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You may not know that women and girls are at a disadvantage in most societies, including in Latin@ communities. Women suffer much higher rates of domestic violence than men and a much higher percentage of sexual assault (though boys are also victims of sexual assault perpetrated by men in large numbers). Women are also generally disrespected, earn less money than men in similar positions (this is particularly true of Latinas) and are constantly exposed to sexual harassment at work or on the streets. Here are some actions that you can take to support organizations that work to raise the status of women and girls:
- Host a fundraiser to donate funds or supplies. You don’t have to plan anything complicated…a game night, cookout, birthday party; any reason to get together can become an opportunity to ask friends and family to support an important cause.
- Volunteer to join the board of directors or an advisory committee.
- Volunteer your talents to meet a need that the organization would have to pay for otherwise.
- Offer to convene a group of community men to support the organization in ways that it is helpful.
- Organize a cell phone collection drive for Verizon Hopeline. Donated cell phones provide funds to domestic violence shelters and free cell phones that connect women experiencing violence to critical resources.
If you know of an organization who should be on the list, please let us know using the Share Your Work form.
Additionally, here is a directory of service providers with experience working with immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, crimes of violence, and human trafficking. You can search by language, state and zip code.
By a recent estimate, more than 15 million children are exposed to domestic violence in their homes in the US. Many others are direct victims of child abuse. Statistically, half of these children are male. That means that there are millions of men in the US (and around the world) who have been traumatized by the terror of violence. A percentage of these men become perpetrators themselves, but the majority does not. Even though men and boys are taught not to share stories of vulnerability and to hide most of their feelings, it is very important that men who have witnessed or suffered violence speak up. As more men step forward with their stories, other men will follow their lead. This is how a movement is created and who would be better at fighting against violence than survivors of direct and indirect abuse.
Here are some things you can do:
- Before sharing your story, it can be helpful to embark in a journey of self-reflection and healing. Most people who have been exposed to violence benefit from receiving help and support from someone trained in understanding the impact of trauma. This could be a trusted person from the community, like a pastor, or it could be someone who works as a counselor or therapist. As part of receiving support, it is important to develop an emotional safety plan, in case past trauma gets stimulated by present circumstances. It can be painful and difficult to deal with violence that was witnessed or experienced in our lives, and it’s helpful to have support to be able to deal with the past and live well in the present.
- If you feel safe, share with your close friends part of your story. It might help them understand the gravity of the problem. Also, if you decide to interrupt their inappropriate jokes or comments, there is nothing more powerful than to tell a first-person story. For instance, you can say, “this is the way my father treated my mother and it is painful for me to hear.”
- If you were exposed to abuse as a child and are in a process of healing, you might want to consider sharing your story to a wider audience, either by writing it or speaking at an event. This is not an easy process and it should only be tried, if you have strong support around the process of “coming out” as a survivor. The support can come from family, friends or professionals.
The Historias de Hombres project featured in the Tools and Materials section is a program that engages men in sharing their own stories to promote awareness in their communities.
A speakers’ guide has been developed by the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence in multiple languages to help support survivors who want to tell their stories.
This is another action that takes courage, but not the kind of courage that often leads to violence. As a man, you have influence and privilege (whether you want it or know it or not). That means that other men (and women) listen to you. Use this privilege to set an example and talk to other men about the fact that violence against women is wrong. At the beginning, this is not easy because from very early on, boys and men receive the message that there are consequences for leaving the “club” of traditional masculinity. But times are changing and an increasing number of men are speaking out when they hear other men make sexist jokes, harass women on the streets, or try to justify or deny the fact that violence against women is an epidemic problem.
Here are some things you can do:
- If you are volunteering your time or money for a women’s or girl’s organization, tell your male friends and colleagues why this is important for you and invite them to join you in supporting the agency.
- If one of your friends or colleagues makes a sexist joke or harasses a woman in front of you, calmly and firmly interrupt them and explain that creating a hostile environment for and devaluing women, even “just joking,” are reasons why other men feel entitled to mistreat women and girls in more serious ways. You can say things like “I don’t think that’s funny,” or “Those kind of comments make me uncomfortable” or “if some men disrespect women, other men feel permission to abuse them.”
- When other men devalue women in any way, remind them that they are also talking about their mothers, sisters, daughters and so on.
- Learn to watch movies and TV with a critical eye. We are surrounded by messages that devalue women, minimize the violence that they experience, and limit the ways that men can express themselves and still be considered “manly”. When watching a movie or TV with friends, point out casually if there are sexist depictions of women and girls that bother you and explain why. This can also be an opportunity to discuss illustrations of traditional masculinity and the glorification of violence.
Organize a study group with other like-minded men to discuss how violence affects you all and your loved ones. Check out the Tools & Materials section for ideas of ways to engage men in your area.
Check out the Te Invito Campaign included in this toolkit is a good example of men and boys in the community, coming together to involve other men and boys in the efforts to end violence against women. You can use the PSA as a point of departure for a community meeting or group of men, by asking them to answer the questions posed by the campaign.
Being an ally to women and girls goes beyond supporting their causes. It is connected with self-reflection because as an ally, you really need to know yourself. It takes a lot of strength to be a good ally, but not the kind of strength that men usually learn about in society. Instead, it is the strength to deeply listen to women’s stories, to fully believe them and not to negate their experiences, to allow women to take the lead and respectfully follow, to “step up to the plate” when it’s called for and women want it, and to step aside when you are not needed. Being a true ally involves not following your urge to fix things and find solutions to every problem; it often only involves listening well.
Here are some things that good allies do:
- When offering help to an individual woman or women’s organization, make an effort to really listen to what they want from you. Don’t assume that you know what’s best for them.
- If a woman tells you that she is suffering abuse, believe her and reassure her that it is never her fault. Help her connect to an organization for women who have experienced violence if that’s what she wants. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for more information on organizations in your area.
- Be aware of the signs of possible domestic violence. They can include: Threats against a partner or their family, insults, extreme jealousy; controlling actions, such as not allowing the partner to work, visit friends, talk to family, learn English, etc.; physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, cruelty to pets.
- Call your congress people to support legislation to help combat violence against women, such as the Violence Against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention Services Act.
- Learn how to support teens in dating relationships.
For more information on how to be an ally, check out this article by Michael Urbina.
Additional Resources from the
The National Latin@ Network maintains an archive of past webinars on many intersecting topics that can be accessed here. A brief registration form is required to access the recordings. Some webinars of interest include:
- Sexual Assault Aweareness Month Blog Talk Recording
- Working together to end Abuse in Later Life in Latin@ Communities Recording
- Developing Practices to Effectively Prevent and Respond to Teen Dating Violence in Latin@ Communities Recording
- Trans-National: TransLatin@s in the U.S. Recording
This takes even more courage than influencing other men because it involves intervening when you see violence or the threat of violence. It is a tricky skill because you should not put yourself or others in harm’s way or respond to violence with more violence. Being a positive bystander involves finding safe ways to interrupt a violent or potentially violent situation, even when it involves strangers.
Sometimes, just making the aggressor aware that you know about the situation might help mitigate the abuse. For instance, there is a new international campaign that originated in India, which encourages neighbors to ring the doorbell when they hear possible sounds of abuse and ask an unrelated question, such as “can I borrow some sugar?” These kinds of approaches might be particularly helpful in communities and situations when it is not recommended to call the police, for whatever reason. Of course, if you suspect that someone’s life is in danger, you should always call 911 right away.
Another creative approach to bystander intervention is illustrated by the story of a young man who, during a party, noticed that a group of men were leading an intoxicated young woman upstairs to one of the house’s bedrooms. He suspected that they were up to no good, but didn’t feel safe to physically intervene. Instead, he had a great idea: He pulled the fire alarm in the house and everybody had to evacuate it, while emergency personnel arrived at the scene. There are creative ways in which we can interrupt potentially dangerous situations, without escalating the violence.
The Hombres Unidos contra la Violencia Familiar program featured in the “Tools and Materials” section is a program that trains men to be positive bystanders. The Ring the Bell campaign mentioned above provides concrete ideas for community members to use to interrupt incidents of violence.
One of the most important roles that all men can play is being a role model to boys (and girls!), whether they are your own children or not. Frankly, the only way that we really can eliminate the problem of violence against women is by sending a strong message to the next generation that it will not be tolerated. We all know that children learn what they see, from very early on. Most men who use violence came from households where they witnessed their fathers (or father figures) being violent. But many boys who grow up in abusive households do not become violent adults and the number one reason might be that there were other adults in their lives who were not violent and provided guidance and nurturing.
Here are actions you can take:
- If you are a father of boys or girls, the most important action you can take to help your children is to be loving and respectful with your intimate partners (including present and past). It is also important to talk to boys about why it is important to honor and respect girls and to point out how society sends the message that women and girls are less important than men and boys, in all its manifestations (media, sports, pornography, peers) and that these messages are unjust.
- Whether you are a father or not, there are probably boys in your life who could use these types of messages or role modeling. You might be a community (or professional) coach, or a Sunday school (or professional) teacher, or an uncle or padrino. All of these are opportunities for you to mentor a young guy. If the boy has experienced violence at home, you might be the difference between his adopting violence as a way of life or not. Think about it.
- If you are a young man, you can have a lot of influence on your peers and younger men. Younger kids look up and learn from their older classmates, brothers, cousins, and friends. Send positive messages and model healthy attitudes for younger kids. Make sure that they know that it’s not cool to disrespect girls, and that it’s okay to try to walk a different path.