Archive for the ‘violence’ Category

Our vegetables and fruits come with a side of rape and sexual abuse. That’s right. Rape.

Did you know that many of the farm workers who pick our fruits and vegetables are undocumented? It isn’t enough that they’re underpaid and exploited for their labor. Many are also raped and sexually assaulted while being threatened with being fired if they say something.

It is almost as if immigrant bodies have become public property. Property for many to use and misuse as they please. From not having access to health services, being deported and exploited to being raped.

The fear of deportation and of not being able to provide for their families forces immigrants to stay silent. But not anymore.

Frontline‘s latest documentary entitled, Rape in the Fields, follows a group of women who are raped and/or assaulted at work. The documentary also highlights the rape culture that dominates our society inside and outside of the fields. It is a heartbreaking film that will also make you angry. Angry at the injustice that happens right here in our fields and gets packaged with our food but no justice is served. Check out Rape in the Fields while it is still available online and spread the word.



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Yesterday we said our good-byes to a great singer-songwriter, actress, producer, entrepreneur and legend, La Diva de la Banda, La Gran Señora, Dolores Janney Rivera also known as Jenni Rivera.

Jenni wasn’t always a celebrity. Her story is one of struggle and perseverance. Rivera’s parents migrated to the United States from Mexico, just like many parents, looking for a better life. Rivera was born in California to a tight-knit family filled with musical talent. She was a great student and became pregnant at the age of 15. With the push of her counselors, she continued her education while pregnant and received her GED, graduating as valedictorian of her class. Jenni Rivera earned her college degree in business administration, proving many wrong, that young Latina mothers never make it to college. However, that wasn’t the end of it.

Rivera made her first recording in the 1990’s and was signed later on, becoming one of the few women leading in the banda and norteña music genre, usually dominated by men, selling over 15 million albums worldwide and starting many companies which sold cosmetics, perfumes, clothing and much more. While Rivera’s career took off the ground, her personal life was filled with pain.

Rivera suffered domestic violence at the hands of her first husband, but that didn’t stop her. She gathered enough strength to leave this marriage and became a spokesperson for the National Coalition against Domestic Violence in Los Angeles. Rivera’s music was a source of inspiration to many women who like her, were victims of abuse and didn’t always have the strength to leave. Her music and her story motivated many women to come forward and seek help knowing there was light at the end of the tunnel. After another failed marriage, Rivera only became more passionate and determined to provide for herself and her family, now a mother of five and an inspiration to women everywhere. Rivera was unafraid, always spoke her mind and overcame every obstacle while still having a smile on her face.

Jenni Rivera onstage during the 11th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 11, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jenni Rivera onstage during the 11th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 11, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Her work didn’t just stop at domestic violence, Rivera joined immigrant rights activists in Arizona after the racist show-me-your-papers law known as SB1070 became a reality. Rivera performed at the Billboard Awards dressed in purple on spirit day to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. She was a fierce advocate for equality and justice for all people. She challenged mainstream body images and beauty expectations. Her work and her legacy will live on in the hearts and souls of many.

Rivera’s life is a testament of how poderosas we really are while facing violence, racism, inequality and any other blow life has for us. Her work has shown me why it’s important to speak out when things are wrong and to continue to push for spaces where Latinas are leading. It’s important to have a space to turn to that will accept us with open arms and offer support, while being surrounded by others with shared experiences; I’m glad to have the Latina Institute.

Jenni, ayer soltamos mariposas para ti, just how you asked in one of your songs. Thank you for staying true to your roots, your fans and never forgetting where you came from. Thank you for elevating the voices of women everywhere. Thank you for setting a standard on how we deserve to be treated. You are my personal inspiration and I hope to channel your strength into my every day life. May you rest in power. Que descanses en poder.

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Rep. Aderholt (AL-4th), on the right, at the May 16, 2012 Mark-Up of the DHS Appropriations Bill, where he introduced the dangerous “Aderholt Amendment” restricting abortion funding for immigrant women in detention.

VAWA. PRENDA. Aderholt.

What do all these words (and acronyms) have in common?

They represent the three latest attacks on women’s health, safety, and reproductive justice. However, the War on Women has been raging continuously in the 112th Congress.  So what else connects these three?  They represent the escalating attacks on the health and rights of women of color, and immigrant women in particular—their right to reproductive health care, their access to protections from intimate partner violence and other crimes, and their right to bodily autonomy.

Let’s start with the most recent affront: the Aderholt amendment. Last night the House of Representatives passed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 5855), which includes a provision (Aderholt Amendment) that targets immigrant women’s reproductive health care with unnecessary and mean-spirited restrictions on access to abortion. The provision prohibits federal funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide abortion care for women in ICE detention centers—adding yet another layer to the harmful restrictions the Hyde amendment already puts in place.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), outraged over the politicized attack on some of the most vulnerable women in our society, led an effort to unite over 50 national, state, and local organizations in opposition the provision—a group that includes reproductive health, rights, and justice advocates as well as faith-based groups, advocates for Latinos health, and groups that represent immigrants, refugees, and LGBTQ people.

In a letter to the House of Representatives, this diverse group united to express deep concern that the Aderholt amendment would take us backwards, making life harder for women in federal immigration custody. Women in detention are separated from their children, their partners, and their health care providers. They have been denied HIV medication, forced to give birth in shackles, and sexually assaulted by guards. This amendment, and any restriction on access to reproductive health care, is yet another insult and humiliation for women who are already facing terrible circumstances. Immigrant women’s health should never be used as a political bargaining chip.

Rep. Adams (FL- 24) introduced H.R. 4970, a bill which takes the VAWA name, but strips protections for immigrant victims that have existed for nearly 20 years.

Rep. Adams (FL- 24) introduced H.R. 4970, a bill which takes the VAWA name, but strips protections for immigrant victims that have existed for nearly 20 years.

However, this attack did not operate in a vacuum. It represents a variation on the theme of stripping away the rights of immigrant women, a theme which is alarming, and growing. Just last month, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970 – a bill which claims to reauthorize the historically bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), but actually rolls back protections for immigrant women that have existed for almost 20 years. Since it was first signed into law, VAWA has been reauthorized twice. And each time, both parties worked together to advance protections for all victims, including immigrants. This time around, the House bill reversed protections for immigrant women and excluded advances included in the Senate bill for LGBTQ victims of violence.

And just last week, the House of Representatives attempted (but thankfully failed) to pass the so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act” or PRENDA which was engineered as an attack on the reproductive freedoms of women of color. The bill claims to outlaw abortion motivated by sex-selection, and would have imposed strict criminal and civil penalties on abortion care providers who fail to determine the motives of their patients. The bill was first introduced as the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act” and additionally banned abortions on the basis of race of the fetus. While the race-related language was stripped from the bill, PRENDA remained an attack on color and immigrant women under the guise of protecting women, pushed forward by legislators with little to no history of supporting gender equity.

Immigrant women deserve better than this onslaught of abuse. They are mothers, daughters, tias, workers, mentors, and valuable members of communities across this country. Their ability to access reproductive health care and  protections from violence are critical to their pursuit of a healthful life in the United States and to the promise of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity.

We urge you to join us in this call to support the lives of immigrant women. Please visit the website of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health for more information.

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A report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch, Cultivating Fear, describes how deeply vulnerable immigrant farm worker women are to sexual harassment and assault:

This 95-page report describes rape, stalking, unwanted touching, exhibitionism, or vulgar and obscene language by supervisors, employers, and others in positions of power. Most farmworkers interviewed said they had experienced such treatment or knew others who had. And most said they had not reported these or other workplace abuses, fearing reprisals. Those who had filed sexual harassment claims or reported sexual assault to the police had done so with the encouragement and assistance of survivor advocates or attorneys in the face of difficult challenges.

The report is full of horrifying – if unsurprising for those of us who have worked with farm worker women – stories of assault, and repeated abuse at the hands of employers or people in positions of power on the job, often using their immigration status as a tool of control and abuse. Additionally, farm workers often depend on their employers not only for their jobs but also their housing and transportation, creating a number of opportunities for abuse and control for vulnerable women.

This report comes out just as Congress voted for a Violence Against Women Act that is deeply hostile to immigrant women, eliminating critical protections for undocumented survivors of abuse.

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This week, Congress decided to celebrate National Women’s Health Week by undermining Latinas’ rights to safe, legal abortion in immigration detention and in the District of Columbia, and by striping advances made in the Violence Against Women Act to prosecute intimate partner violence and other crimes. Muchas gracias por nada, Congress!

Here is a run-down of what has been going down on the Hill:

DHS Appropriations Abortion Rider

Rep. Price (left) opposed the anti-abortion amendment by Rep. Aderholt (right.) Source aderholt.house.gov

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday morning decided to strip the right to abortion care for Latinas’ and all women in immigration detention when they added an amendment (the “Aderholt” amendment) to a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. The amendment, which passed in a party-line vote of 28-21, prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion care for women under immigration detention custody. The original amendment only allowed exceptions for life and rape, but not incest. The incest exception was added later. However, as our Executive Director Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas noted in NLIRH’s press statement, “Passage of the Aderholt amendment shows remarkable contempt for some of the most vulnerable women in our community.”

This amendment was completely unnecessary, as the dangerous and restrictive Hyde Amendment already applies to women in detention. Additionally, DHS has the Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), which are comprehensive stake-holder reviewed standards for health care in detention centers. This amendment would only open the door to interpretation to restrict access to services around abortion care, like transportation, follow-up care, and counseling, in instances where detained women pay for an abortion themselves.

With high levels of rape and sexual assault in immigration detention centers, and the fact that detainees may be U.S. citizens and those whose only crime was their presence in this country, attacking access to reproductive health care in detention is a dangerous and unjust move by House Appropriations leadership.

VAWA: The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act

Rep. Sandy Adams- Sponsor of H.R. 4970, a bill that takes the VAWA name, but leaves Latinas behind. Source: adams.house.gov

Just a few hours later, on Wednesday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4970, a bill which calls itself the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In reality, this bill rolls back protections for immigrant victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) and other crimes and excludes new protections for LGBTQ and Native American survivors approved in a bill passed by the Senate to reauthorize VAWA. The Violence Against Women Act, first enacted in 1994 with strong bipartisan support, has been reauthorized several times over the past decades with a history of cooperation across party lines. However, yesterday’s move by the House of Representatives broke that strong tradition. In doing so, they advanced a bill that actually rolls back protections for immigrant women, by allowing abusers to insert themselves into an IPV survivor’s immigration proceedings, and undermines the U-visa system, which is an important tool for abused immigrant women whose immigration status is used as a form of control. This House bill also notably excludes strong provisions for LGBTQ and Native American victims that which  were approved by the Senate in their bill to reauthorize this vital tool to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and other crimes.

Rep. Gwen Moore- sponsor of H.R. 4271 modeled after Senate-passed VAWA and opponent of H.R. 4970. Source gwenmoore.house.gov

To add insult to injury, the powerful House Rules Committee, which establishes rules for debating legislation, prohibited any amendments to be added to H.R. 4970 before the vote. This meant that opponents of the bill, like Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI 4th), herself a survivor of sexual violence who faced challenges prosecuting her abuser, was unsuccessful in her many attempts to remove dangerous provisions for immigrant victims and include protections for LGBTQ and Native Americans.

D.C. 20-Week Abortion Ban

And today, House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution is hoping to advance legislation to deny the right to abortion care to the residents of the District of Columbia.

Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ-2), author of the racial profiling anti-abortion bill, the so-called “Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act,” now has his sights on imposing a dangerous abortion restrictions for the women of the District of Columbia. H.R. 3803, or the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” relies on the medically-debated concept of “fetal pain” to strip a Latinas’ and all women’s rights to essential and potentially health- and life-saving abortion care.

The bill, in addition to imposing an unconstitutional pre-viability abortion ban, contains a number of dangerous provisions that endangers women’s health and makes women vulnerable to numerous lawsuits. While the bill contains an exception in cases where women’s lives are in danger or when they face “substantial and irreversible” harm to a “major bodily organ,” this essentially means that women have to be on the brink of death or permanent disability in order to receive the abortion care she needs to preserve her health.

Official Photo of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton

Official Photo of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton. Source http://www.norton.house.gov

The bill allows the “father” of the fetus, or “maternal grandparents” in cases where a minor seeks abortion care, to file a civil lawsuit against an abortion care provider who violates this bill, showing a complete disregard and distrust of women to make the best health care decision for themselves. The bill also opens up the door to any party – spouses, parents, siblings, health care providers, guardians, even the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia- to file a lawsuit against abortion providers who provide abortion care at or after 20 weeks of gestation. What legislators, and even the U.S. Supreme Court, have failed to realize is that many post 20-week abortion are absolutely essential to preserve the health and life of a woman seeking abortion care. No woman should die or become ill as a result of a pregnancy.

Again, to add insult to injury, Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Rep. Franks and author of the 20-week abortion ban, has prohibited Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton from testifying.

NLIRH will be submitting testimony for the hearing today, as well as live Tweeting from Rep. Holmes Norton’s press conference and the hearing itself.

Stay posted by following our blog as well as our Twitter page.

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After a few weeks of back and forth about the Violence Against Women Act later, the Senate seems finally ready to finish work on it and vote today. But why so much debate?

The Violence Against Women Act first passed in 1994, and has since been reauthorized twice – in 2000 and 2005. It is up for reauthorization once again, and though historically VAWA has had broad bipartisan support, a few provisions that address the needs of marginalized populations in the United States – in this case, Native Americans, immigrants, and LGBTQ folks – have been singled out and targeted for opposition. Namely, these provisions would:

  • Provides tribes jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native persons accused of IPV against Native partners within their territories
  • Include LGBT persons in its definition of “underserved populations,” and make funds obtained through VAWA subject to non-discrimination provisions including sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Include support programs specifically for immigrant communities, such as increasing the number of U-Visas (visas available through VAWA for immigrants abused by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents), expanding U Visa qualifying crimes, allowing anyone at a law enforcement agency to provide certifications for U visas, and providing a possibility for people who can’t get law enforcement certifications to still apply for U visas if they have enough evidence.

The fact that these are sticking points is absolutely absurd. Approximately 1.5 million women from all walks of life experience intimate partner violence (IPV), and the impact of IPV on communities of color and LGBT communities should not be understated. Though no studies demonstrate that IPV is higher in immigrant communities than the community at large, Latina and Asian immigrant women are overrepresented among IPV-related homicide victims. IPV among LGBTQ people occurs, but is often ignored and even turned away from services. And in their lifetimes, 24% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped, and 39% will be subjected to domestic violence.

That members of Congress have taken issue with provisions that would increase the safety of these populations ignores reality and is an affront to justice. Each year, the lives of thousands of women, children, and others who survive intimate partner violence are made safer by VAWA and the programs it has created. On their behalf, it is imperative that these provisions stay in the bill, and that VAWA grows along with the times.

Urge your Senators to pass VAWA with these provisions today. We cannot afford to ignore our communities’ realities. Please take action!

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Throughout 20 Days of ACA, we have discussed many ways the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or health reform) prioritizes the prevention of disease and illness. We have discussed the creation of the National Prevention Council and National Prevention Strategy as well as no co-pays for a wide range preventive care services including cervical cancer screening, pregnancy-related care, STI/HIV testing, and maternity and newborn coverage in the state insurance “exchanges.”

Today, we discuss another preventive health service that will be offered with no co-pay: domestic violence screening.

Starting on August 1, 2012 new health insurance plans must begin to cover this important service at no additional cost to patients. This important provision was included thanks to the Women’s Health Amendment (WHA).

How does domestic violence or inter-partner violence (IPV) impact Latinas?

According to year 2000 estimates, nearly 1 in 4 (23.4%) Latinas face domestic violence over the course of their lifetime. This violence comes in many forms including but not limited to verbal abuse, physical assault, and sexual assault. Abusive partners also cut off access to support systems and money (even partners’ earned wages.) Increasingly,  reproductive coercion – including sabotaging birth control methods, threatening to leave a women if she does not become pregnant, forcing contraception or abortion, and forcing partners to use recreational drugs to enhance arousal – is being used a form of violence against partners.

And while more data is needed, we know that immigrant Latinas are  overrepresented among IVP-related homicide victims and they face more barriers to leaving abusers due to lesser developed support systems, ineligibility for public benefits, and limited English proficiency among others. We also know a pregnant woman has a 35% increased chance of experiencing IPV compared to non-pregnant women and that IPV in LGBTQ communities occurs, but is often ignored.

To add to the challenges, states like Arizona and Alabama have enacted a series of dangerous immigration policies that only  decrease Latinas’ confidence in law enforcement, break apart families through incarceration, detention and deportation, and create an “anti-immigrant” culture.  Despite the creation of the U-Visa in 2000 to protect immigrants who assist law enforcement, these egregious state immigration policies threaten public safety and health by making it more difficult for Latina immigrants of IPV to leave their abusers.

Why is no co-pay for domestic violence screening and counseling important for Latinas?

Much needs to be done in this country to end domestic violence, address domestic violence in LGBTQ communities, and elevate the status of those who identify as women. For starters, NLIRH called for comprehensive immigration reform and condemned Arizona-like immigration policies.

The Affordable Care Act make a small but necessary contribution to the health of women who face domestic violence. By requiring no co-pays for domestic violence screening, the health care law removes a barrier for women whose wages and access to money have been cut off by abusers.

Health reform recognizes that women face unique barriers to health care that men do not face. From no co-pays for women’s-specific preventive care to non-discrimination protection, the ACA hopes to reduce health disparities faced by women, and particularly women of color by improving women’s access to health care insurance and public health services. And as Latinas have disproportionately been excluded from health services, they stand poised to gain from the reforms under the ACA.

There are only a few more posts in 20 Days of ACA — stay tuned throughout this week!

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