US News & World Report Feature on Latina Immigrants and Domestic Violence
Health care and community groups are working to aid Latina immigrants who are victims of domestic violence.
By Gaby Galvin US News and World Report, Staff Writer, Nov. 7, 2018, at 9:14 a.m.
COMMUNITY ADVOCATES IN the San Francisco Bay Area say more needs to be done to protect and empower Latina immigrants – not just in their neighborhoods, but in their own homes.
While some research indicates Latina immigrants may face lower rates of domestic violence than Latina women born in the U.S., they can be vulnerable to abuse, and Latino immigrants are less likely to seek help from formal agencies. In the Bay Area, community activism and health organizations are deploying culturally relevant interventions that are showing hopeful signs of progress in getting these women access to care and support, underscoring the key role health care providers across the country can play in helping Latina survivors of domestic abuse.
“We’re a safety net clinic, so we’re typically serving … a population that is socioeconomically struggling and doesn’t have a lot of resources,” Gomes says. “Many of our patients don’t have a huge support system here (and) could be much more vulnerable because they might not speak the language. They may not understand culturally where they can access services and support.”
Nationally, 34.4 percent of Hispanic women reported ever being a victim of a partner’s sexual or physical violence or stalking, compared with 37.3 percent of U.S. women overall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yet immigrant women who may want to report the violence or try to leave their abusers can face additional hurdles, especially if support services are not offered in Spanish, if they don’t know their legal protections or if they are are living in the country illegally. The Pew Research Center estimates that 240,000 unauthorized immigrants lived in the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metro area in 2014.
“We’ve done so much work for so long to help women make that decision to leave, but right now immigrant women are really not leaving situations of violence,” says Lourdes Martinez, political director for Mujeres Unidas y Activas, a grassroots social justice group that supports Latina immigrants in San Francisco and Oakland.
And in a tense national political climate that has left many immigrant families – already struggling socially and financially – on edge, advocates say Latina immigrants may be even more vulnerable to violence and its stressors in their own homes.
“Our lives are multifaceted, so it’s impossible for the Donald Trump effect not to impact our families in this way,” Martinez says. “It’s impossible to be an immigrant in this country right now fearing for deportation, and for that not to impact our health, our mental health and the mental health of our children. These issues are not separated.”