Community Responses to Sexual Violence

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We want to learn from your rural experiences. This page highlights stories from rural

  • sexual assault advocates,
  • police officers,
  • medical personnel and
  • prosecutors.

Read Stories.

Submit your own story by contacting our rural team. 

 

Abogando con el Poder de mi Cultura / Advocacy with the power of my culture

I began working with a client who was undocumented and spoke only Spanish.  The 

appointments lasted 90 minutes.  I was stressed because I could not figure out why I couldn’t get our appointments done in 50 minutes like other appointments.  I was “encouraged” by my supervisor to make it 50 minutes—to follow a “standard” plan of care. 

I quickly realized that the standard plan wasn’t familiar to me or the client.  My boundaries weren’t the problem. In the Latina culture we deal with sexual assault in a different way. 

I needed to hear her tell her story, her history, her journey to this country and her pain and fears.  I needed to answer the questions she asked about where I was from and where my family came from.  We needed to spend a minute on what our favorite traditional dishes were.  I needed to offer “un cafécito” even if she didn’t ever accept it.  If she brought “galletitas” (cookies), I needed to receive them and thank her while we ate them together.  It was a bridge over difficult waters.  I realized my space was not welcoming for her—it  wasn’t even familiar to me!  In the following sessions, I had music, lowered lights and brought in pictures and items that made the space safe—a place to feel, a place to discuss hard topics.  We would greet and part ways with a hug and kiss. It’s respectful. Boundaries work differently for Latin@s.   

After working with this client, I changed my advocacy practice. I recorded my voicemail greeting in both Spanish and English. This way, when Spanish-speakers called, they knew I would call them back. I knew that talking to too many people was off putting, so my initial phone calls were longer. Instead of “I can schedule you at this time” I started with, “my name is Maria and this is what I do here.  I have a family and I know how hard it can be to experience this and need help in a country that doesn’t do things in a way that seems very respectful.  Tell me how I can help you.  What do you need me to help you with?”

I used all the things I grew up learning as a kid.  I never called them by their first names if they were older than me. I never ran from the mention of church and the value of faith.  I informed others answering the phone of the process when working with non-English speaking community members, whether they spoke Spanish or were of another culture.  I scheduled my time differently--usually 90 minutes for the first few appointments. I am a survivor—of both sexual assault and of an unforgiving and often biased culture toward Latin@s in United States. I had to make that a part of my advocacy as well.

I was creating a culturally relevant way of providing support that was very different from the “standard plan” in the office. It was hard because I had to bring awareness and information about the need for culturally relevant care to my coworkers, while doing the hard work of advocacy with my clients. I made myself solely responsible for creating awareness and change within my agency and within the community as the only Spanish-speaking Latina advocate.  I realized that was a mistake.

To address it, I worked on finding Latina Advocate support and asked for resources that were not readily available. PCAR was the outreached hand when I was alone and struggling.  A Latina Group was created and every other month or so we checked in, shared resources, offered information and support.  It was an absolute life raft. 

 I learned a great deal from that process. I now have the ability and tolerance to educate others on working with a culturally diverse population.  I made a habit of learning new cultures and the cultural impact of trauma. Personally, I feel so empowered to embrace and love my heritage and culture, instead of trying to keep it at a distance.

 It is everyone’s responsibility to be culturally prepared and have relevant materials, and especially respect for the different needs and models of care and support.  We still need so many resources to help support advocacy with people from many different cultures and backgrounds. We need materials to help us talk about sexual assault, the process of rape trials, triggers, self-care and so much more in a survivor’s own words and language. We also need t raining and information for Executive Directors, board members and supervisors on cultural diversities, needs and support for advocates.

We have a long way to go, but I think we can get there. I have hope that change is possible and have the desire to be a part of that change.  

 

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