I’ll call her Lina. At 30-something, she was smart, driven, and had the bubbliest personality. Yet, every now and then, she’d come into work with dark sunglasses glued to her face, and would hide from everyone in the office. We’d later hear her story of how she tripped down the stairs, or about her latest mishap trying to rescue her cat. But inside, we all knew the truth: Though she didn’t fit the stereotypical profile, Lina was the victim of domestic violence.
In the big scheme of things, though, partner violence is just the tip of the iceberg. The media seldom covers stories of violence against women, unless they have a tinge of sensationalism: We’ve heard of Maria Santos Gorrostieta, the former mayor of Michoacán, Mexico; we’ve heard of Chrissy Lee Polis, the transgender woman beaten at a fast food restaurant in Maryland; and we’ve heard of female mutilations in Kenya. Yet, stories like Lina’s happen every day, all around us. According to Amnesty International, one in three women worldwide has been beaten, forced into sex, assaulted, beaten, mutilated or murdered. Yet most of these acts go undetected, unreported, and unpunished.
Read Related: How to Recognize & Help Victims of Domestic Violence
In low-income Latino communities, the problem seems to be more complicated. According to recent studies, Latinas have higher levels of partner violence than do white women. Yet, in the community, the topic is almost borderline taboo—the residuum of machismo?—leaving women at the mercy of their abusers. Latina victims are further disconnected from seeking or obtaining any help due to language, fear of deportation, or lack of knowledge about resources and U.S. laws. And more and more women continue to be left vulnerable.
So what’s a concerned person to do? If these statistics make your stomach churn (like they do to mine), here are some resources you can use to help:
- If you are a victim, find resources here: United States Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.
- If someone you know has experienced domestic or sexual violence, first call the police, then be a friend and help her.
- The Half the Sky Movement brings together video, websites, games, blogs and other educational tools to raise awareness of women’s issues. Join them on Twitter at #16Days.
- The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women’s social media campaign urges women to take action by reaching out to House leaders so that the Violence Against Women Act is reauthorized by Congress. Contact Congress or tweet @GOPLeader and @johnboehner demanding that they do it.
- Support organizations such as the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence (Alianza), provide bilingual information and resources for Latina victims of violence.
- Survivor Project has resources for intersex and transgender survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
- Get involved with Choose Respect or other programs that teach teens about healthy relationships, and help pass the message forward.
Violence affects the lives of way too many women like Lina, Chrissy, and Maria. As their lives, health and well-being are torn apart, so, too, is the very fabric of our society. As mothers, grandmothers, sisters, friends—and yes, husbands, brothers, fathers and amigos too—it is imperative that we use our voices to safeguard women—the backbone of our families, of our communities, and of the world.