Latinx immigrant and refugee survivors have unique advocacy needs. They may have had experiences, such as border crossing or anti-immigrant political rhetoric, that affect their sense of safety and security. It may be more difficult for these survivors to obtain services because of language barriers as well as cultural norms and beliefs. Advocacy efforts must address these barriers to ensure all survivors have access to services. The following information is intended for advocates who work with Latinx immigrant and refugee communities.
The Cultivating Fear report by Human Rights Watch (2012) found that of the 52 farmworker women interviewed, all had either experienced sexual violence or harassment and/or knew of someone who had.
Advocacy considerations for working with Latinx immigrant and refugee victims and survivors of sexual assault:
- Relationship-building is key, both with individual survivors and within communities. Advocates can help build relationships by listening and, when appropriate, offering a range of information and services. Agencies can offer consistency and well-advertised Spanish language access to build trust in communities.
- Small steps and patience are needed with all survivors.
- Be approachable and welcoming. Keep in mind that a survivor may come to you in different ways than "calling the crisis line." If an advocate is known in and trusted by the community, a survivor may approach them, for example, in a laundromat while washing clothes.
- Silence around sexual violence can be a challenge in many communities and Latinx survivors are no different. A survivors shame or guilt about sexual assault can outweigh the need to reach out for help.
- Find ways to reduce the stigma of talking about sexual violence, such as initiating conversations about healthy relationships or self-care. Also providing "Know Your Rights" session can also approach sexual violence issues as well as build community trust.
- Sexual assault is a crime whether a survivor has legal status to be in the United States or not. It is important for each agency to have legal services information specific to immigrant and refugee survivors.
- Collaboration is critical. Build relationships with other community partners and organizations that work with Latinx immigrant and refugee communities.
- There is no "one size fits all" approach. Ask questions about and be aware of cultural, family, and community norms and beliefs that may affect experiences and healing.
We have compiled additional resources to help you in your work. Together we can provide more comprehensive and culturally relevant advocacy efforts to support your work with Latinx immigrant and refugee communities in Washington State.
- Alianza Latina en contra la Agresion Sexual (ALAS) releases position statement regarding the elimination of barriers to services for Latin@ survivors (2004)
- Arte Sana ("… a national Latina-led nonprofit committed to ending sexual violence and other forms of gender-based aggressions…")
- Existe Ayuda Toolkit (Spanish language toolkit that addresses sexual assault)
- Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability of Immigrant Farmworkers in the US to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment - Human Rights Watch
- Reporte Cultivar el Temor: La vulnerabilidad de los trabajadores agricolas inmigrantes frente a la violencia y el acoso sexual en Estados Unidos - Human Rights Watch
- Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (resources for advocates, and Know Your Rights information for survivors accessible in eight different languages)
- Refugee Women's Alliance (ReWA) (information for immigrant and refugee survivors "to help them break away from an abusive environment" - information is accessible in 11 different languages)
- SALAS: Sexual Assault Among Latinas (SALAS) Study (2010) "A national sample of 2,000 adult Latino women participated in this study to determine the extent of sexual victimization alone and the overlap of sexual victimization with other forms of victimization."
- Spanish-speaking Victim Access Information (2010) from Arte Sana (describes the availability of victim assistance website information in Spanish on a state-by-state basis and provides information on language and cultural barriers)
- The State of Spanish Language Victim Advocacy (2009) from Arte Sana (a review of domestic and sexual violence state coalition website content in Spanish with information about the Spanish-speaking population and suggestions for improving access to services)