Project Impact Findings for Project UNICA, El Programa Hispano Católico:
Finding 1: Unconditional Support/Knowing that I am not alone
Interviewees stated that unconditional support was essential to overcoming domestic violence. The interviews specifically spoke to the importance of feeling understood, having a support network, and how surrounding themselves with good people was essential to healing.
“Me ha dado más animo ver que otras se valoran.”
“Acerca mis relaciones, las que tengo ahora me brindan apoyo emocional cuando me siento triste. Mi motivación es salir adelante con mis hijos.”
Significance: Providing unconditional support is essential to the healing process. Many DV/SA survivors will never report their assault or seek help because they are afraid no one will believe them and or that they will have to legitimize what happened to them. For immigrant populations this has greater significance due to the increased isolation, the stress of the acculturation process, and the structural barriers that affect communities of color. Participants reporting they felt unconditional support, indicating that the program is effectively validating the lived experience of the survivor and walking along the process unconditionally.
Finding 2: Importance of receiving services in their language and culture
Interviewees elaborated on the importance of receiving services in Spanish. This allowed individuals to feel understood, develop trust, and feel like someone from their culture was there to provide support without judgment.
“Respetar a nosotros mismos, sentirnos orgullosos de dónde venimos. Que no importa de donde somos o que idioma hablamos.”
“Me he sentido segura al recibir servicios en español, me siento contenta…me siento como en casa”
Significance: The degree of acculturation, language, and immigration status significantly affects the ability to access services. Individuals who have limited English proficiency have a reduced ability to seek support which compounds the isolation and vulnerability. The findings reported by participants highlights the importance of being able to communicate with the provider in their preferred language and cultural. Proyecto UNICA strives to provide culturally specific services to Latino identified survivors of violence. All of the staff providers are bilingual-bicultural and self-identify as part of the Latino community themselves.
Finding 3: Overcoming Fear
Overcoming fear was essential to the healing process identified by survivors. In this process individuals identified feelings of increased confidence in their own decisions, feeling more positive, increased energy, integrating new habits including self-care and exercising, feelings of overcoming the violence and having learned to seek help, staying away from bad influences and speaking up for self.
“Sonrió más, tengo más confianza, me desarrollo mas con la gente.”
“Me ha dado fuerza para terminar relaciones que no son saludables o con personas que me han ofendido”
“Ya no tomo alcohol, tengo tres semanas sin tomar. Empecé a comer saludable y hacer nuevas amigas.”
Significance: After experiencing trauma, a survivor may have a difficult time adjusting back into society. Proyecto UNICA has support groups and therapy options that can provide support during this difficult transition. Participants expressed having feelings of confidence, happiness, and freedom. One of the interviewees also reported a decrease in alcohol consumption. The support and information Proyecto UNICA has provided for survivors shows that they are not only surviving and dealing with their trauma, but they are also thriving, healing, and making solid steps into improving their overall well-being. This is important because it shows that participants are making strides in their process of reintegration into their communities.
Finding 4: Protecting the Family
Viewing themselves as the protector of the family was a strong influencing factor that was identified by interviewees. This included overcoming struggles for their children, protecting self, attaining skills to set boundaries, developing healthy relationships, and acquiring tools for managing uncomfortable emotions and flashbacks:
“Aprendí que todos merecemos respeto, me ha dado fuerza para terminar relaciones que no son saludables o con personas que me han ofendido.”
“ser una inspiración para mis hijos, ser autosuficiente y también mi hábito es ser mas cariñosa con mis hijos.”
“mi motivación son los niños, la tranquilidad de ellos y mía es darles un hogar tranquilo.
Significance: Through engagement with survivors and families they have deepened skills and commitment to supporting their children’s wellbeing and development. This is particularly significant because family strengthening increases positive future self image, healthy social developments which are shown to be protective factors for families.
Finding 5: Safety
Interviewees discussed feeling better prepared in maintaining their safety. Both survivors and their children were given tools to make their own safety plans. Survivors felt better informed in navigating criminal justice systems, establishing safety plans with their children, and how to manage their emotions when they were feeling triggered.
“Me enseñaron hacer un plan de seguridad con mis hijos, ellos saben que cuando llega su papa o una persona insegura deben hablar a los vecinos o hablar a la policía.”
“Obtuve una orden de restricción, enseñe a mis hijos hacer un plan de seguridad, a no compartir información y mantener confidencialidad.”
Significance: Allowing survivors to guide their own path to safety is reflective of the empowerment model as it invites the survivor to take control of their safety by recognizing what they see as the best options for their situation. Establishing safety does not look the same for each client and Proyecto UNICA advocates present survivors with options. A large percentage of the clients that ProyectoUNICA serves are immigrants, thus, an emphasis is placed on explaining complicated systems that survivors may find themselves navigating in. Survivors expressed the value of knowing what to do when different situations arise for themselves and their children which is reflective of how survivors are better able to inform and modify their safety plans accordingly.
Finding 6: Learning to identify Abuse
Learning to identify abuse was an important factor to overcoming abuse. Interviewees indicated that attending support groups helped them learn to identify abuse, the cycle of abuse and information on how to heal and be supported.
“Lo más importante ha sido salir de la violencia y saber lo que es la violencia. Antes no lo tomaba como violencia…todo es completamente diferente”
“Para mi violencia era llegar a los golpes. No sabía que también verbal y sexual, económico, como el acoso, las humillaciones, y aislamiento también eran abusos.”
“Lo que he entendido es a no permitir que nadie tiene el derecho de oprimir, de abusar, y maltratar de ninguna forma. Que mi voz tiene que ser oída.”
Significance: Society tends to frame domestic violence as an experience that results in physical violence, but ignores other components of power and control that are also violent. This is reflected in conversations that happen with participants when they say comments like, “antes no lo tomaba como violencia.” Information about what violence is can be given at any point to participants – whether it be through a one-on-one meeting with an advocate, a session with a therapist, or attending a support group. Participants expressed renewed abilities in identifying red flags. They felt validated in their right to say no.
Finding 7: Recognizing Resources
Being able to recognize and access resources in the community helps families meet their needs
Through our Advocate interviewees mentioned learning about the resources necessary to overcome the challenging situation. Individuals discussed the importance of knowing that there are available options. Individuals discussed the importance of knowing that there are so many resources and agencies that offer many types of assistance such as; rental assistance, energy assistance and emergency food boxes. Many survivors were unaware of these options which made them feel incapable of leaving an abusive relationship especially when their only source of income came from the abuser. Many survivors reported feeling stronger and more empowered knowing that they could receive help and that they were not alone.
“a veces no sé cómo decir cómo ha cambiado mi vida, porque ha cambiado tanto. Aprendí, voy a la escuela. Antes no fui a la escuela porque pensaba que estaba vieja….cambio (antes) cuando me secuestraron aunque hubiera tenido la oportunidad de conseguir un teléfono, no hubiera podido llamar a nadie porque no sabía leer.”
“Se buscar donde me pueden ayudar, centros de apoyo y también en caso que no tengo comida de dónde buscar. Sé que estoy preparada para cualquier cosa porque al menos ya sé donde están las agencias para poder pedir ayuda”
Significance: As an agency we know firsthand that survivors face many barriers when trying to leave an abusive relationship, for many not having resources or not knowing how to access the resources in the community has made it hard to leave. Here at Proyecto UNICA we provide bridges for the survivors through our advocates who help connect them with the many resources offered in our community. What we know is that an important component of safety for survivors is being able to feel safe and having the basic needs of her family met. When a survivor learns how to access resources they then have the tools they need in the future. Having the knowledge of how and where to look for options helps these women gain self-empowerment and self-sufficiency.
Finding 8: Human rights, women’s rights
Interviewees indicated learning the meaning of respect, freedom, rights, self-worth and that they deserved a life without violence. Interviewees also expressed seeing cultural gendered norms through a critical lens and questioning them.
“Yo he aprendido de ustedes que nadie tiene derecho abusar de nosotras o tocar nuestros cuerpos si no queremos. Ni nuestra propia pareja si uno no quiere, no se les da el derecho”
“Me han enseñado los derechos que una mujer tiene, independizarme, dándome información de ayudas para salir adelante, valorarme, y no dejarme de nadie.”
“…hay muchas mujeres iguales, somos guerreras.”
Significance: Participants identified factors that contribute to gendered violence. They talked about historical trauma, consent, and problematic cultural norms that they are actively challenging. Clients also expressed feelings of independence and freedom from having to follow specific gender roles. Clients were able to view domestic violence through a socio-ecological lens which in turn grants them the opportunity to see their situation in a less-isolating manner.