The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that one-third of Chicago’s Latinos — the majority of them women — are living in poverty.
While victims of domestic violence are not exclusively women, the great majority of them are, and their advocates say that poverty can trap women in abusive homes.
And in the Latino community, language barriers and immigration status can make matters worse.
Leticia Guitron, clinical program supervisor for the domestic violence counseling program at Metropolitan Family Services’ Midway Center, says that poverty is a “huge factor as far as domestic violence goes. But I want to make sure that everyone knows that poverty doesn’t cause domestic violence. When I think of the impact of poverty on victims of abuse, I think about the financial resources and the lack of those resources to survivors. Oftentimes we see that there’s only one income in the family. We see that survivors depend completely financial on their partner.”
Guitron says that in the Latino community, religious beliefs and immigration status can be used as manipulation tactics by abusers.
“In Latinos, particularly, I hear clients who believe that … the abuse is the cross that they have to carry in order to make things work out in the family,” she said. “There’s definitely an impact or greater risk for those who are undocumented. One thing we see is how the legal status is used to perpetrate the abuse because it’s used as a tactic to control the partner, by making threats that ICE is going to be called on them and they’re going to be deported and lose their kids, or there are threats that survivors are going to be incarcerated because of their legal status.”
But Guitron says that while their situations may seem impossible to escape, community organizations can help.
“I know that oftentimes it’s the lack of knowing what’s available for those individuals going through domestic violence or who have limited resources,” she said. “But it’s really important that we can continue to spread the word and try to reach out to those in poverty to let them know that resources are available. There are organizations that can support them in the process in either leaving the abusive relationship or trying to find a way to increase their safety.”