Press Releases
November 4, 2005
 
Nuestras Voces: Anti-violence advocates from around the country unite their voices at training for Latinas/os

“This conference was the first time I ever heard the term ‘comadre’ – and I realize now I have had comadres in my life all along.” – quote from an ‘Nuestras Voces’ attendee

AUSTIN, Texas -- The nation's Latina/o population is more diverse than ever, and as the Spanish speaking Latina/o population continues to grow, the need for cultural and linguistic competency in victim services is being felt in many states. The “Many Languages, One America” report derived from Census 2000 information by the U.S. ENGLISH Foundation, asserts that Spanish is the second most common language spoken in 43 states and the District of Columbia, and Spanish is the only language other than English to be spoken by more than 63 percent of the population in any county in the United States.

Latinos are not a homogenous group but rather a composite of various subcultures that can claim over two dozen countries of origin and a rich ancestry that includes mixtures of Spanish, Native American, African, German, and Italian – among others. The rapid growth of this diverse group has also led to an increase in the number of Latin@ victims of crime. In many parts of the nation victim services have not been able to keep up. Consequently many Spanish-speaking survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence have been rendered anonymous and beyond the reach of victim advocates, social services, the criminal justice system and others who could help them.

While the keys to building community awareness of victim rights and services are fluid communication and accessibility of information, for certain communities the messengers are few and overtaxed. And although Latinas have made inroads in the anti-domestic violence movement, they continue to have less of a presence and less access to leadership roles as sexual assault victim advocates.

On November 3 & 4, over 130 victim service professionals, community activists, trainers, artists and others came together in Austin for, "Nuestras Voces / Our Voices: Empowerment and Healing in la Comunidad.” The event, organized by Arte Sana (art heals) and hosted by St. Edward’s University, was a national capacity-building training aimed at addressing these critical issues in the Latino community.

Via traditional workshops, panels, as well as regional showcases of grassroots and community-based efforts, Latina experts from around the country shared their experiences and voiced their opinions on advocacy and empowerment. The goals were to focus on the elimination of victim service barriers and address how to mobilize our communities as active partners in risk reduction and advocacy efforts. Among the topics covered during the two-day event which included Spanish language workshops were: the examination of the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and adult re-victimization, Mexican men’s views of sexuality and gender inequality, understanding the role of culture in sexual violence, the use of theatre for social change, and using poetry and art to reach the silent.

Dr. Ana Nogales from Los Angeles, CA delivered the keynote address titled, “Latina Power.” Other presenters included Mr. Jaime Arizpe from the Office of Border Health in Laredo, TX who shared his experience regarding promotora trainings via inter-agency collaborations and Niza Troncoso from Boston, MA who provided information about using photography to generate awareness about intimate partner violence as well as a healing tool that provides a creative voice to the survivor.

During this time, Arte Sana also took advantage of this national spotlight to recognize the five recipients of the 2005 National Latina Victim Advocate Awards to those who have helped eliminate access barriers for Latina/o survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence.

This Institute was a prime example of Latina victim rights activism, for it was developed by Latinas for Latinas/os and our allies. Furthermore, in recognizing the need to engage more of our hermanas/os in anti-violence work as well as the financial constraints faced by those working in victim services, Arte Sana offered scholarships to nearly 10% of the attendees, the majority of whom came from outside of Texas. Through these types of events, it is Arte Sana’s hope to continue to help strengthen our collective Latino voice, promote culturally competent violence prevention efforts as well as increase the meaningful participation of Latinas and Latinos in victim services across the nation. Given the powerful responses from “Nuestras Voces” attendees, there is a great need for this type of ongoing specialized training and support. We at Arte Sana will be forming new partnerships in order to facilitate events such as this in 2006.

The following are a few more of the comments received from attendees:

“Wonderful conference – in all the conferences I have attended in my 9 years in victim services this one made me feel positive, hopeful, supported – to believe ‘yes we can.’ Thank you!”

“Si, porque trabajo con personas latinas y aunque me encuentro lejos de la frontera, yo sigo encontrando los mismos problemas que se encuentran en todos los lugares.”

“Yes – as an advocate who works directly with the Spanish speaking population, and particularly as a white woman, I was honored to participate and share in the movement for Latinas – I learned a lot about the women I serve and the difficulties Latina women I work with face in the work place.”

“Esta conferencia da mucho poder para hacer el trabajo.”


“Yes – its important to be validated & empowered, educated on what Latinos are thinking, feeling, believing.”

“Realmente quede impresionada con el trabajo que hicieron, especialmente el hecho de poner programas en espanol, porque habemos algunas personas que aunque somos bilingues aun nos sentimos mas comodas en nuestro propio idioma. Me senti otra vez como en CASA… esta conferencia me ayudo a sentir mas confidencia.”

About ALAS

Initiated in February 2004, the Alianza Latina en Contra la Agresión Sexual or ALAS, (Latina Alliance Against Sexual Aggression) is a national Latina professional resource-sharing group that focuses on cultural competency, bilingual material development, training and policy issues related to underserved Latina survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence. ALAS members have a collective experience of over 25 years in the anti-violence field and the majority of them have bilingual skills that include speaking, reading, and writing in Spanish. As Latina advocates of varying ages, levels of experience, personal backgrounds, and specific Latina cultural origins, we celebrate the diversity within our culture and are committed to help make risk reduction and victim service information more accessible to Spanish-speaking Latina/os.

About Arte Sana

Arte Sana (art heals) is a nationwide organization dedicated to helping underserved survivors of racial and gender-based violence. As a 501(c)3 non-profit group based in Austin, TX, Arte Sana promotes healing and empowerment through the arts and community education. Founded in 2001, Arte Sana believes that violence risk reduction programs and services must be culturally competent and linguistically appropriate and are committed to the value of indigenous leadership and collaboration sin fronteras (without borders).

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