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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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.)
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.