How can we better engage Latinas in our work?


always say I survived high school. Barely. My memories are of walking through metal detectors in the morning; of taking the long way home to avoid the fights on the front lawn; of avoiding eye contact in the halls so I wouldn’t end up in the hospital.  In my community, violence was part of our daily lives. This was also true in the relationships I observed, and it turns out that women of color experience higher rates of intimate partner violence than their white counterparts.1As I reflect, I wonder how can the field of violence prevention better engage communities of color and specifically reduce the way Latinas are impacted?

My parents immigrated from Peru in the late 80’s and chose my hometown because we had family there and there was a strong Latino presence. Family is considered one of our strongest cultural values and it also contributes to the underutilization of formal mental health supports.2Latina women underutilize formal and informal supports as compared to their non-Latino counterparts facing intimate partner violence.3Some factors that increase barriers to services for Latinas include unstable residence, immigrations status, access to services, and language accessibility.3

I should also tell you, that I didn’t survive high school on my own. I had a few lifelines along the way. One of the most memorable of which being my drama teacher. She is a proud, vivacious Cuban American woman who embodied strength and intuition, role modeling life after high school for me. And even though I was never particularly good at theatre, I sat myself in her classroom when I needed to talk or an escape from the violence I was seeing becauseI was never able to find my way to a counselor.

This wasn’t true of just me, Latinas are more likely to intersect with medical professionals over mental health professionals.3What would it be like to build collaborations with these groups to bridge trust, improve access to resources to some of our most vulnerable populations? Could we equip medical healthcare professionals and other unexpected messengers with bystander tips and talking points in our prevention efforts? Could prevention efforts be more effective if they looked different, and instead, more like the organizations, cultural centers, businesses or community events that are already present in the communities we are looking to reach?

I don’t want to suggest that there is a monolith when thinking about engaging Latinas (or any communities of color for that matter) in prevention efforts because there absolutely isn’t. But here are a few considerations:

  1. Recruit and retain Latino professionals in prevention efforts at all levels, from advocates to board members.
  2. Talk to multiple members of the Latino community to inform decision-making and outreach efforts. This could help navigate the unique and complicated dynamics within Latino communities and lead to a better understanding of who the community allies could be.
  3. Engage allies, both formal and informal, as bystanders for prevention that already have trusting relationship with the Latino community. Consider graduate and professional Latino organizations, immigration advocacy groups, beauty salons, bars, salsaand other dance groups, parades, festivals and events.


1. Breiding MJ, Basile KC, Smith SG, Black MC, Mahendra RR. Intimate Partner Violence Surveillance: Uniform Definitions and Recommended Data Elements, Version 2.0[PDF 283KB]. Atlanta (GA): National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2015.

2. Roberta K. Lee DrPH, RN, Vetta L. Sanders ThompsonPhD, andMindy B. MechanicPhD. Intimate Partner Violence and Women of Color: A Call for Innovations. American Journal of Public Health, Vol 92, No. 4; April 2002.

3. Ingram, Eben M., A Comparison of Help Seeking Between Latino and Non-Latino Victim of Intimate Partner Violence. Atlanta (GA): Violence Against Women, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2007.

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