Advocates: Threats of Deportation Reducing Reports of Domestic Violence
RALEIGH, N.C. – One in three Latinas has experienced domestic violence, according to the National Latina Network, and now many of them face a new barrier to seeking help.
There are reports of increased reluctance among undocumented immigrants in North Carolina and the rest of the country to report crimes such as domestic violence, for fear of deportation of themselves or their abuser.
Courtney Cooper-Lewter is a case manager for Lutheran Services Carolinas.
"There's been this change in political climate, to where people are now saying, 'If you don't have documentation and you're trying to report a crime, there's also a higher risk that you're going to be deported as well, if you are undocumented,'" she explained.
Cooper-Lewter just completed the Program of Assistance, Resources and Education (PARE) training for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. PARE is organized by El Pueblo, Inc.
While it is intended for members of the Latino community, Cooper-Lewter took the 12-week class so she can better communicate and help the population she serves.
She's convinced that hearing directly from the women who experienced domestic violence in their native language will go a long way in helping her effectively do her job.
"It's kind of hard to just say, 'This is what's happening in your community, and this is how you deal with it,' without hearing from community members," she added. "So, I decided I would take this class to hear how I can talk to my clients, in the language that's not my native tongue."
In a recent national study, Latina survivors of abuse report their immigration status often is used as a control mechanism by their abuser to make sure they do not report a crime. Many also listed cultural and language barriers to services as another reason it is difficult to get help.