La Voz sat down with Barbara Galicia and Bertha Garza, Bilingual Women’s Advocates from SafeHouse Denver. SafeHouse Denver is an emergency shelter for women and their children that also provides valuable services that help them and their family get back on their feet and find the value in their self-worth. SafeHouse Denver also provides services that include: "nonresidential counseling services, community education and a 24-Hour Crisis and Information Line."
“Our goal is to provide them a means of self-sufficiency,” Galicia said.
More than 61,000 calls were made to crisis hotlines in Colorado in 2011 and there were more than 180,000 nights in which some form of shelter assistance was provided according to the Colorado Department of Human Services Domestic Violence Program’s 2011 Annual Report. SafeHouse Denver answered more than 18,700 calls to its hotline last year. Hispanics are 35 percent of its total clientele.
Domestic violence does not discriminate. It does not matter the color your skin, your age, gender, religion, sexual orientation or the amount of money in your bank account. In fact, according to the 2012 Centers for Disease Control National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, one out of every three women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
Oftentimes victims of domestic violence are afraid to speak out because of their illegal immigrant status.
“Many times what the victims experience [is] that the abusers say, ‘You’re here illegally and therefore you know we are going to call immigration. We are going to call police and they are going to take you,’” Galicia said. She also said, “They feel a loss and having no support here in the United States is even greater because they don’t know who to turn to. They don’t know the system.”
Garza said that many of their undocumented clients fear leaving an abusive relationship because of legal action due to ‘abandoning the home’ (‘abandono de hogar’), which she said may be illegal in some Latin American countries, but not in the U.S.
They reach out by holding classes in order to better educate the community about domestic violence. They are also going into schools to “help young ladies recognize” signs of domestic violence.
Garza said that some teenagers who’ve been exposed in their own household may be “conditioned” to this type of behavior thinking that it is “normal.” Today’s teenagers may experience abuse via networking websites, texting or email.
Domestic violence does not only grasp the direct victim and the perpetrator but takes hostage the victim’s family and friends.
One need only see a piece of art work created by a child receiving counseling with the words “loner” and “fear” written and circled on construction paper because of the abuse he or she has witnessed at home.
For many of their clients, it takes seven to nine times for them to end a cycle of domestic violence by leaving the relationship.
Garza and Galicia commented about previous clients, respectively. There was a client who was thrown out of a window, a woman whose finger and part of her nose were bitten off and another whose husband’s lawyer agued that she had a “beautiful home” and who “has everything she wants.”
For many women, the start of a sports’ regular season may be unnerving as experts have noticed a spike in domestic violence when the partner’s favorite sports team loses. “She’d pray that the Broncos would win,” Garza said about one of her clients.
Conversely, they also joyfully shared that they’ve had previous clients keep in touch and who are now in healthier relationships and in a better place in their lives.
“I respect and admire [my clients] so much,” Garza said. Galicia added, “They are the soldiers of the world because they’ve gotten the strength to leave a situation that is detrimental.”
Call the hotline
“Does your partner put you down, call you names or tell you that you’re crazy?”
“Does your partner call you or text you repeatedly to check up on you?”
“Has your partner ever threatened suicide or to hurt you, the children, your family, friends or pets if you break up?”
Consider these questions posed by SafeHouse Denver about the soundness of your relationship. For more information visit www.safehouse-denver.org or call the crisis and information line at 303-318-9989.