September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino community. This month also gives us an opportunity to address issues that often disproportionately impact Hispanic Americans, such as domestic and sexual violence.
According to Esperanza United, approximately 1 in 3 Latinas will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime. By comparison, throughout the United States, an average of 1 in 4 women will experience IPV in their lifetimes. Intimate partner violence can include several different types of abuse, including domestic abuse, sexual violence, and stalking.
Hispanic or Latina women are also more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than women of any other race. Overall, 55% of female homicide victims were killed by an intimate partner. That number jumps to 61% for Hispanic or Latina women.
While these statistics are sobering, they may not fully reflect the scope of the problem. According to one review, Latina and Black women were less likely to seek mental health services after surviving IPV than white women. Instead, Latina women are more likely to utilize informal resources for help, such as family members, friends, or neighbors. This is particularly true for undocumented Latinas, who may fear legal repercussions if they seek formal help from an agency or the authorities. One study found that nearly half of Latinas did not report abuse to law enforcement due to factors such as fear, lack of confidence in the police, shame, guilty, loyalty and/or fear of partners, fear of deportation, and previous experience with childhood victimization. Other barriers to disclosure include self-blame, shame, and embarrassment. In some cases, lack of resources in the victim or survivor’s native language makes it difficult to seek services.
What can be done against the violence facing Hispanic women? The single most important thing that we can do as a culture is address the root causes of gender-based violence. Root causes include everything from the objectification of women to toxic gender norms to rape culture. These root causes affect all women — but may have a disproportionate effect on woman of color, including Latinas. When we take on these issues and work to make a change, we can make a difference for everyone affected by this type of violence.
We can also work to dismantle some of the barriers that Hispanic people face when seeking help for IPV. This may include ensuring that both services and information about services are available in different languages, and that they are accessible to all victims and survivors. We can also support policies that will protect individuals who report abuse from deportation and other government actions.
At Blackburn Center, we provide a range of services to victims of domestic and sexual violence and other types of crimes and abuse. Our services are offered to all women, children and men — and to people of every race. We strive to ensure that our services are accessible to everyone by offering translation and providing resources to those with limited English proficiency. Reach out today at 1-888-832-2272 (TDD available) to learn more about how we can help, or simply to speak to a trained crisis counselor. All calls to our hotline are free of charge and can be anonymous.