Minorities lacking domestic violence help

Language barriers and cultural differences hinder proper intervention services

REDWOOD CITY — As a domestic violence counselor, Evelyn Quinteros doesn’t have to imagine what life is like for her clients. She has lived it — including escaping a husband who came from her native Guatemala to stalk her.

Now an outreach coordinator for Community Overcoming Relationship Abuse (CORA) in Burlingame, Quinteros sees hundreds of women in much the same situation she found herself in when she moved to the United States more than eight years ago. Back then, she didn’t know her rights and what protective services were available. “I imagine for other people that don’t speak the language, like I did, or who are undocumented, it is even harder,” Quinteros said.

In fact, because many of the victims of domestic violence in San Mateo County are immigrant women, they are afraid to come forward for fear of being deported, or because their native country’s culture discourages them from speaking out against their husbands, according to a recently released county report. A major recommendation of the report, compiled by the county Domestic Violence Death Review Team from 2001-04 data, is that the county isn’t doing enough outreach to minority populations, particularly Latino and Asian/Pacific Islanders. Combined, the two groups make up about 45 percent of the county’s population of 700,000, census records show.

“We can’t possibly do the job by ourselves,” said Melissa Lukin, executive director of the non-profit CORA. Her organization, the only one of its kind in the county, has three outreach coordinators, one of whom speaks Spanish and a second speaking Tagalog. CORA has 38 employees, 20 of whom are counselors and four attorneys, Lukin said.

While effective programs exist in the county they need to be expanded, according to Supervisor Mark Church, chairman of the San Mateo County Domestic Violence Council. “… We need to get the word to those communities that domestic violence is never acceptable,” he said.

“We would need to seriously increase our staff, including growing capacity for serving [Asian/Pacific Islanders]” to even begin to solve the problem, according to Tagi Qolouvaki, CORA director of community education and a Fijian.

To fix the problem, CORA and/or the county will have to find a way to increase funding and resources to improve outreach to these communities, Church said. How it will be accomplished is a matter for the Domestic Violence Council in coming months, Church said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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