Founded in 1990, by Dr. Julia Perilla, one of the nations’s leading experts and researchers in intimate partner violence and Latinos, Caminar Latino began at a time when the Latino presence in Atlanta was just beginning to appear.
As a result, the program began its work following the approach that was used by mainstream organizations. Women were encouraged and expected to become autonomous individuals, so they could leave their abusive partners. Following this model Latina participants attended group and obtained support and information for themselves without the program addressing the needs of the rest of her family. It soon became apparent that the women did not find this conventional approach helpful and participants began to challenge program team to “think outside the box” as it pertained to services.
In 1993, the women asked program staff to create a youth program for their children (all of whom had experienced and/or witnessed violence in their home), that would help them understand their experience and learn non-violent ways of being. Two years later, in 1995, the women requested that Caminar Latino start offering services for their violent partners, with whom many of them continued to live. All of them wanted the violence to stop, but very few of them wanted to leave their relationship. They argued that their partners needed help in learning new ways to behave non-violently and that the women’s newly-acquired understanding of the nature and dynamics of domestic violence needed to be understood by the men as well. While individuals and agencies expressed concern that we would be placing the women and children in danger if we also worked with the men, the women’s voices prevailed and Caminar Latino incorporated a 24-week, state-certified family violence intervention program for men.
Beginning in 2006, Caminar Latino started to create programming that helped to achieve the second part of our mission: helping to transform the community. This programming is based on the belief that our role in the community is to (a) provide opportunities for families to recognize their own strengths and use them in ways that stop the cycle of violence and (b) increase the capacity of the community to address this and other social problems. Based on this idea, programming was created for Caminar Latino participants to use their expertise in a manner that benefits them, their families, and their community. For the first five years of this initiative, the primary focus of our community capacity enhancement was the research that youth participants were conducting about their experience with violence and their recommendations about how to best address this issue. In 2011, Caminar Latino was offered the opportunity to adapt Casa de Esperanza’s Women’s Community Leadership (“Lideres”) curriculum to be utilized with women survivors who had received Caminar Latino’s support services in the past. In 2012, Caminar Latino began offering community trainings and technical assistance to other social service providers to increase their ability to serve Latinos in culturally competent ways.
Today Caminar Latino is a nationally recognized program for our approach in addressing intimate partner violence. As we did in the beginning, we continue to consult with and listen closely to the voices of the families.
Founded in 2018, by a group of leading experts that have advocated for Latino’s in the anti-violence field for decades, Latinos United for Peace and Equity (LUPE), began to foster more liberative systems and approaches for those impacted by violence.
LUPE was initiated in late April of 2018 in conversation between Caminar Executive Director, Jessica Nunan and Ruby White Starr where they discussed how power was conceptualized, activated, and institutionalized in organizations, the violence against women’s field, and U.S. society in general. During this time, Ruby, Olga Trujillo, and Pierre Berastain had left prior positions, which led to conversations about their mutual vision to create a national organization that changed the way things were done. All of these conversations exposed common values and interests to create a Latino-led national anti-violence organization that decentralized power, included all family members in responses and solutions, and resisted the subtle, yet pervasive mechanisms that lead to the marginalization of Latino, and other culturally-specific, individuals and communities in organizations, systems, and society. In Late May 2018, Patricia Moen, having also left a position to seek a similar vision, joined these efforts. By June of 2018, these founders had developed and received board approval, secured contracts, and launched LUPE.
Though LUPE launched in June 2018, LUPE’s founders were leaders in efforts to do similar work in partnership with Caminar Latino, and broadly on a national scale, as early as the 90’s. For example, in 1997, while working at a mainstream program, Ruby met Dr. Julia Perilla, who despite criticism had implemented culturally responsive practice and research approaches. Dr Perilla became a mentor to Ruby that continued into their roles on the Board of Directors for the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence, the most prominent national Latino domestic violence organization of its time. National efforts included work with Olga, who as Director of the Special Projects Division for the Office for Victims of Crime, oversaw the work of a large-scale, multi-systemic initiative involving several federal agencies and led by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, where Ruby was employed, and Dr. Perilla consulted. Additionally, as colleagues, Dr. Perilla and Patricia Moen worked together from 2011at Casa de Esperanza where many founders, including Pierre Berastain, who went on to direct the sexual assault offices at Harvard University, led similar efforts. These, and other efforts and subsequent conversations led LUPE founders to realize they could combine their national efforts and interests with local ones to give them both roots and wings and to establish an organization where leadership was self-organized rather than held in a management hierarchy.
To that end, LUPE was established to elevate the stories and visibility of survivors and communities impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking throughout the country and to work to eradicate the structural and social conditions that give rise to this violence. The strategies LUPE uses to fulfill this mission include: increasing public awareness, advancing public policy, and delivering training and technical assistance (TA). LUPE would not have been possible without it’s early supporters and special thanks to Nancy Smith and the Vera Institute of Justice and Lonna Davis at Futures without Violence whose partnerships were instrumental to launch LUPE.