When trying to figure out what is the best way to serve the idea of preventing violence against immigrant women - whether it is intimate partner violence or domestic violence - the work has just started for the non-profit organization Cultiva La Salud which will focus on immigrants Latinas population living in Fresno County.
Cultiva La Salud in Fresno is one of the five California collaboratives that received one-year planning and capacity-building grants of $50,000 each to reduce the risk of domestic violence among low-wage workers, rural and tribal communities, immigrants, and other communities that experience high rates of this type of violence.
“The reason I wanted to focus on immigrant Latinas is because I think they have some unique challenges that creates vulnerability for them,” said Genoveva Islas, program director for Cultiva la Salud.
Cultiva La Salud, based in Fresno, works to improve the health and wellbeing of low-income Latina women in Fresno, Kern, and Stanislaus counties.
Islas said that one challenge, for example, is that just by nature of them being immigrants, those women are “disconnecting from their home, their countries of origin, from their neighborhoods, the society, the friends, the family that they had.”
“Isolation is a vulnerability. Language, no being completely fluent in English for example, or maybe they are indigenous Mexican women that they don’t even speak Spanish, the language challenges create a vulnerability,” Islas said, adding that the fact that often time those women are employ in jobs that don’t pay well also creates a vulnerability because they don’t have the economic means to leave unhealthy relationships and afford their own home or place to live, etc.
Islas said many immigrants Latinas are not well educated and immigrate to this country for better opportunities, plus in many instance their own Latino culture diminish their own voice and role in decision making which creates vulnerability.
“We want to consider all those factors,” Islas said.
The initiative by Prevention Institute with funding from the Blue Shield of California Foundation aims to prevent domestic violence with the launch a new program Safety Through Connection.
“We recognize that poor health and domestic violence are driven by many social forces that are influenced by sectors outside of domestic violence or health. As a result, we’re focusing on how these different sectors can collaborate with community to advance health, wellbeing, and safe relationships” said Carolyn Wang Kong, senior program officer at the Blue Shield of California Foundation. “We also want to shift the thinking that domestic violence is a private issue, as it really is a shared issue that is shaped by factors outside the home, with impacts across families and communities.”
The program catalyze community-based approaches that can help prevent domestic violence by making the link between community determinants of health, such as housing insecurity, economic insecurity, harmful gender norms, and weak social networks, and domestic violence.
“Most people don’t realize the ways that the community determinants of health—things like housing, employment, social norms, and social networks—can increase or decrease the risk of intimate partner violence,” said Lisa Fujie Parks, a director at Oakland-based nonprofit Prevention Institute. “That’s why it’s so important to look at community factors when creating prevention initiatives.”
“By taking a community-level approach to preventing intimate partner violence, we can address the underlying factors that contribute to violence and inequities in who experiences violence,” said Fujie Parks
By addressing the underlying factors that contribute to intimate partner violence, the risk of domestic violence can be reduce for individuals and families most at-risk.
In Fresno, besides Cultiva La Salud, the partners in the Safety Through Connection collaborative will include Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability, Building Healthy Communities, Fresno Metro Ministry, Fresno County Department of Public Health, Youth Leadership Institute, Central Valley Health Policy Institute, California Latina Democrats, and Central California Legal Services.
According to the California Health Interview Survey, 3.5 million Californians have experienced intimate partner violence as an adult.
Islas said this year, they want to “identify strong and helpful things that we can do to make a difference. It’s prevention so we can’t work on shelter, or restraining orders.”
“We want to work upstream. We want to work on those things that create greater safety in immigrant Latinas,” Islas said.
Over a year, the five collaboratives will identify community-level factors associated with domestic violence and safe relationships; recruit new partners and strengthen existing partnerships across agencies and community groups; and adopt community-level strategies to support safe relationships, foster healing and accountability, and prevent domestic violence.