Latino abuse victims underserved 

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Indiana's outreach efforts to victims of domestic and sexual violence do not adequately address the needs within the state's growing Latino community, according to a report released Tuesday.

On an A-E grading scale, Indiana received an overall grade of D, indicating recognition of the state's growing Latino population, but lack of a prioritized response to the special needs experienced within that community.

The State of Cultural Competence in Indiana, conducted by the Indiana Latino Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, assessed the services of 81 domestic and sexual violence outreach centers across Indiana. Despite the state's low grade, the authors commended the organizations that participated in the study for their across-the-board willingness to cooperate with the effort.

"Each and every organization displayed a desire to increase their understanding of cultural competency in order to help all victims," said Marlene Dotson, the coalition board president and founder, in a news release.

"The Latino Coalition recognizes the struggles that victims face when seeking help, and we simultaneously understand the hurdles that service providers must overcome when working across cultural barriers."

Since completing the assessment in December 2010, the coalition has provided cultural competence training to 78 outreach workers.

Report authors noted that in the Latino community, "abusers often use the victims' unauthorized or non-citizen immigrant status as a means of control, threatening deportation, hiding important documents, or refusing to file immigration papers."

In addition, they noted, "lack of transportation and childcare are also barriers, as more than 60% of Latino victims arrive to shelters, support groups, and appointments with no means of personal transportation and with their children."

Extreme examples of domestic violence in the local Latino community cited in the report include a 2004 case where a 22-year-old estranged husband stabbed his 4-year-old son in front of his mother, then committed suicide, and a 2009 case where a toddler witnessed the stabbing of his mother by his father. The report notes that the families were Mexican immigrants that did not speak English.

The report authors offered several recommendations for ways in which shelters can improve cultural competence.

Most outreach providers do not prioritize the hiring of bilingual or bicultural staff, even when the position is charged in dealing with the Latino community, or use Latino media to advertise open positions, the report noted.

It concludes such deficiencies can be addressed, in part, by creating partnerships within local Latino communities and organizations, including the cultivation of a Latino volunteer base.

"For cultural competence to take root, board members and leaders of these organizations must make (it) a priority," authors note.

Marion County is home to nearly 70,000 Latinos. After Lake County, it has the largest Latino community in the state. In the nine-county central Indiana region, the Latino population is nearly 93,000.

The study found 16 organizations providing outreach services to victims of domestic and sexual violence in central Indiana. Of these organizations, the report found that 38 percent did not have any Latino staff and 25 percent were unable to communicate in any language other than English.

The region received an overall cultural competence grade of C, meaning "the participating organizations are beginning to talk about how to become culturally competent in serving Latino victims and will need support in order to reach higher levels of cultural competence."

But in some assessment areas, the grade slipped to D.

"Currently, these organizations do not seem to be working with the local Latino communities to develop a better understanding of the needs of Latino victims," the authors note, adding that the groups could benefit from better use of Spanish-language media and providing incentives to staff with bilingual or bicultural skills.

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Rebecca Townsend

Rebecca Townsend

Rebecca Townsend served as NUVO news editor from May 2011 to August 2014. During a 20-plus year career, her bylines have appeared in publications ranging from Indiana AgriNews to the Wall Street Journal. Her undergraduate degree is in sociology and anthropology from Earlham College, and her master's is in journalism... more

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