Message From the Director
I am extremely pleased to introduce the Existe Ayuda Toolkit, OVC’s much-anticipated collection of practical resources designed for victim service providers, community health workers, advocates, and others who work with Spanish-speaking victims of sexual assault—or who plan to do so in the future. This publication addresses a major barrier to accessing victim assistance for Latinas: the lack of services offered in their native language. The Existe Ayuda Toolkit was developed to improve access to available services as well as to enhance community outreach. The result, we hope, will be more widely available, culturally appropriate services for victims within the country’s most rapidly growing population.
The need to address Spanish-speaking victims of crime with cultural sensitivity has existed for a long time. In the 1970s, when I began my career in child protective services along the Texas-Mexico border, I first glimpsed the richness and complexity of Latina/o culture—as well as some of the unique challenges of providing skilled, competent services to members of a vibrant community that has been largely overlooked to this day. Thirty years ago, mainstream victim service agencies generally weren’t equipped to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking victims. Even now, the Latina/o population lacks consistent access to culturally competent services for preventing and addressing sexual violence in their communities, despite the enormity of the need.
The publication of Existe Ayuda represents an important step for OVC in supporting the efforts of the field to provide culturally appropriate services to Spanish-speaking victims of sexual assault. OVC began to disseminate sexual assault resources to the field as early as 1986 and continues to do so, but there are still enormous gaps and unmet needs among both Latina/o and non-Latina/o victims of sexual violence. This new resource, which has been in development by Arte Sana since 2003, was created with the extensive input of experienced Spanish-speaking service providers throughout the Nation. To ensure that the kit truly reflects the needs of the diverse Latina/o community, the authors and their partners developed a uniform, inclusive approach to the Spanish language to serve as a foundation for specific resources in the kit. Arte Sana and its partners took existing best practices for serving victims, applied the lens of Latina/o culture, and pilot tested the resulting resources with 29 agencies in 13 states.
The need for culturally specific resources like this toolkit has become increasingly urgent. According to the Census Bureau, Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the United States, accounting for more than half of the Nation’s population growth in the past decade. In fact, the Hispanic population reached 50 million in 2010—that’s one in six Americans. This phenomenal growth took place not only in border states such as California and Texas, but also in the Midwest, South, and other parts of the country. It is now estimated that nearly a third of Americans will be of Hispanic origin by 2050. Clearly, more resources are greatly needed by service providers to begin closing the gap between served and underserved—or, as is too often the case—not served at all.
In response, the victim services field must expand its capacity to provide linguistically appropriate and culturally competent services to all Spanish-speaking victims of crime. Otherwise, these victims will continue to suffer disproportionately from sexual violence and the aftereffects of victimization. Communicating effectively is fundamental to improving victim programs and services. In addition to the major barrier of victims not speaking English or not having a translator, many rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters do not have bilingual advocates to help conduct effective outreach into Latina/o communities.
Existe Ayuda is representative of OVC’s intention to help the field address the unmet needs of this growing population of victims/survivors. We must be committed to serving all victims of crime, which means acknowledging the country’s increasingly diverse landscape and making a sustained effort to reach out to those who have not yet reaped the benefits of the victims’ rights movement.
I hope this kit will prove invaluable to all who seek to serve Spanish-speaking victims of sexual assault and Latina/o communities. In it, you’ll find resources to help you build and enhance your own community’s response to Latina/o victims of sexual assault, with specific tools for enhancing communication, improving services, building public awareness, and introducing service providers, community officials, and others to the special needs of this population. Having seen the enormity of the need in my early career, I encourage you to make good use of this important resource to establish or expand victim services to the Latina/o population in your area. We welcome your feedback as well as your ideas for additional resources to help us all enhance our collective cultural competence in working with all victims of sexual violence. Ultimately, the goal of Existe Ayuda is to live up to its name: Help Exists. You can help make that a reality in your community.
Joye E. Frost
Office for Victims of Crime