Caminar Latino or “Latino Journey” signifies the main goal and purpose of Caminar Latino which is to walk with families during their journey towards non-violence and to offer opportunities for change in themselves, their families, and their communities.
Caminar Latino’s mission is to create opportunities for Latino families, affected by violence, to transform their lives and their communities.
The way we carry out our mission is a two prong approach:

  • Through our family initiative programming we provide opportunities for families to transform their lives by increasing a family’s capacity to identify the abusive behaviors, engage in dialogue with other people who have had similar experiences, and take action to transform their lives.
  • Through our community initiative program Caminar Latino is able to provide opportunities for community members to recognize their own strengths and use them to stop the cycle of violence and transform the community.
Possibly in three major ways:

  • We provide a comprehensive program for entire families
  • We see ourselves not as service providers, but rather as social change agents.
  • We emphasize the role of community, rather than the role of the professions in addressing this serious social problem.
In addition to the previous three ways in which Caminar Latino differs from other Latino domestic violence organizations, it differs from mainstream organizations in that the program was developed and continues to evolve totally within a Latino cultural framework. This allows Caminar Latino to bring into the intervention many of the “cultural codes” that may have had an important role in the occurrence of domestic violence in the first place and thus are essential elements in its eradication.
Compared to other survivors of Domestic Violence, Latinas have been found to underutilize services and one of the main reasons reported is the lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services (Casa de Esperanza, 2010). Sadly, this barrier is particularly true in Atlanta. Because of the importance of cultural values and traditions regarding domestic violence, culturally-specific programs have been found to be most effective in addressing domestic violence, but in Atlanta are only available through Caminar Latino.

In addition, traditionally domestic violence services had been tailored for white women who are citizens of the United States. For this reason, these services have strongly encouraged the women to leave their partners permanently, and this has been considered the primary goal of the intervention. Unfortunately, the mainstream approach does not take barriers such as documentation status, language, or cultural values and belief into consideration despite the large role that these factors might play in a survivor’s decision to stay or leave.

Based on these factors, Caminar Latino’s primary purpose is to provide culturally specific intervention and prevention services to Latino families affected by domestic violence that take into account the specific challenges and realities of this community. In addition to all the services being offered in Spanish, we have found that having staff who are also Latino, from the community, and can relate to the values and beliefs of the culture enable participants to better connect and confide in our staff. It is for this reason, that Caminar Latino not only places value in the education and training that a individual may have but also how well they are able to connect to the community we serve. Finally, being able to offer services to all parts of the family at the same location and time enables families to receive the intervention and prevention services they need at one time which greatly increases their chances for success. In addition, it allows Caminar Latino to have a more comprehensive understanding of what the family is experiencing by working with each part of the family.

Although unusual by mainstream standards, our experience has convinced us that this comprehensive approach is a respectful, effective, and culturally competent way of addressing domestic violence with immigrant Latinos, given the importance of family and community for this population.

Culturally-specific services:

  • Support and reflection groups for Latina survivors
  • 24-session, state-certified Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP) for batterers (which includes a substance abuse education component)
  • Four groups for youth witnesses of violence (0-3, 4-7, 8-11, 12-16 and 17+)
  • Crisis intervention
  • Information and referral services
  • Parenting classes
  • Leadership programming
  • Training and Technical Assistance
  • Interventions for LGBTQ participants

Cross-training opportunities:

  • Domestic violence
  • Cultural competence
  • The main goal of the weekly groups is to provide, as stated previously, safe spaces for entire Latino families to explore their experience of violence as perpetrators, survivors or witnesses and gain an understanding of their options and possibilities.
  • For many survivors, the weekly groups become a much-needed break from isolation, fear, and loneliness and a place where they can share experiences usually too difficult to talk about, while becoming aware of resources, services, and options.
  • For youth it is a place of stability and safety in which they can share their experiences (if they so choose) with other kids who have had similar experiences, while being supervised and mentored by people who genuinely care about them. It is also a place in which they can be kids, without the burden of feeling responsible for the violence that is present in their home.
  • For Latino men who have used violence against their families, the groups start (usually) as a court mandate but can turn (if they want to genuinely change) into places in which they can learn a great deal about their violence, explore its origins, and find workable solutions for its eradication.
  • At the same time, the weekly groups serve as a terrific training ground for students and community volunteers who want to understand in more depth this tremendous social problem. For some, it is an opportunity to come face-to-face with the limitations of our professions and our society and the common ground we share with people quite different from ourselves.
NEVER! Caminar Latino believes that survivors are the real experts concerning their lives. They have kept themselves and their children alive when they come to us so we do not want to do anything that will jeopardize the very tenuous balance that often exists in relationships in which there is violence. We are well aware of the statistics that show that over 70% of the women who are killed or seriously hurt have already or are attempting to leave their abuser. As a result, encouraging someone to leave may increase their risk exponentially. Studies have found that women are the best predictors of when violence will happen again and we believe that they must make their own decisions. Leaving is one of the several options that the group talks about, but Caminar Latino is more about supporting each woman along the path she has chosen – even if we don’t necessarily agree with her decision.
This was a question that Caminar Latino was asked early in its history. The idea of working “outside the box” by honoring the women’s voices in providing services not only for themselves and their children but for their partners as well was seen with great concern and misgivings by individuals and agencies. They were worried that the presence of services for men would put women and their children in danger. Although this was a very valid concern that we continue to take seriously, Caminar Latino has developed internal safety precautions that reduce the risk to women and children. As mentioned above, the comprehensive nature of Caminar Latino in which entire families are invited to attend is not only culturally appropriate and effective, but also addresses the reality of women who are still living with their partners and want to continue doing so. Interestingly, Caminar Latino is now recognized nationally as an innovative program that addresses domestic violence in many communities.
Reflecting what is known about domestic violence, most of the Latino men don’t appear that different from any other men. They are, overwhelmingly, responsible financial providers who are very proud of whatever work they do. Their families are central to their lives, they tend to be very good sons and family members, they would do anything for their children, AND they have used violence against their partners. One central characteristic of these men is the fact that they had not been aware of the tremendous impact that their violence was having on their families and Caminar Latino is the first time they have had a space in which to learn about and work on their violence. The men usually arrive very upset about having to attend the program and in the initial interview try to blame their partners for being there. As time goes on and they listen to each other’s accounts of their violence and begin to take responsibility for it, they are much more willing to use the program to gain knowledge and skills necessary to create a more violence-free environment for their families. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a “prototype” of a batterer. Their violence was learned growing up in a violent world (many of them came from homes in which violence was present) and they used violence as a way to resolve family conflict or challenges to what they perceive are their rights as men.
When participants are referred by the court/child protective services or any other authority are usually referred to one or the other. Caminar Latino provides Family Violence Intervention Program for women and men that have used violence.

The big difference between the two is who the target of the violence is. Those referred to Anger Management programs should be individuals who are unable to manage their anger in different situations in their lives (i.e. with their boss at work, with their family at home, having road rage episodes, etc).

Those referred to Family Violence Interventions Programs should be individuals who choose to be violent and abusive with those Caminar Latinoose to them, usually behind doors. The relationship is one of power differential, whereas the abuser has more power than the abused and it could be expressed in many forms (physical, verbal, emotional, sexual abuse, etc.)

Caminar Latino never does couple’s therapy, as this might increase the danger to the women and children.
Except in very rare circumstances, Caminar Latino does not provide individual counseling to women. We offer support and reflection groups for any Spanish-speaking woman who has been or is being affected by domestic violence, regardless of whether or not she lives with her partner, attends the weekly program with her partner or alone (or with her children), or has been in our program during a prior relationship in which violence was present. The focus is on what each individual survivor and her children need, so the program is set up to serve the wide range of realities of the families with whom we work. We have seen that, in many cases, families in which both parents and their children attend Caminar Latino appear to benefit in a more substantial and sustained way, but we would never turn someone away (man or woman) because their partner does not participate.
We tell the men – and strongly believe – that men who want to change their violence will benefit from the program, whereas men who are not interested in changing their ways will only be spending time with us without getting the benefits that are available to all. The vast majority of men undoubtedly stop using physical violence with their partners as they go through the program. The verbal and psychological abuse, however, are much more difficult to change and continue to be present in different degrees. Controlling behaviors and verbal abuse are long-standing patterns in most men and impossible to eradicate in the six months they are with us. Many women and children report that things are definitely better, although non-physical abuse may still be present.
Based on questionnaire results, 95% of participants consistently report an increase in their knowledge of domestic violence and access to services as well as an increase in their perceived level of safety and well-being. In addition, 90% of families where the adult male also participates in the program, report a cessation of physical violence within 2 weeks of entering the program and approximately 75% of the male participants complete the 24 week program (national completion rate for FVIP participants is between 35%-75%.)

In addition to the positive quantitative results, Caminar Latino has also seen the benefits of its approach through its participants. Some adult male participants continue to attend or support Caminar Latino even after they have completed their mandated time since they view the program as something that is beneficial to their family instead of a punishment for them. In addition, we have also seen adults who were originally in the program as participants, realize the value of their experiences and knowledge, and become women’s advocates or male group facilitators with Caminar Latino. For example, out of Caminar Latino’s 8 current staff members, 4 were previous participants. Furthermore, we have seen youth participants use their own experiences as witnesses of violence, to provide training and recommendations to social service providers, judges, and law enforcement about how they can better respond to domestic violence at 12 local, state, and national conferences and trainings.

Caminar Latino provides services regardless of individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Everybody has always been welcomed at Caminar Latino, although in the year 2013 we sought specific training from other local and national organizations in order to better serve the needs of the LGBTQ community. We understand the cultural differences of this community and we continue to look for additional training to understand those in the intersectionality of being LGBTQ, Latino and Immigrant.
As mentioned earlier, part of Caminar Latino’s mission is to help transform communities. As a result, we see our role as increasing the capacity of the community to address the issue of violence. In addition, given the increasing size and presence of Latino communities in the U.S., it is Caminar Latinoear that the service approach that Caminar Latino uses can be replicated in other areas of the country. Although direct replication of a program from one community to another is at times risky, we believe that simple adaptations, such as working in true partnership with the community, could be used by Latino organizations who want to work in this field. In the past and currently, Caminar Latino has served as a training and technical assistance consultant to organizations who wish to implement this approach in their own communities and gain insight from Caminar Latino’s history. While states such as California, Texas, and New Mexico have services for the Latino community, other areas of the United States have little to no resources for a population that is rapidly expanding its influence and numbers. The success which has been seen as a result of the innovations at Caminar Latino suggests that similar programs could be successful in their communities.