Latina women: Victims of domestic violence

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

    More than 65 percent of women who get help from a center for domestic violence in San Diego are Latinas.

    The numbers are alarming, but there are even more Latinas who don’t dare to denounce their aggressors because of fear, according to Cristina del Razo, an analyst at the San Diego Family Justice Center, a center that offers counseling and resources to people who have experienced violence at home.

    “I think it is because of a lack of formal education but also because of cultural issues,” Del Razo said. “Ever since we were little girls, Latinas are not taught to love ourselves.”

    Dr. Javier Campos, one of the psychologists who works with women at the San Diego Family Justice Center, said that the fear domestic violence victims suffer paralyzes them, it stops them from seeking help. What’s worse is that undocumented women are even less likely to try to leave the cycle of violence, for fear of deportation.

    “But they need to know that they can denounce without fear,” Campos said. “You have to call 9-11, no matter what you legal status in this country is.”

Machismo is still very present in Latino culture, which gives a place of authority to men and puts women as second-class citizens. This is a major reason for such a high incidence of domestic violence among Latinas.

    “Men feel they have the right to beat women, because they believe men have all the power,” Campos said. “Also, the culture tells women since they are little that they have to obey and be submissive.”

    The San Diego Family Justice Center is a safe place for domestic violence victims, who in their vast majority are women, where victims can seek help and escape from the cycle of violence.

    Among the services offered by the center, which works closely with authorities, are individual and group counseling, legal aid, and healthcare.

    October is the national month for domestic violence awareness. To support this, Verizon Wireless donated $150,000 to the San Diego Family Justice Center on Oct. 14.

    The funds will be used to provide computer and literacy education, and group therapy for victims throughout the county.

    “This is problem that impacts all of us. Maybe domestic violence happens behind closed doors, but its effects can be felt all over society,” said San Diego City Councilmember Marti Emerald.

    During the event, the San Diego Police Department sent a clear message: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, report the aggressor to the authorities.

    “Only this way will we be able to save lives,” said Cesar Solis, assistant chief of police. “Victims should know that they have the support of police, of firefighters. In San Diego, we don’t tolerate domestic violence.”

    And statistics indicate that it is truly a serious social problem: In one of every three U.S. households there’s domestic violence, according to Luis Cruz, spokesperson for Verizon, which in addition to money donations, also donates cell phones so that victims can have a way to contact police in case of abuse.

    To learn more about the San Diego Family Justice Center, call 866-933-4673 or visit www.sandiego.gov/sandiegofamilyjusticecenter. In case of an emergency, always call 9-11. The domestic violence hotline is 888-385-4657.

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