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Kansas coalition initiative connects Latino domestic violence victims to community services

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TOPEKA — A new statewide initiative is working to increase awareness of community services available to Latino victims of sexual and domestic violence, taking into account the unique circumstances that keep many from accessing help.

The multimedia program, Together We Can Help, was initiated by the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence in response to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data showing 34% of Latinas say they have experienced this type of violence. The campaign initiated this month will be in Spanish and focus on social media outreach and other media alternatives, like Spanish on radio broadcasts to inform of services in the community.

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“Through research conducted for us, we focused this campaign on the barriers some Hispanics may experience regarding seeking services,” said Joyce Grover, executive director of KCSDV. “Our services are free, confidential, and not affiliated with law enforcement or the government.”

The coalition is a nonprofit with 25 member sexual and domestic violence programs across the state, many of whom already provide services in Spanish and other languages. They will initiate a strategy that, along with a strong media presence, will use word of mouth and trusted community figures to help spread information.

Grover also highlighted the Kansas Crisis Hotline, which provides services in Spanish and other languages.

“This is an opportunity to broaden awareness to Hispanic communities about our services, especially during the pandemic,” Grover said.

Puente Marketing, a Kansas City-based firm, created and researched the plan with the central idea of “comadres and compadres,” described by Norberto Ayala-Flores, principal owner of Puente Marketing, as a cross between a best friend and a godparent.

“The tagline — Juntos le ayudamos — makes KCSDV and its member organizations an ally to all comadres and compadres,” Ayala-Flores said.

Another reason KCSDV is focusing on a community-based approach is the fact many will not report these crimes because of complications with their or their family’s immigration status. This was a primary concern behind opponents of a new law banning sanctuary ordinances.

Lindsie Ford, an attorney for the coalition, said trust from both the community and their neighbors can play a major role in ensuring the Latino community knows how and where they can seek the services they need to find safety. Ford also noted that many of these women may be victims of threats or coercion by their abuser.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 34.8% of Latinas say they have experienced some sort of sexual coercion, rape or both. Abusers often use the immigrant survivor’s status to exert control over their victims, Ford said.

“When applying for access to the United States, a fiancé visa can require a sponsoring citizen to vouch for their significant other,” Ford said. “Many abusers hold this over the heads of their spouses. Even those who did not sponsor their partner’s access to the country will utilize threats of deportation as a tool to force compliance on the part of their victim.”

Ford added some immigrants may not understand their rights, thus the need for programs that ensure a safe pathway to safety.

That is a similar focus for the Mattie Rhodes Center, which serves more than 1,000 individuals in the Kansas City area, including Johnson and Wyandotte Counties. More than two-thirds of those they serve are from Latin America and only speak Spanish.

Their Nuevo Dia Domestic Violence Program, started in June 2000, gives similar consideration to the unique circumstances that keep these women from reporting crimes or utilizing resources to escape a dangerous home.

“Community support can make the difference between pursuing a safe future free of abuses for all survivors,” Ford said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Get help in Lawrence

Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.
File for an order of protection

In Kansas, victim-survivors of stalking and abuse can file for court orders of protection from abuse or stalking online. Visit kspop.org and follow the instructions on the website. The service is available for any county in Kansas.

Learn the warning signs

Read about warning signs of domestic violence and emotional abuse and learn how you can help at this link.

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