CLEARWATER, Fla. — ABC Action News in-depth reporter Anthony Hill spoke with a mother of five children who recently got out of a violent situation. He also dug deeper to uncover the unique difficulties of some Latino victims of domestic violence.
According to the CDC, 34.4% of Latinas say they’ve experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives. That’s more than one in three women. Plus, some Latinos who are undocumented are concerned about reporting domestic violence because of fears of possible deportation.
Martha Madrid and her daughter Geny fled an abusive situation at their home in Las Cruces, New Mexico, driving 25 hours to find a safe haven in Tampa Bay.
“He would grab me by my hands. He would just leave me a lot of bruises,” said Madrid.
Oftentimes, this violence would happen in front of her five daughters.
“Basically, you feel like you can’t do anything about the situation. You feel like you’re just grounded to the floor and you can’t get up because if you get into the situation, you feel like you’re going to get hurt too,” said Geny.
“Finally, I looked at my daughters and I said ‘we don’t need this,'" said Madrid.
“We know most domestic violence across all demographics is underreported,” said Kirk Ray Smith with Hope Villages of America.
They provide housing for survivors of domestic violence. Although domestic violence affects people in every demographic group, he says there are unique challenges in combating domestic violence in Hispanic communities such as language barriers, making it harder to find resources and, to some degree, a culture of machismo or sexism.
“Alpha male. You know, women submit, docile, do what I say type thing,” said Smith.
Another obstacle for some Latinos who are in domestic violence situations is their immigration status. A local law firm spoke on what options undocumented people have in an abusive situation. Do they risk deportation by leaving their abuser and making a report to law enforcement?
“I say that it depends on where the offense occurred, and that’s sad,” said attorney Ralph Fernandez with the Fernandez & Alvarez law firm.
Fernandez says in Hillsborough County, being deported for reporting domestic violence is highly unlikely, but not all counties provide the same amount of protection for victims.
“If you are a victim of an offense, you can get what’s called a U Visa,” said Fernandez.
A U Visa allows undocumented victims of violent crimes to live and work in the United States for four years, but there’s a long waiting list and it could take quite a while to be approved.
As for Madrid Geny, they’re survivors and they’re also optimistic about their new beginning. They also have a message for others escaping domestic violence.
“Please, please focus on your kids and to please be strong for them,” said Madrid.
“You will get through it. Don’t give up. Don’t quit," Geny said.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, here are some links to resources that can help.