April 27, 2001

First National Forum Unites Men and Women to Seek Alternative Solutions, Beyond Criminalization, for Ending Domestic Violence in Latino Communities

New York — The increase in the number of batterers' intervention programs (BIPs), in recent years, has given rise to a growing and complex controversy within the domestic violence community. Some domestic violence advocates argue that the proliferation of BIPs is jeopardizing the safety of women. They believe that the use of criminal justice sanctions is the best approach for holding batterers accountable.

Others, like the National Latino Alliance for the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence (Alianza), hold that criminal prosecution, alone, is not an adequate means of dealing with the root causes of violence against women, particularly in communities of color. While maintaining that the safety of women is paramount, Alianza believes that an integrated and comprehensive approach that takes into account entire families and communities is a more effective way to go. Alianza also feels it is imperative to utilize culturally and linguistically competent approaches when working with Latino men, women, and children.

These are some of the themes that will be at the heart of a two-day national dialogue—Forum on Latinos Who Batter: Hope for Those Who Hurt Others, taking place in Pasadena, California, April 27 and 28. The forum, the first of its kind at the national level, is being organized by the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence/Alianza Latina Nacional Para Erradicar La Violencia Doméstica. The Alianza is the first and only national organization that focuses exclusively on the domestic violence needs and concerns of Latino communities. Its mission is to promote understanding, sustain dialogue, and generate solutions to move toward the elimination of domestic violence affecting Latino communities.

Through the presentation and discussion of seven models that work with Latinos who batter, the forum will explore the incorporation of cultural approaches, broaden the vision beyond criminal justice solutions, and promote a vision of women and men working together to put an end to domestic violence in Latino communities.

"We have been saving lives," says Sandra Camacho, co-chair of the Alianza, and a long-time domestic violence activist, "but the picture that we began to see was that men were in jail, women were in shelters, and children were in foster care. That is not an acceptable reality for us. We want to come up with alternatives to that picture."

Dr. Julia Perilla, who heads the Alianza Research Center, based in Atlanta, feels it is essential that men and women work together if Latino communities are to develop effective methods for putting an end to family violence. But it's not a strategy that everyone agrees with. "There continues to be tremendous resistance among women's advocates who tell me that this is not the way it's done," says Dr. Perilla. "But in many cases it's the abused women themselves who have asked that we work with the men."

Jerry Tello, Director of Los Angeles-based National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute, and an Alianza Steering Committee member, says "battering has tremendous effects on children, and if we don't work on healing the men, then we risk hurting the next generation." He also says Latino men need to assume some of the responsibility for developing solutions to end family violence. "The next generation is watching what we do."

Organizers of the forum also believe that domestic violence is not an individual problem of the abused woman, the male batterer, or even the couple. Rather, they see it as "a social malaise" that is allowed to occur and plays itself out in many families, regardless of race or ethnicity. Dr. Perilla says: "we believe that the abuse by men against women (in most cases) is a behavior that males have learned at home and in a society in which violence is an accepted way of resolving differences."

The first day of the forum will be limited to a group of forty participants, (domestic violence service providers, researchers, policy analysts and advocates) for the purpose of having a critical dialogue "entre familia/among family," about working with Latino male batterers, keeping in mind the safety of women, as well as the impact of domestic violence on children and the community as a whole.

The second day of the forum will be a general session, open to a wider audience, in which seven different models of doing this work with Latino male batterers will be presented and discussed:

The forum is scheduled for April 27 & 28 at the Sheraton Pasadena Hotel (303 East Cordova Street, Pasadena, California). Activities for the second day, which is open to the public, begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. A reception will follow from 5-7 p.m.

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