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Domestic violence groups reach out to undocumented residents

Published October 4, 2010 11:36 am

The list • Months later, the impact of leaked names is still felt.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One domestic violence victim refused to give her name to a hot-line worker because the Latina woman feared it would end up on some list and then be used to take away her children.

After leaving an abusive partner, another undocumented immigrant lived in her car rather than go to a shelter, where she worried her status would be an issue. One woman stayed in a bad relationship because she thought a shelter would turn her in to authorities.

And a service provider has reported a 10 percent dropout rate in its Latino domestic violence offender program since July, when an illicitly compiled list of 1,300 purportedly undocumented immigrants receiving state benefits became public.

The stories show the "dangerous impact" caused by the 29-page list distributed to media and law enforcement, the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition said Friday. Investigators have said the list was created by two former employees of the state Department of Workforce Services.

Judy Kasten Bell, UDVC executive director, said the coalition hoped to remind providers of the ramifications of breaching confidentiality and help them understand some clients' fears.

Bell said Workforce Services has done an "admirable job" working with service providers to clarify eligibility requirements and explain its processes so people who need help are not "further hurt or traumatized."

Even before the list debacle, many undocumented immigrants were reluctant to seek help because of their status — which abusers often hold over them. When they do seek help, they tend to require longer stays in shelters because they don't have other options, said Lam Nguyen, director of shelter services for the YWCA.

"It's just been a little bit harder now," said Pepe Grimaldo, diversity outreach coordinator for Peace House in Park City. "They want to be assured [sharing their information] is going to [be] okay."

Grimaldo has had clients who were reluctant to provide names, fill out court documents or get benefits for their children.

"What worries all of us is this woman and her kids could be in a dangerous situation and she's not going to trust us as much as she should," Grimaldo said.

In the aftermath of the list and a growing need, one shelter is expanding its outreach to the Latino community, which will benefit both undocumented and legal residents. South Valley Sanctuary, which oversees Unidos por el Lenguaje (United by Language), offered cultural sensitivity workshops in St. George and Wendover, Utah, last month — its first foray into both communities. Unidos por el Lenguaje is the state's only Spanish-language domestic violence coalition.

"This coalition is intended to train and educate service providers and the community at large about domestic violence and what resources are available," said Karla Arroyo, South Valley's executive director.

A critical piece of the outreach is increasing cultural awareness, she said.

"This is huge in St. George," Arroyo said, where she has found service providers to be "so open to learning to be more culturally sensitive."

Understanding cultural differences is key in working with the Latino community, said Moisés Próspero, past president of the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

"You can know the language but that doesn't mean you know the culture," said Próspero, a University of Utah social work professor.

Latinos have a collectivist ethic, not an individualistic one, he said.

"In the U.S., we might say, 'You need to be a strong, independent woman so we're going to give you tools to get out of that relationship and live your own life,'" Próspero said. "Collectivist groups are going to hear, 'You want me to leave my family? That's what makes me me.' To go live an independent life is to be selfish. It's not about individual success. It's about family success."

There is a lot of relationship building in Latino culture, "not just talking business," he said, which is perceived as "cold-hearted."

Cecilia Budd, victim advocate for the West Jordan Police Department, said Latinos also have a different way of explaining what is going on.

"It takes longer for a Spanish-speaking person," said Budd, who has overseen Spanish support groups for the past seven years. "They share history before they finally tell you what has happened."

Budd said at least three of her clients were applying for U-Visas — available to crime victims who are, like their abusers, undocumented immigrants — when the leaked list came out with their names on it.

"They have asked me what they need to do and I have told them to wait," she said.

The Violence Against Women Act also allows a victim married or recently divorced from an abuser who is a permanent resident or U.S. citizen to petition for residency.

"Many of the people listed in the immigration list sought help for their U.S. born children," the coalition noted Friday.

brooke@sltrib.com —

Upcoming workshop for Latinos

Horizonte Education Center is hosting a workshop on "Mejorando Las Relaciones Familiares" — Improving Family Relationships — for the Latino community.

The workshop will be from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the center, 1234 S. Main St. Several service providers are participating, including Utah Legal Aid, Rape Recovery Center and Una Mano amiga. The Mexican Consulate is a co-sponsor of the event.

Food and day care will be offered to the first 100 people who attend the event.

For more information, contact Marcela Flores at 801-255-1095. Oct. 5-30

Week Without Violence art exhibit hosted by the Utah Arts Alliance and the YWCA at Utah Gallery, 127 S. Main St.


Peace on Earth Awards luncheon and silent auction to benefit the Domestic Violence LinkLine, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South. $15 per person.

Oct. 12

Candlelight March, 5:30 p.m., from Valley Fair Mall outdoor plaza to West Valley City Hall.

Celebration of Hope vigil, 5:30-9 p.m.,Town Square in St. George

Dedication of YWCA's new McCarthey Residence and Kathleen Robison Huntsman Residence for Women and Children, noon, 322 E. 300 South in Salt Lake City.

Oct. 16

Race to Prevent Dating Violence, Jordan River Parkway Walden Pavilion. Registration: 9:30 a.m. Race begins at 10 a.m. Register online at www.health.utah.gov/vipp

Oct. 18

Family Violence Prevention awards luncheon, 12:30-2:30, The Gathering Place at Gardner Village, 1100 W. 7800 South, West Jordan. RSVP by Oct. 14, admin@udvc.org

Oct. 23

Walk Against Violence, 9 a.m., Salt Lake City's Liberty Park




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