A friend from law school works in an agency that represents survivors of domestic violence and posted this poignant and incredibly sad alter for Day of the Dead to honor the murdered victims of domestic violence. As someone who works first hand with DV survivors this really struck a chord, I hear countless violent stories of survivors who barely made it out on time—and then there’s so many incidents of choking/head trauma that make me worry about the future health of those clients.
Unfortunately, DV is a major problem in all communities, including ours. One in three Latinas will experience physical inter-family violence in their lifetime. This means that too many of us have been impacted by this crisis—and it is a crisis. As educated women, women with political and economic capital, we have to do what we can to help support survivors. It’s important to fight against this because the impact of DV is so all-encompassing and affects the entire community, not just the direct victim.
Some ways to provide support include:
One. Donate. Every state has a coalition against domestic violence that can guide you to smaller agencies that work within the Latino community. You can volunteer at these agencies, donate goods to shelters, or donate money when you can. Being directly creates big change in perception by showing survivors that they are not alone (and it shows abusers that their actions will not be tolerated). A common abuse tactic is to convince the survivor that they are unlovable and unworthy of respect, support, or safety—by providing support (be it in-kind donations, money, or time)—you’re showing the survivors, the families, and the abusers that that is wholly untrue.
Two. Get involved in the law. How does your city and state treat domestic violence? Is it taken seriously? Do they understand how likely abusers are to increase their acts of violence? Are survivors’ needs taken into account? Likewise, are your city/state’s policies helping or harming the Latino community? If you’re dissatisfied with the answers consider pushing for shifts in the law and policies. You can get involved with local bar associations, women’s rights organization, policy groups that promote an agenda that would benefit survivors. For example, I’m so impressed with Maryland’s move to monitor abusers. It shows they understand the prevalence for future violence and create an extra barrier of security that doesn’t exist with just an order of protection. So, I’m involved with agencies that are researching how this could work in my city.
Three. Push back against gender roles. Small things that promote division between genders may not seem like they have anything to do with DV, but it’s those little things that create an atmosphere that allows abusers to hurt others with impunity. I read statement after statement from clients that describes the cycle of abuse and almost always the relationships begins with small assertions of male privilege. Victims who are told it’s good that the abuser is jealous; families that encourage women to marry at all costs; a demand by abusers (and supported by family) that a woman not work or go to school (thus isolating her from a support system and making her vulnerable to financial abuse). If we want our community to do better, the greatest thing we can do as individuals is to vocally call out bad behavior when we see it. We must not only empower women, but we have to push back against the privilege and speak up when we see bad behavior occurring. In my case, one way to do this is by talking to younger family members that are entering relationships and discussing why jealousy and other possessive behavior is bad. It’s a very small thing to do, but the more we stop promoting abusive- habits that can more easily allow for DV the better we will be.