What do you say to a friend when you suspect that he or she is being abused? What do you do if you’ve been sexually assaulted? Where can an Hispanic women, who does not speak English, go for help if she has been a victim of either of these circumstances?
Several entities exist throughout the state of Georgia, one of which is liveSAFE Resources. A non-profit organization which has had a presence in the community for years, liveSAFE Resources offers its services free of charge to the community, including support groups, counseling, legal assistance and medical forensic examinations for victims of sexual assault ages 13 and older.
The organization aims to provide the necessary tools so that victims of sexual assault and domestic violence can receive treatment and get out of the abuse cycle.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to be prepared when you’re in an abusive situation, because the partner is the one who brings the paycheck home, or because you still love them or because they threaten to call immigration… There are so many reasons we don’t know about, and we judge without knowing, because of our culture,” explained Karelis Ferrer, Latino Outreach director for liveSAFE Resources.
The agency’s mission, added Ferrer, is to provide empathy, support, and resources to victims so they can leave these situations without judgement, but being careful to respect victims’ time and emotions.
Previously known as the YMCA of Northwest Georgia, the organization changed its name to liveSAFE Resources toward the beginning of this year, after almost 100 years of serving the community.
“There are many reasons why we changed our name, but the most important is to make it easier for those who need us to find us,” said Holly Tuchman, CEO and executive director of liveSAFE Resources, at a celebration at the organization’s headquarters back in January. “If that saves one life, it will have been worth it.”
Tuchman’s team hopes to convey this same message to the Latino community.
“A lot of people make victims feel badly, telling them that ‘what they’re hoping to do is get papers or a U Visa by reporting the abuse,’” lamented Ferrer, who added that “our obligation is to tell them that they should not feel guilty, and that is part of the abuse and control by the partner: making them feel that everything is their fault.”
In addition, Ferrer explained that the organization does help victims wishing to obtain a U Visa, which is exclusively available for victims of violent crimes, by assisting them in the document preparation process.
The organization also works with other entities such as Legal Aid of Cobb County in order to represent victims.
“We take on cases from all throughout Georgia. We also help the LGBT community,” explained Elisa Covarrubias, director of Sexual Assault and Victim Advocacy Programs. She forms part of the almost 60 person team of collaborators who work with the organization.
“The main thing is for women to feel that they are not alone, regardless of legal status,” said Ferrer. “It’s important that they report any incident.”
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CONTINUED COVERAGE Each Saturday look for a feature story from our media partners at Mundo Hispanico that highlights an aspect of the Hispanic community. For a closer look at its content, go to www.mundohispanico.com or contact editors and reporters directly at 404-881-0441.