This September 15th through October 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month – an opportunity to honor the resilience of survivors from this community. Too often, the unique experiences and challenges of Hispanic survivors goes unrecognized. This month, let’s celebrate the strength and determination of Hispanic survivors, and explore the challenges and barriers this community faces when trying to receive services and resources.
Each year, millions of people experience sexual violence in the United States. Though anyone can be a victim of sexual violence, members of the Hispanic community face unique challenges that deserves our action and attention. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about sexual assault within the Hispanic community. In order to support Hispanic survivors and create safe communities for us all, it’s important that we understand these myths and the reality of sexual violence within our community.
Research shows that the Hispanic community experiences a higher than average rate of intimate partner violence. Latinas in particular are more likely to be victimized by sexual violence in their lifetimes. Married Latinas were also less likely than other women to immediately define their experiences of forced sex by their spouses as “rape” and terminate their relationships; some viewed sex as a marital obligation. You can learn more about these statistics, and more, here.
According to a recent report, a large number of women and girls who cross the Mexico-U.S. border are sexually assaulted during their journey (2014 investigative report by Fusion). This highlights the brutal reality facing many women who make the perilous journey north in search of a better life. For these women, rape has become an all-too-common occurrence, and many take measures to prevent pregnancy as a result of sexual assault. While some take birth control pills or get shots before embarking on their journey, others carry emergency contraception with them in case they are attacked. Unfortunately, even these precautions are not always enough to prevent pregnancy, and many women who are experience sexual assault on the journey end up giving birth to children conceived through violence. These children often face immense challenges in their lives, both from a physical and psychological standpoint. Verity has always known that the issue of sexual violence against migrant women is one that must be addressed urgently, and as a reminder, Verity provides services to all survivors regardless of immigration status.
Unfortunately, sexual abuse for the this community doesn’t subside when they reach US soil. Regardless of immigration status, sexual harassment is a major problem in the workplace. In a recent survey, 77 percent of Hispanic women said that they had experienced sexual harassment at work. This is far higher than the national average, which stands at just under 50 percent. There are a number of reasons why Latinas are more likely to experience sexual harassment at work. First, they are often employed in low-wage jobs where they have little power or authority. This makes them more vulnerable to abuse from their bosses or co-workers. Second, Latinas are often reluctant to report sexual harassment because they fear retaliation or reprisal. This leaves them open to continued abuse. Finally, many Latinas do not speak English fluently, which can make it difficult for them to communicate their experiences to authorities.
Campesinas, or female farmworkers, are some of the most vulnerable members of the workforce. They are more likely to be sexually assaulted or harassed at work than other workers, and these crimes often go unreported due to fear of retaliation. In addition to the physical and emotional trauma of these attacks, campesinas also bear the burden of supporting their families on low wages and dangerous working conditions. These challenges can make it difficult for campesinas to provide for their families. However, despite the many obstacles they face, campesinas continue to fight for their rights and dignity. Their strength and resilience is an inspiration to us all.
Hispanic survivors in our community face many barriers when it comes to seeking help and support. These include language barriers, cultural beliefs, and a lack of knowledge about available resources. In addition, many Hispanic survivors are reluctant to report sexual violence due to fear of reprisal from their attacker, community members, or concern about immigration status. As a result, Hispanic survivors often suffer in silence.
The good news is that resources and services are available to those need them. Verity is committed to providing bilingual, culturally relevant services for survivors of rape and sexual assault. We offer prevention education, community outreach, and crisis counseling services that are designed to meet the unique needs of this community. If you need support, whether you are a survivors or a friend or family member of a survivor, you can call our 24/7 crisis line at (707) 545-7273. When you call, you will be connected to trained crisis line counselors who can help you create a safety plan and provide you with resources.
Survivors of violence can also fall The Family Justice Center in Sonoma County at (707) 565-8255. The FJC Sonoma County empowers family violence victims to live free from violence and abuse by providing comprehensive services, centered on and around the victim through a single point of access. Building on strong interagency collaboration, we protect the vulnerable, stop the violence and restore hope.
Another resource survivors can utilize is the YWCA Sonoma County. The YWCA Sonoma County supports families affected by domestic violence by providing safe shelter, therapy, advocacy, and on-going support. Help is only a phone call away at (707) 546-1234. Their 24/7 Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline is ready to take your call.
By increasing awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence and the available resources, we can help to empower Hispanic survivors and break the cycle of silence and shame. Together, we can work towards creating a world where all individuals feel safe and supported after experiencing sexual violence.