back on
your community demographics, language access law, rural transportation
problems, immigration law, etc.. Keep it all focused on the goal
of developing a working set of problems that need to be solved.
An essential part of
the process is to regularly consult your Latino coworkers, clients,
and others in the Latino community: "Why aren't Latinas using
our agency in proportion to their population?" "What's
working and what's not working?" "What obstacles need
to be overcome?"
Examples of beginning
answers for a particular agency may sound something like this.
The Latino population
of our community is being underserved because:
Latino population is concentrated in rural, agricultural areas
where the transportation is very bad.
Latino population is mostly first generation immigrant, and they're
afraid that seeking help could result in deportation.
are more afraid to speak about sexual violence than anglo women.
aren't aware we have people on our staff who speak Spanish.
|B. Don't Let
the Identified Problems Devolve into Excuses! Aim Hard at
Making Sure the Problems Get Solved!
are successful in getting to the point of listing the obstacles.
Too often what happens next is that the identified obstacles become
excuses, or even institutionalized justifications, for not fully
serving the Latino community. Solving the problems all too often
gets moved to the back burner.
All staff need to
understand both the legal and moral imperatives of finding and
- Federal and state
civil rights laws prescribe that an organization cannot take
public dollars (which dollars come from all members of the society,
including from non-documented members), and then spend those
dollars in a way that favors one group - particularly in a way
that favors the dominant social group.
- As such, any
problem which leads to underserving a minority group (particularly
an historically underserved group) is a problem the organization
is obligated to solve.
- The historical
failure to correct these problems requires that implementing
solutions needs to be prioritized.
- Our shared missions
of ending violence against women also compel us to prioritize
the solutions. Remember, the patriarchy is strong off the backs
of the great populations of women who have been left behind.
- Many of the obstacles
to fully serving the Latino community are invisibly built into
organization structures because most organizations have been
built around the needs of the dominant community. These internal
barriers should be identified and eliminated.
A helpful exercise that illuminates the last point is to explore
the ways in which hidden barriers to the Latino community have
been built into your own program. One obvious example of a built
in barrier to Latinos would be an organization that has no bilingual
capability. But there are many less evident, but equally discriminatory
barriers lurking deep in organization structures and histories
that need to be identified and remedied.
For example, an organizational decision to deliver services
from a centralized office can effectively prohibit low income
rural families from using the services. Or an organization that
hasn't built in the expertise to respond knowledgeably to victim
immigration and deportation fears is an organization that likely
fosters distrust in an immigrant community. A staff that doesn't
look deep enough into their organization structures won't see
these hidden barriers and will likely proclaim vehemently that
it doesn't discriminate, further undermining a foundation of
trust with underserved communities.
At the same time, as
beneficial as such discussions and exercises can be, it's important
to watch out that they don't bog down and take the place of the
primary task of getting the problems solved! So for the purpose
of illustration, here's a sample set of solutions that correspond
to the sample problems presented above. (All of these are some
of the solutions that we have applied to these problems in our
rural, agricultural transport problem: We give staff permission
and parameters to go the clients; to meet the client at her home
or at a location chosen by the client near her home, at least
for the first meeting. All staff takes the time with the client
to step-by-step work out the details and back-up plans for the
client's transport. Get taxi companies to donate free round trips
for critical court dates or meetings, etc.
of deportation: We organized, lobbied, and obtained resolutions
from our city councils that law enforcement will not inform INS
when any undocumented crime victims or witnesses use police services.
We organized with others to end all local police participation
in INS raids. And we publicized loudly along the way.
don't talk about sexual violence: This is myth and stereotype.
We educated our staff and community to the ongoing, vociferous,
and very public feminist movement against sexual violence going
on in Mexico. Every client's comfort level - Latina or not - should
be gauged on an individual basis, etc.
don't realize we have Spanish-speakers: All phone message
recordings, all handouts and written materials must be bilingual.
We did regular handouts of these materials at supermarkets and
clinics in Latino neighborhoods, and made full use of our Spanish
language radio, etc.
|C. Each Individual
in the Organization Should Understand that They - Each and
Everyone - Has an Equal Responsibility to Meet the Needs of
the Latino/a Clients and Community.
very common organization error is to hire Latinos/as with the idea
that they are being hired to deal with the Latino community. Whether
spoken or unspoken, the underlying policy attitude is, "We
hired Angelica and Milagro to deal with the Latino population."
This common approach
is profoundly flawed. It's a strategy that inevitably results
in a harmful ghettoizing of services to the Latino community.
It's also a strategy that is likely illegal when carried out by
public agencies or by any organization that receives any public
funds. (This includes most rape and domestic violence centers.)
In addition, such a strategy likely constitutes illegal employment
discrimination against the staff person who gets assigned to serve
a specific community as defined by race or sex - whether that
assignment is given overtly or occurs by default.
Here are some of the
harms that result when an organization has either a formal or
informal practice of relegating Latino staff to handle Latino
- It robs the Latino
community of equal access to full use of the organization's
activities, services, and skills.
- It sends a message
to the Latino population that they are relegated to the 'Latino
- It likely constitutes
illegal employment discrimination against Angelica and Milagro,
and doubly so if they are called on to translate for other people's
cases or tasks (unless they were specifically hired as translators).
- It perpetuates the
very divisions and inequalities which our missions seek to abolish.
In fact, it further strengthens and institutionalizes those
racial divides and walls. It creates a two tiered system of
service and advocacy. It splits the staff. 'Separate but equal'
is never equal. It is always inherently inferior and discriminatory,
no matter how skillful Angelica and Milagro may be.
- It perpetuates the
cultural ignorance and cultural privilege of those staff persons
who are not working with the Latino community. It blocks the
essential first hand cross-cultural learning and awareness that
other staff must develop in order for them to fulfill their
obligations to the Latino community, and to fully understand
their community as a whole. As such, it undermines all the other
hard work that's being done to end violence against women.
This principle that
each and every staff person is equally responsible to serve the
Latino or any other underserved population is so important that
it's worth looking at it from other angles, and then responding
to some of the objections that often arise.
Consider that a teacher
can choose to specialize in teaching history, and as such, can
turn away students that want a math course. This teacher has specialized
in a task. It is illegal, however, for that same teacher, even
though she may not speak Spanish, to refuse to teach Latino children,
or refuse to teach Spanish-speaking children. Latino is not a
task. Latinos are people. You can't discriminate against people
on the basis of race. Note: Further on we discuss how Spanish
language attaches to race, though this should be obvious.
Or, a steak restaurant
can refuse to serve someone who insists on a vegan meal. But the
same restaurant cannot refuse to serve someone because they are
black, or because they speak Creole.
Or, look at it from
this angle. You, as a female, have completed the police academy,
have gotten hired by a police department, and then you are assigned
to work with, or you're funneled to work with, only female citizens,
or only those crimes that mostly affect females. This is discrimination.
It's illegal. And you would be outraged!
The exact rules by
which these principles must be applied are a work in progress
as a myriad different organizational circumstances are continually
brought into our courts. But the legal and moral principles of
equal access, and of nondiscrimination by race or sex in delivery
or assignment of services are solidly established. Still, many
people who believe themselves committed to these principles, become
confused and headed down the wrong road when dealing with the
complication of language barriers. A common objection made by
monolingual staff on considering their responsibility to serving
the Latino community is this:
"But, I don't
speak Spanish!" It's interesting, because almost no one
working in the violence against women movement today would allow
themselves to say, "I don't work with clients in wheelchairs
because they can't make it up the flight of stairs to my office."
Likewise, very few would say, "I don't work with deaf people
because I don't know sign language." Almost every violence
against women organization has long ago recognized its obligation
to the deaf community, has connected to deaf interpreter services,
and trained all staff on how to use the deaf interpreter services.
The disconnect from these principles when it comes to people who
don't speak English is especially disturbing because the percentage
of non English-speakers in every community is so much greater
than the percentage of wheelchair bound and deaf persons put together.
So once more for clarity.
The fact that a staff person doesn't speak Spanish doesn't relieve
them from your equal obligation to meet the needs of the Spanish-speaking
victims of violence against women.
It's true that speaking
Spanish is a skill. But it's a skill so tightly attached to an
historically underserved minority race, that refusing to deal
with Spanish-speaking clients because you don't speak Spanish
amounts to a form of racial discrimination. So if Jane, your outreach
worker, doesn't speak Spanish, it's wrong, in principle, for all
the reasons listed above, for Jane to opt out of doing outreach
to the Spanish-speaking community, and to insist that bilingual
Antonia who was hired as an advocate, assume that task. And it's
wrong to have Antonia jump up from whatever she's doing, over
and over, every time a Spanish-speaker walks in the door or calls
on the phone. Antonia is not a receptionist, and the Latina client
has a right to access your full services - including your specialist
outreach and receptionist services.
There can be flexibility
in reaching the nondiscrimination goals, but the tendency to backslide
into a system segregated by language is so strong, that there
needs to be constant vigilance to the goal of making every level
of the organization multi-language-competent.
There are so many ways,
in addition to speaking Spanish, that an organization can and
should make it possible for all staff to overcome language barriers
and be able to fulfill their obligations to the full community.
Public service organizations can and should:
- Hire or contract
competent interpreters, and train all staff to be competent
in the skills of using interpreters.
- Sign up with a national
phone bank of professional interpreters (such as the Language
Line), and train all staff in the use of that service.
- Hire more bilingual
personnel. (But don't make them work as interpreters unless
that is their job description and skill. See note below.)
- Make commitment
to working across language barriers a priority job and hiring
requirement for every position in the organization. Write this
requirement into your job descriptions.
Competent Language Access www.justicewomen.com/help_cclafsonomacounty.html)
In this day and age,
there's just no excuse. All staff - board members, administrators,
receptionists, advocates, fund raisers, etc. - should be trained
in how to cross language barriers with ease, and should be provided
the means to do so routinely.
a case example of what happened to an organization in our county
that refused to recognize these principles that all staff must
perform their job description to all clients without discrimination
- even across language barriers. In 2004, our county probation
department had 4 bilingual (Spanish) probation officers out of
a total of 107 probation officers. (Imagine! This in a county
where one in five speak Spanish.) Everyday, from the moment these
bilingual probation officers got to work until the end of the
day, they would be jerked around arbitrarily to interpret on other
officers' Spanish-speaking case loads, or to answer other people's
Spanish language phone calls, or to interpret at the front desk
when Spanish speakers walked in the front door.
After a year of futile
requests to their supervisors to correct the problem, the bilingual
officers felt they had no other option than to go on an 'interpreting
strike'. They refused to interpret in all work related tasks except
on their own case loads. The chief of probation, Cora Guy, responded
to the 'interpreting strike' by ordering the bilingual officers
to resume interpreting or be disciplined, up to and including
firing. So the bilingual officers took their case to the California
state labor board, and they won! The state labor board correctly
decided that the bilingual officers cannot be ordered to interpret
for other probation officers' cases, and the probation department
finally had to solve the problem properly. (To see more on this
case, go to Bilingual Officer's Victory at www.justicewomen.com/help_officers.html.)
"But why should
a client ever have to suffer the difficulty of working with an
interpreter?" One reason people believe that working
with an interpreter is intrinsically burdensome for clients is
because there is such rampant use of unqualified interpreters
and virtually no staff training anywhere on how to properly use
an interpreter. Not surprisingly, this leads to so many bad experiences
that people make the blanket assumption that all interpreting
means inferior communication.
The key word is competence.
Use competent interpreters, train all staff in how to work competently
with interpreters, and the difficulties for clients are minimal
or none at all. When conversations are interpreted properly, the
interpreter magically disappears from the conversation. You can
easily prove this to yourself any day of the week just by sitting
through a criminal court proceeding where victim and defendant
don't speak English. Every word of multiple contentious players
is so quickly and accurately interpreted back and forth that the
court room and all its complexities doesn't miss a beat, as if
the interpreter isn't there at all. Granted, most organizations
cannot afford to hire interpreters certified at the court interpreter
level. But most organizations don't need to. Two-person conversations
don't require near the high wire interpreter skills required in
the courtroom. (See Quick Tips for Using an Interpreter at www.justicewomen.com/help_interpreter.html.)
We routinely talk with
clients for whom the police have used professional telephone translators
to take her report. Without exception, the women not only claim
there was no difficulty in making the report, but they also claimed
they felt confident and grateful that their words were translated
accurately, and that police cared enough to get their words accurately.
(Naturally, when police improperly use neighbors or family members
to translate, results are usually disastrous, especially for victims
of rape and domestic violence.) It's worth repeating. The key
to successfully overcoming language barriers is competence.
Most importantly, any
occasional inconvenience a client may experience working with
a competent interpreter is more than outweighed by the immense
empowerment, both to individuals and communities, of knowing that
the organization has built in an assurance that the community
will have full equal access to the full range of organization
services. Use of professional interpreters also relieves women
of the anxiety they are dependent on just one or two officers
or staff who can speak Spanish. Using interpreters tells the client
in one unequivocal action that the power of the whole system is
open to her.
And more. A policy
of using professional interpreters opens the hearts and minds
of the non-Spanish-speaking staff to the realities of the Latino
community. All in all, an organization that develops full language
competence has made a giant step toward tearing down the walls!
Not just to the Latino community. The bonus of making the whole
organization language competent is that now you can serve every
non English speaker in your community with no extra effort.
And more. It's the
law! Federal law requires that limited English-speakers be given
"Meaningful Access" to all activities and programs of
any organization which receives any federal funds. California
law requires that limited English-speakers have "Equal Access"
to all activities and programs of any organization which receives
any state funds.
"But I'm the
fund raiser. Why should I go out of my way to take money from
the Latino community?" Because in order for Latinos feel
completely free to use the services, to feel ownership in the
services, and to feel completely free to criticize the services,
it's critical that Latinos be given equal opportunity to invest
in the services.
No matter what your
job description within an organization, you must give equal attention
to the Latino community and Latina clients. If there are obstacles
in the way, then those obstacles have to be removed. It's a point
we keep repeating. Racial and language divides can't be allowed
to persist, particularly in organizations whose mission it is
to eliminate oppressions.
and Hire to Make Your Visions for Change a Reality
Few would dispute that one of the most effective ways to promote
rapid social change in an organization is by hiring dynamite people
who already have their passions and talents fixed on the goals.
Yet all too often the potential of the hiring opportunity is lost
because of failure to first do a deep restructuring of the organization's
- Start by implanting
your visions for change into job descriptions and job requirements.
Care in reworking job descriptions and job requirements can
transform your visions for change into working blueprints. Naturally,
the specifics will vary with job category and the needs of your
community. But one thing you'll almost certainly want to work
into every job is the requirement of commitment to serving the
whole community, to working across language barriers, and across
any of the other barriers you've identified regarding the Latino
community. Additionally, you'll want to specify levels of knowledge
and experience with the barriers that need to be crossed. Be
as specific as possible in how you word this for each job category.
For example, if there is a large immigrant Latino population
in your community, you'll probably want to make some knowledge
and experience with immigrant issues be a part of all your job
descriptions and requirements.
Not only will new job descriptions focus your search, they also
broadcast a clear message that your commitment to the Latino
or other underserved communities has moved beyond lip service.
In addition, the new job descriptions and requirements can also
set your course to a more diverse workforce.
lead to more pitched and protracted battles than questions of
racial hiring quotas, affirmative action, and racial preference
hiring. But by writing job descriptions and requirements that
aim for people capable of reaching underserved communities you
can get beyond the contentious issue of racial hiring quotas
to the clear logic of your new job requirements. These new job
requirements themselves will automatically lead to diversity.
- Break out of
old recruiting molds! You'll never catch a whale if you
keep fishing in mountain streams, no matter how sweet the bait.
Go into the communities you want to serve. Talk to teachers
in the schools. They know the parents. Go into the health clinics,
ESL classes, the Latino businesses and markets. Walk the streets!
Use the Spanish language radio.
Don't hesitate to do some aggressive head hunting, too. If you
know someone you want who's working at related job, figure out
what it's going to take to lure that person to you, and go for
Use the Internet effectively. Join Email lists that blow open
your recruitment pool, Email lists of paralegal, hairdressers,
progressive media groups, Chicana writers groups, English as
a second language groups, new moms, Gloria Trevi fans, human
rights groups, ... There are thousands of these lists. It takes
a couple minutes to join them, and a minute more to send them
your job announcement. Sure the interested person may be on
the other side of the country. But if they're the right person,
and you can usually find out in a series of phone calls, it
can be way worth a plane ticket.
- Revamp your interview
questions and panels. This requires thought. Because no
one will come to a job interview and say, "I want to advocate
for women, but I don't feel like working with Latinas."
So you have to develop a set of questions that probes beneath
the multicultural clichés that virtually everyone has
learned to spout. You need screening and interview questions
that will quickly separate out the pretenders.
important as designing good questions is grouping the right
panel to do the interviews. It's important that in addition
to your organization interviewers you bring in a respected civil
rights worker, a farm worker organizer, or an immigrant rights
worker, to sit on your interview panel with you. They can bring
just the fresh perspective that can help you spot who you're
NOTE: In hiring
for interpreters and in hiring for bilingual personnel it is crucial
to have the language capabilities tested professionally. Some
people have spoken Spanish at home but never studied or used Spanish
as their adult working language. They speak what is referred to
as 'kitchen Spanish'. Others learned Spanish in academia and never
used the language in real life. So you should bring in language
professionals to assure that you hire persons who are literate
in real life written and spoken Spanish. Another common misconception
in evaluating bilingual skills is to assume that persons who are
bilingual can serve as adequate interpreters. This isn't true.
Interpreting requires specialized training and skills that go
beyond being bilingual. Spanish-speaking victims of violence against
women deserve accurate, competent language interpretation.
If you can't find a
language professional in your area, companies like the Language
Line have personnel who can long distance do professional written
and spoken language testing. Check their web site 'interpreter
and bilingual staff testing and training' page at http://www.languageline.com/page/llu/.
|E. Know the
Demographic Fine Points of your Latino Community. It Makes
a Big Difference.
Know what percentage of your Latino community are recent immigrants,
what percentage are Spanish-speaking, rural or urban, migrant or
resident, etc. Know the age distribution, the distribution in which
schools, health services, and neighborhoods, etc. Develop organizational
knowledge of the main countries and regions of origin of your Latino
community, and the reasons for the migrations. In this day and age
of the Internet you can get so much of this information in no time.
Know the array of cultural
and political organizations in your community that serve your
Latino population. Meet with them. Report back and educate all
And don't forget to
ask your clients directly. Although the women you serve are in
crisis, there's always five minutes here or there to ask about
their and their families' stories. These moments can do wonders
for your client's sense that you see her to be more than a set
of case details. And the stories themselves will educate you and
other staff in the way that a library full of books could never
Display maps, photos,
artwork, and children's books throughout your office that represent
the countries and regions of origin of the major immigrant groups
of your service area. Imagine being in crisis and afraid in a
foreign country. Imagine the impact of then walking into a strange
office for help and the first thing you see on the walls are images
from your homeland. You would instantly feel relief the organization
as a whole welcomes you. Putting up vibrant visual materials that
represent your underserved communities also serves as a constant,
and very positive reminder to everyone on staff of the changes
the organization wants to make.
and Eliminate Harmful Staff Stereotypes about the Latino Community
Even the most well meaning people harbor harmful stereotypes about
the non-dominant social groups, including members of the non-dominant
group themselves. This is because the dominant group's views of
just about everything are the prevailing views. These views rarely
get questioned, and they are naturally, always self-serving. So
it's crucial to bring these stereotypes out in the open and combat
Here are just four
stereotypes about Latinos that we hear all the time from well
meaning people, and a fact or two that might surprise you.
culturally much more accepting of domestic violence."
In general, the current violence against women movement in many
parts of Latin America is in a much more militant phase than the
current US violence against women movement. One of the great pleasures
of working with so many immigrant women from Latin America is
to be in touch with the power and clarity of feminist energy moving
through the young generation of Latinas. It's a very hopeful antidote
to the current more dormant state of the US violence against women
"Latino males are hopelessly macho." In our community,
we have had more Latino males - neighbors, brothers, fathers,
social workers, etc. - contact us on behalf of victims, or accompany
those victims, than from any other culture. Or consider this.
When is the last time you heard of the Mexican army declaring
war, or initiating a 'shock and awe' bombing campaign, on another
"It's culturally acceptable among Latinos for adult males
to have sexual relations with teen girls." Maybe that's
what the men say. But just ask Latino mothers what they think.
Defense attorneys try this 'cultural defense' all the time, until
we get the Latino mothers to have their say.
"Latinas don't believe in abortion." Latinas
in the United States have a 30% higher rate of abortion than that
of the US general population. Women in Latin America have double
the rate of induced abortion than women in the US. Every year,
800.000 women are hospitalized in Latin America due to abortion
injuries resulting from the horrific methods they are forced to
resort because abortion is illegal.
Having now criticized
all stereotypes as harmful, we nonetheless have some stereotypes
about the Latino community that guide our work.
- In general, Latina
victims of violence against women face more and greater obstacles
in their attempts to get free of the violence than women in
the dominant culture.
- The Latino community
is a hugely diverse population.
- US feminists should
learn about and pay close attention to the present day Latino
and Hispanic feminist movements in Spain, Latin America, and
the US. You will be moved!
Organization-wide Language Competency: Make All staff Competent
at Crossing Language Barriers, and Provide Them With the Means
to do so Routinely.
We've touched on the
topic of language competency in earlier sections. But developing
language competency is so essential to improving service to the
Latino community that we refer you to the resources on the topic
we've gathered on our web site:
Tips for Using an Interpreter
Barrier to Barring the Door - Case Stories
Competent Language Access
And more... http://www.justicewomen.com/tips_index.html#vlr
Expertise on Obstacles that Disproportionately Block Latinas'
Liberation from Violence Against Women.
Some obstacles faced by Latinas and their community in the struggle
to end violence against women are the same obstacles faced by the
dominant community - except those obstacles are generally bigger
for Latinas. Money, for example, is an obstacle for most women,
but, in general, it's a bigger obstacle for Latinas.
Other obstacles are
unique to the Latino community, or disproportionately burden the
Latino community. Organizations that don't develop some level
of expertise in overcoming these obstacles are, in effect, discriminating
against Latinos, in the same way that an organization that hasn't
installed an entrance ramp is, in effect, discriminating against
persons in wheelchairs. So it's a must to develop organizational
expertise in advocating on obstacles that block the liberation
of underserved groups, even when the obstacles have little or
no effect on the dominant social culture.
Here's a partial
list of obstacles that disproportionately burden Latinas. (Keep
in mind they may be more or less significant depending on the
individual or particular sector of the Latino community):
The language barrier:
In addition to recognizing language barriers in your own organization,
it's critical to recognize that monolingual Spanish-speakers
frequently encounter language discrimination and incompetence
at every step of their attempts to get free of violence. So
it's crucial to educate and advocate to end language discrimination
in all community responders to violence against women. The persistent
failures of so many police to provide proper language interpretation
poses particularly severe risks to victims of violence against
women. Overcoming police resistance to providing proper language
interpretation to victims is a constant struggle we have to
undertake if we're serious about protection and justice for
Many Latina victims are paralyzed by fears that they may be
deported if they report or leave an abuser, or that the perpetrator
or witnesses may be deported, or that the perpetrator can carry
out his threats to get the victim deported. Organizations not
only have to be knowledgeable enough on immigration and deportation
issues to respond to individual circumstances, but also to educate
the Latino community overall so immigrant women aren't so frozen
in fear they won't even make the first phone call for help.
Fear of Police
and Criminal Justice Officials: Many Latina victims have
an overwhelming fear of police and criminal justice officials
because of the repressive tactics of these officials in their
country of origin. Many Latinas and other women of color fear
police and criminal justice officials because of the repressive
tactics of those officials right here in the United States.
Police brutality and repressive justice system tactics against
minority males make many women of color very reluctant to call
police on their abusers no matter how badly they have been brutalized
by the perpetrator themselves. Police brutality of minority
males is a feminist issue.
problems, much like money problems, affect all women. But there
are unique aspects to housing problems that disproportionately
burden Latinas. For example, many Latinas live in housing projects
where landlords do things like evict everyone whenever police
are called to deal with the crime of one inhabitant. And another
example: Extreme overcrowding in housing situations, particularly
in immigrant communities, combines with a common tenant configuration
that creates extreme risk for violence against women and children.
Households in immigrant communities are frequently made up of
one female, her husband, their children, plus many young adult
males who are not family members. This gives rise to very high
rates of sexual violence and abuse. Knowledgeable advocacy on
housing issues is vital to freeing Latinas from violence against
Extension of the
Violence into the Country of Origin: Many, many Latinas
fear that the perpetrator will carry out threats to harm her
family in their country of origin. Or they fear that he will
abduct children across the border. Rape and domestic violence
centers need a working knowledge of resources available to deal
with these cross border issues.
Lack of Knowledge
and Misconceptions of Women's Rights in the US: Here's just
one example. In most Latin American countries it's against the
law for a married woman to abandon the home. It's called 'abandono
de hogar'. Many Latinas believe they can be similarly arrested
here in the US if they flee the home, particularly if they do
so with children. There are many such misconceptions that need
to be anticipated and addressed on a community wide basis in
order for women to feel free to take even the first steps to
Is Everywhere! And in all the services your client will encounter.
Just because you've known an individual cop or victim compensation
advocate to be a nice person does not mean they will treat your
Latina client with the same respect. Acknowledge, anticipate,
and protect your client from racism. It's alive and well everywhere.
Develop a working knowledge of civil rights law. Advocate to
end racism. If we don't, violence against women will never end.
Navigation: Immigrant women, in particular, have overwhelming
problems with transportation and navigation. Learn from third
world countries! Their most successful social and health services
go to the people. They don't make the people go to them. Kitchen
table advocacy, 'promotoras', neighborhood based community workers
are all well established, tried and true traditions in all Latin
American countries. Learn from them.
Sex Trafficking: Latinas are primary targets of prostitution
and sex trafficking victimization, both here in the US and in
Latin America. These systems of abuse perpetrate the sum total
of every oppressive tactic men use against women. Rape and domestic
violence centers have to develop services that liberate the
women and girls from the terrible machinery of these abuses.
Educate the Whole
Community about these obstacles, not just the Latino community.
It's crucial to educate the dominant community on these issues,
because, in general, it's the dominant community dragging its
feet that is responsible for the persistence of these problems.
And it's the dominant community that has the means and obligations
to help solve them.
to Outreach to the Latino Community
You've probably already
gotten the idea that we believe it's the internal agency work
that provides the foundation for your outreach. In fact, the closer
you bring your services to meet the Latino community's needs,
the less outreach you'll have to do.
Still, we have some
great outreach favorites to the Latino community we'd like to
pass on to you. Here are five:
the Latino community. Take hundreds of agency information
cards, bilingual of course, and hand them out to everyone going
into the supermarket for three hours on Saturday mornings. Talk
with everyone. Everyone! Don't wait for people to come to you.
Young, old, male, female, couples, singles, groups of teens. Everyone.
Tell them about your organization. Ask for a donation. Tell them
everyone has to be part of the solution. (Naturally, if people
want to walk away, let them.)
It's fun. Everyone
goes to the supermarket. Teachers, homeless people, students,
mothers, bums, social workers, clergy, perpetrators, teenagers.....absolutely
everyone. You never know who's coming next. After three hours
you've met the community, heard many of their stories, made critical
connections, gotten a read on their attitudes about violence against
women, added to your mailing list, made speaking engagements,
made some money (cash), and when you get back to your phone, you'll
always have new clients waiting. The key is you have to talk to
the people, and have a good time doing it.
radio stations. All radio stations. Radio is a wonderful,
magical medium for women. It's intimate. It reaches deep into
isolated areas. Women listen to radio while they work and care
for kids. Even if you don't have Spanish language radio, use the
English language radio to reach out to the Latino community. Not
only are there many Latinos who speak English, but many people
who work with, live by, and care about Latinos listen to radio.
Also, don't forget to use the English language radio to educate
the dominant culture on how to get involved in helping solve the
problems faced by the Latino community.
But if you have Spanish
language radio stations, especially Spanish language public radio,
as we do, you're in luck. Get to know the full programming schedule
and the staff. Try to establish a weekly call in show if you can.
and Family Planning Clinics: The one place even the most abusive
men usually allow women to go to on their own is to family planning
or OB/GYN clinics. Plus, for once in her hectic life, many women
have nothing else to do while sitting in the waiting room than
to read whatever literature is laying around. And there's no one
looking over her shoulder. So make sure you keep your local clinics
loaded up with your literature.
Here's another common stereotype about Latinos "Latinos aren't
on the Internet." Wrong! In the US, over 71% of Latinos
under 35 years of age are on the net. In Latin America, use of
the Internet has lagged behind that in the US. But, now, the advent
of DSL has allowed Latin Americans to bypass their defective wired
infrastructure and they're flocking to the net, too. Latin American
Internet use has increased by 400% in the last four years.
We have an average
of over 1600 people using our bilingual web site every day, and
a solid 50% of the pages accessed on our site are the Spanish
language pages. The Internet is one dynamite of an invention for
women that allows us to tunnel through barriers of isolation and
fear as never before. Use it!
ESL (English as a Second Language) classes are the motherlode
of Latinos on the move. Everyone in ESL classes is a person who
is investing themselves in the goal of crossing the language barrier.
They are leaders, go-getters, the movers and shakers. Create every
possible opportunity to go to these classes, to educate, learn,