Battered Immigrant Program: Prevention and Recovery

Competition Finalist

This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
No Private Matter! Ending Abuse in Intimate & Family Relations competition.

The main focus of our program is providing classes on the connection between HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. The population with the highest increase in HIV/AIDS infection is heterosexual women. Violence against women is one of the largest contributors to this recent trend in infection. On a global scale women face abuse in the form of sexual violence, including rape, which is often a woman’s first sexual experience. Locally, violence against women is shaped by two unique factors: immigration status and machismo prevalent in, but not exclusive to, Hispanic culture. These two factors increase the vulnerability of women as they are more easily manipulated due to their illegal status and dominated through use of stereotypical gender roles dictating the submissiveness of females. Immigrant women in an abusive relationship are often threatened that if they speak out against their partner they will be deported. In addition, machismo dictates that women submit to their partner, including meeting the sexual needs of their spouse regardless of their wants and needs. For example, in many of the Latin American countries from which these families derive, marital rape is not considered a crime. Therefore, the principal aspect of domestic violence that we focus on is HIV/AIDS as a consequence of sexual assault suffered by immigrant women in an abusive relationship. Our program takes into account that many spouses of immigrant women in the local community are agricultural workers, who are statistically proven to express confusion about the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexual transmitted diseases. In the past our program educated these farm workers about condom use (many of whom had never seen one before) and other ways to engage in safe sex. However, this outreach effort was exclusive to HIV/AIDS education and did not take into account the aspect of domestic violence. Once the connection was made, our organization realized that we must give women the power to negotiate condom use if in an abusive relationship by showing them how to use the female condom, rather than merely providing male condoms to spouses who are often unwilling to use them.
We directly assist immigrant women in low-income “housing authorities.” Our program pushes that HIV/AIDS is another form of violence suffered by women in an abusive relationship. Therefore, by educating immigrant women on issues of domestic violence and all its forms, including rape, and how to negotiate condom use by showing them how to use the female condom and distributing it to them free of charge, our program helps prevent the violence of HIV/AIDS. In addition, we provide legal orientation, including how to apply for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), orientation with local authorities who explain the resources available to them as women suffering violence, regardless of legal status, and provide on-site rapid HIV/AIDS tests for the women at the end of the program.
But ending domestic violence can only be accomplished by targeting all levels of the community. Therefore, we also enter elementary, high schools, universities and churches in order to provide a comprehensive network of support in the struggle to end violence against women. We realize that violence is a cycle and that local youth growing up in violent homes are more susceptible to both suffering and executing violence. Given the cycles of violence, educating immigrant women is not enough. We enter elementary schools in order to teach classes about gender equality as a means to prevent violence in the home. High schools are also entered and we give classes on teen dating violence related to domestic violence and how to exit an abusive relationship as an adolescent. We refer youth who come forward with their past abuse to therapy sessions. Realizing the importance of following through on our outreach and referring those in need to therapy, Las Americas not only educates youth about domestic violence issues but helps victims or former victims of violence in an effort to heal wounds and prevent future violence.

About You

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Location

Project Street Address

Project City

Project Province/State

Project Postal/Zip Code

Project Country

n/a

Your idea

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Focus of activity

Advocacy

Year the initiative began

2006

Position your initiative on the mosaic of solutions

Which of these barriers is the primary focus of your work?

Culture Of Acceptance

Which of the insights is the primary focus of your work?

Create Paths to Prevention or Remediation

If you believe some other barrier or insight should be included in the mosaic, please describe it and how it would affect the positioning of your initiative in the mosaic

It is difficult to choose just one barrier. Our program attempts to overcome women's low status, insensitive and unresponsive systems, stigmas of abusive, and aggresive models of masculinity as well.

Name Your Project

Battered Immigrant Program: Prevention and Recovery

Describe Your Idea

The main focus of our program is providing classes on the connection between HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. The population with the highest increase in HIV/AIDS infection is heterosexual women. Violence against women is one of the largest contributors to this recent trend in infection. On a global scale women face abuse in the form of sexual violence, including rape, which is often a woman’s first sexual experience. Locally, violence against women is shaped by two unique factors: immigration status and machismo prevalent in, but not exclusive to, Hispanic culture. These two factors increase the vulnerability of women as they are more easily manipulated due to their illegal status and dominated through use of stereotypical gender roles dictating the submissiveness of females. Immigrant women in an abusive relationship are often threatened that if they speak out against their partner they will be deported. In addition, machismo dictates that women submit to their partner, including meeting the sexual needs of their spouse regardless of their wants and needs. For example, in many of the Latin American countries from which these families derive, marital rape is not considered a crime. Therefore, the principal aspect of domestic violence that we focus on is HIV/AIDS as a consequence of sexual assault suffered by immigrant women in an abusive relationship. Our program takes into account that many spouses of immigrant women in the local community are agricultural workers, who are statistically proven to express confusion about the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexual transmitted diseases. In the past our program educated these farm workers about condom use (many of whom had never seen one before) and other ways to engage in safe sex. However, this outreach effort was exclusive to HIV/AIDS education and did not take into account the aspect of domestic violence. Once the connection was made, our organization realized that we must give women the power to negotiate condom use if in an abusive relationship by showing them how to use the female condom, rather than merely providing male condoms to spouses who are often unwilling to use them.
We directly assist immigrant women in low-income “housing authorities.” Our program pushes that HIV/AIDS is another form of violence suffered by women in an abusive relationship. Therefore, by educating immigrant women on issues of domestic violence and all its forms, including rape, and how to negotiate condom use by showing them how to use the female condom and distributing it to them free of charge, our program helps prevent the violence of HIV/AIDS. In addition, we provide legal orientation, including how to apply for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), orientation with local authorities who explain the resources available to them as women suffering violence, regardless of legal status, and provide on-site rapid HIV/AIDS tests for the women at the end of the program.
But ending domestic violence can only be accomplished by targeting all levels of the community. Therefore, we also enter elementary, high schools, universities and churches in order to provide a comprehensive network of support in the struggle to end violence against women. We realize that violence is a cycle and that local youth growing up in violent homes are more susceptible to both suffering and executing violence. Given the cycles of violence, educating immigrant women is not enough. We enter elementary schools in order to teach classes about gender equality as a means to prevent violence in the home. High schools are also entered and we give classes on teen dating violence related to domestic violence and how to exit an abusive relationship as an adolescent. We refer youth who come forward with their past abuse to therapy sessions. Realizing the importance of following through on our outreach and referring those in need to therapy, Las Americas not only educates youth about domestic violence issues but helps victims or former victims of violence in an effort to heal wounds and prevent future violence.

Innovation

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Description of Initiative

The main focus of our program is providing classes on the connection between HIV/AIDS and domestic violence. The population with the highest increase in HIV/AIDS infection is heterosexual women. Violence against women is one of the largest contributors to this recent trend in infection. On a global scale women face abuse in the form of sexual violence, including rape, which is often a woman’s first sexual experience. Locally, violence against women is shaped by two unique factors: immigration status and machismo prevalent in, but not exclusive to, Hispanic culture. These two factors increase the vulnerability of women as they are more easily manipulated due to their illegal status and dominated through use of stereotypical gender roles dictating the submissiveness of females. Immigrant women in an abusive relationship are often threatened that if they speak out against their partner they will be deported. In addition, machismo dictates that women submit to their partner, including meeting the sexual needs of their spouse regardless of their wants and needs. For example, in many of the Latin American countries from which these families derive, marital rape is not considered a crime. Therefore, the principal aspect of domestic violence that we focus on is HIV/AIDS as a consequence of sexual assault suffered by immigrant women in an abusive relationship. Our program takes into account that many spouses of immigrant women in the local community are agricultural workers, who are statistically proven to express confusion about the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexual transmitted diseases. In the past our program educated these farm workers about condom use (many of whom had never seen one before) and other ways to engage in safe sex. However, this outreach effort was exclusive to HIV/AIDS education and did not take into account the aspect of domestic violence. Once the connection was made, our organization realized that we must give women the power to negotiate condom use if in an abusive relationship by showing them how to use the female condom, rather than merely providing male condoms to spouses who are often unwilling to use them.
We directly assist immigrant women in low-income “housing authorities.” Our program pushes that HIV/AIDS is another form of violence suffered by women in an abusive relationship. Therefore, by educating immigrant women on issues of domestic violence and all its forms, including rape, and how to negotiate condom use by showing them how to use the female condom and distributing it to them free of charge, our program helps prevent the violence of HIV/AIDS. In addition, we provide legal orientation, including how to apply for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), orientation with local authorities who explain the resources available to them as women suffering violence, regardless of legal status, and provide on-site rapid HIV/AIDS tests for the women at the end of the program.
But ending domestic violence can only be accomplished by targeting all levels of the community. Therefore, we also enter elementary, high schools, universities and churches in order to provide a comprehensive network of support in the struggle to end violence against women. We realize that violence is a cycle and that local youth growing up in violent homes are more susceptible to both suffering and executing violence. Given the cycles of violence, educating immigrant women is not enough. We enter elementary schools in order to teach classes about gender equality as a means to prevent violence in the home. High schools are also entered and we give classes on teen dating violence related to domestic violence and how to exit an abusive relationship as an adolescent. We refer youth who come forward with their past abuse to therapy sessions. Realizing the importance of following through on our outreach and referring those in need to therapy, Las Americas not only educates youth about domestic violence issues but helps victims or former victims of violence in an effort to heal wounds and prevent future violence.

Innovation

Our program is unique in that it educates people about the connection between domestic violence and HIV/AIDS. Many organizations provide outreach on one topic or the other, neglecting how violence against women contributes to the spread of HIV/AIDS among women, the population with the highest increase of infection. Discussing HIV/AIDS within the context of domestic violence allows us to break the myths of HIV/AIDS infection, and that in fact, monogamous women in a marriage are not safe from contracting HIV/AIDS, especially when domestic violence is involved. Our multi-dimensional approach to both topics allows us to promote the fact that domestic violence should also be treated as a public health issue. We our revolutionizing how society should approach and prevent violence against women by showing their susceptibility to contracting HIV/AIDS due to violence, including rape. For instance, Planned Parenthood provides on-site tests for our program participants. However, initially this organization viewed our clients’ backgrounds as very low-risk and almost not worth testing. However, we are working on educating all local Planned Parenthoods about new risk factors, including how a woman in an abusive relationship that doesn’t trust her partner and suffers rape does in fact belong in a high-risk category.
We also show women how to use a female condom as a means of re-empowering their ability to negotiate condom use. Studies have been conducted that show men who are unwilling to use a male condom are more willing to use protection if a woman uses a female condom. In addition, we provide examples in the form of dialogues on how to approach your partner about protected sex. Another unique aspect of our program is that we attempt to prevent domestic violence by educating elementary school children about gender equality.

Delivery Model

Promotoras, or community healthcare workers, are used to reach our target populations. These are women who are from the local community and are established as leaders. Considering most promotoras were born and raised in the neighborhoods in which we do outreach, they know the specific needs of each community and are very well connected and thus effective in spreading the word about our program. Studies have also been conducted that indicate word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools to reach the Latino community. We have various promotional flyers advertising our program which are distributed at local restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores in neighborhoods of outreach. We measure the impact of our outreach efforts through use of evaluation by program participants: (i.e. how did you hear about our program?).
Specifically when addressing youth we communicate our messages using “play therapy” techniques taught to our volunteers by a child therapist at our local domestic violence shelter. We conduct entertaining activities that allow the children to learn while having fun. This is especially important considering the serious nature of our topic.

Key Operational Partnerships

We have established strong partnerships with other non-profits in the area including International AIDS Empowerment, Planned Parenthood, the Center Against Family Violence, Sexual Trauma and Assault Response Services (STARS), and our local 211 information center. International AI DS Empowerment provides us with infected experts who conduct a class on HIV/AIDS during our six-week sessions. At this time these infected experts share their personal stories which poignantly reach everyone present. Planned Parenthood provides our on-site HIV/AIDS test at the end of our program. The Center Against Family Violence helps train our promotoras through free workshops. The Sexual Trauma and Assault Response Services takes in referrals made through our high school outreach and actually provides therapy at schools after an initial intake session. And finally, we are part of our local 211 information database, allowing our name and number to be accessed by the community at large who might not have directly heard about our program through our own promotion.

Impact

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Financial Model

Las Americas provides all of our services free of charge, including our legal assistance to asylum seekers, which is another project of ours. While our promotoras are volunteers, considering they are low-income themselves, we provide small stipends at the end of each month in order to help them with their personal needs.

What percentage, if any, of the total operating costs does earned income (from products, services, or other fees) represent?

0

How is the initiative financed? Is it financially self-sustainable or profitable? How much do beneficiaries contribute?

70% of our program is funded by donations and the other 30% through grants. Yes, as long as our organization continues to connect to our local community and pursue national and international grants, we are self-sustainable.

Effectiveness

As mentioned, Planned Parenthoods are becoming aware of new risk factors for HIV/AIDS, taking into consideration abused women unable to negotiate condom use with an unreliable partner. In addition, our local school system is changing by confronting issues like gender equality and teen dating violence. It is hoped that our program continues and eventually becomes a standard part of high school curricula in the area, similar to health and physical education classes required by the school.

How many people have benefited from your program over the last year? Which element of the program proved itself most effective?

Since the inception our domestic violence and HIV/AIDS outreach program in September of 2006, we have reached over fifty immigrant women living in low-income housing, the majority of whom have been or will be tested for HIV/AIDS. We have reached over 200 high school youths, and fifty elementary school youths.
The most effective element of our program is our “peer to peer” education system. Utilizing both promotoras and jr. promotoras has allowed us to reach the community from an insider’s approach. The messages we’ve communicated have taken form in the voice of a local speaking to his or her community members which has proven the most effective way to cause change.

Scaling up Strategy

Over the next three years, our goals include expanding our program regionally to include outreach efforts not only in El Paso but New Mexico and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico as well. International attention has been give to the femicides taking place in Juarez and we realize the desperate need for this kind of outreach there. In addition, we would like to set up an established system of recruitment as our locations of outreach augment. That is to say, we need to create a systematic way to ensure that the number of promotoras we have is balanced with the number of outreach locations we undertake. We are in the process of recruiting youth leaders from the high schools we work with in order for them to begin teaching classes to elementary school students. In this pool of high school students we are also recruiting males, a much needed representation in our program’s outreach efforts.
We would also like to establish a coalition of non-profits, led by Las Americas, centered around the issue of the connection between domestic violence and HIV/AIDS. With enough community support, we can eventually begin to affect legislation that promotes domestic violence as a public health issue (in addition to a human rights issue that is the traditional take).

Stage of the Initiative

0

Origin of the Initiative

One of our promotoras, whose name will not be disclosed for her own safety, was a previous victim of domestic violence and is now working with us, educating the community about domestic violence issues. Originally from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, she immigrated here with her husband in 1998. Her case exemplifies how and why immigrant women are particularly prone to violence and how our program has helped her escape her situation. For six years she suffered domestic violence from her husband, who didn’t allow her to leave her house during this entire period of time because he told her immigration authorities would deport her on the spot. Living in fear while trying to raise her daughter, she was isolated, faced a language barrier (she did not speak English) and lived a daily nightmare. It wasn’t until a neighbor, a future promotora of Las Americas, told her about our program that she was able to gain the power to leave her home and seek help.
The concept of “peer to peer” outreach was undertaken by Las Americas in 1998. It was at this moment that our organization began to utilize promotoras to reach our local community about issues including healthy living and environmental safety. However, it was not until September of 2006 that Las Americas developed the Battered Immigrant Program in which promotoras educate the community about the connection between domestic violence and HIV/AIDS. This effort has been spearheaded by our executive director of six years, Sister Liliane Alam, a Franciscan nun who has traveled the world doing humanitarian work in areas including Egypt, Italy, Ireland, Morocco, and New York City. I have been guided by Sister Alam’s insights as the director of the Battered Immigrant Program. I am a recent graduate of Vassar College and hope to become an international lawyer.

This Entry is about (Issues)

Sustainability

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How did you hear about this contest and what is your main incentive to participate?

Through my supervisor. I would like to pursue funding for this program as well as receive feeback from other non-profits.

Main Obstacles to Scaling Up

The two main obstacles to scaling up include funding (providing stipends for more promotoras as our program grows) and penetrating close-knit communities (which can only be done through use of promotoras).

Main Financial Challenges

Two main challenges to funding include staffing (obtaining someone whose sole positions is grant-writing) and advertising our program's financial needs on a national scale (in order to receive more national grants).

Main Partnership Challenges

Our main partnership challenges include working from different perspectives (i.e. Planned Parenthood clash of who fits into a "high-risk" category). We could solve this by establishing the coaltion of non-profits centered around the issue of the connection between domestic violence and HIV/AIDS.

400 weeks ago Omar Khateeb said: I hope you are all awarded this grant. The empathy and compassion that is driving this project is sure to do a lot and make a great ... about this Competition Entry. - read more >
400 weeks ago Battered Immigrant Program: Prevention and Recovery has been chosen as a finalist in No Private Matter! Ending Abuse in Intimate & Family Relations.