The New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence issues this statement to raise awareness about the prevalence of domestic violence within all communities and that culturally specific services exist:
We are deeply saddened to know that five domestic violence related murders in the Latina community were reported over the last three weeks. Our thoughts are with the families of Neidy Ramirez, 34, and her daughter Genesis, 3 months old; Consolacion Escolana, 82, mother of the victim who was also critically injured; and Rosa Cancela, 48, who was killed in an apparent murder-suicide.
While we cannot speak to the details of these cases as investigations are still underway, it is important that we use this opportunity to discuss some of the risk factors and dynamics that often precede such tragic incidents. While analysis can be painful, it allows us to increase our understanding of domestic violence and to identify opportunities to support victims in their journey toward safety. It is also important to note that no one is immune – bystanders, including children and other family members and friends, can be hurt or killed.
Multiple domestic violence murders are committed in New Jersey nearly every month. Despite our knowledge that domestic violence is a leading cause of homicides of women, we continue searching for motives. What’s more, these cases appear in the media for a brief period of time without much discussion or clarity about the “motive.”
Control is the Motive - Domestic Violence is the Tool to Gain and Maintain Control
In a vast majority of homicides where there is a history of an intimate relationship, control is the motive. Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behaviors that an individual will use to establish and maintain that control over an intimate partner or family member. By its definition, when we identify domestic violence we are naming the motive — the perpetrator’s intent to ensure ultimate control over their partner.
Assessing Domestic Violence Risk
Domestic violence will often include tactics like name calling and constantly ridiculing the victim, isolating the victim from their community, and threatening behavior seeking to prevent the victim from leaving or ending the relationship. Identifying a pattern of behavior can be challenging when we are privy to only isolated incidents or behaviors, that when considered alone, don’t appear to be dangerous. However, it is important that we acknowledge that non-physical forms of abuse may be signs of more dangerous behavior later on.
Some of the risk factors for serious danger or potential lethality in domestic violence cases include a perpetrator’s access to firearms, excessive jealousy or possessiveness of the victim, and abusive behaviors such as strangulation, stalking, sexual assault, and abuse during pregnancy.
Domestic Violence in the Latino Community
Domestic violence cuts across all cultures and communities, often demonstrating similar patterns of power and control. It is critical that as we increase our understanding of domestic violence, we do so through the lens of culture as one way to identify barriers that may prevent a victim from accessing services. In doing this, we can help to identify access points in the community where education, information and support can be provided for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
The Latina victims in these recent murders may have experienced barriers to safety, such as the lack of awareness of bilingual and bicultural services available, difficulty communicating in English, the fear of being ostracized by a close-knit community, as well as the added layer of an undocumented immigration status. Some victims may be concerned that calling the police will bring negative attention to their community that already has experienced significant levels of discrimination. Other victims may stay in abusive relationships unaware of their rights and the legal resources available for immigrant victims of domestic violence.
What Can We Do – As Individuals and in Community
When faced with signs, or suspicions of potential abuse, individuals can take the opportunity to ask questions that help identify other types of abuse that the victim may be experiencing. We must share our concern for the victim’s safety, and connect victims to the services available in their community.
Every victim has the right to safe and supportive services. NJCEDV calls upon our partners and community leaders to work together to create access points in the community where victims feel safe and supported, and where individuals can get the information and tools they need to promote safe and healthy relationships for all.
It is critical that undocumented immigrants know that, in New Jersey, they have the right to obtain restraining orders against their abusers and pursue other legal action. This highlights the need for increased bilingual and bicultural services.
Together, we can end domestic violence for everyone in New Jersey.
For more information about the culturally specific services available and for our media guide, please visit www.njcedv.org
About the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence (NJCEDV)
Known as the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women (NJCBW) for nearly 40 years, NJCEDV provides leadership, support and resources on the prevention of domestic violence for all victims in New Jersey through advocacy, education and training, technical assistance and community awareness.
Help is Available:
To learn if a relationship is abusive or if abuse is suspected, it is important to take it seriously, get information and share resources. Help is available in every county and for every victim through a network of programs dedicated to serving domestic violence victims and their families. The State Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-572-SAFE (7233). A list of programs and services is available at NJCEDV.org.