NLN Spotlight: Centro Multicultural
Tuesday, July 13th, 2021
As part of our series spotlighting National Latin@ Network member organizations, meet an organization making a difference in the lives of people of color. In this conversation, we speak with Centro Multicultural’s VOCA Coordinator, Sarah Acosta.
What brought you to the work of supporting survivors and sexual violence?
As a young person of color, I was intimately aware of the persaviness of relational and systematic violence and the resilience and resistance building needed to move through this. Movies, dominant culture and the news don’t often model healthy relationships. I believe that if some of us aren’t free, none of us are. I understand that doing this work requires the tools to address the ways in which abuse comes up in our daily lives and working towards building and promoting healthy relationships is a big part of that. The anti-violence movement is just that, a movement towards healing, social justice and creating safe and brave spaces in our homes and in the worlds we live in.
What do you currently do in your position to support survivors of sexual violence?
As the VOCA Coordinator, I work under our largest grant that is dedicated to providing an array of services to mostly immigrants and undocumented folks experiencing intimate partner vioelnce, assault, and/or who have been victims of hate crimes. No day is predictable! But I spend most of my time providing empowerment counseling with clients, training staff on the importance of trauma-informed approaches to the work we do, and focusing on reaching out to multiply marginalized members of our communities such as LGBTQ+ BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color).
How can we support loved ones who have been impacted by sexual violence?
This is a question we get a lot. Sometimes the first and best thing that you can do is listen. It’s important that you treat your loved ones, who are experiencing violence, with dignity and use consent when bringing in outside services. Not everyone is ready to leave a harmful situation, and accessing social services does not always mean that they won’t experience more harm on their way out of an abusive relationship. Talking with people about boundaries, consent and red flags are also helpful so that they can identify the ways that abuse appears in their own relationships. And this last one isn’t often talked about but, if your loved one isn’t ready to leave, no matter how frustrating it might be, please don’t shut them out! If someone is able to confide in you that they are experiencing or have experienced abuse, take that as them reaching out for a life-line and stay around so that when they are ready to come all the way out, they have a support system. Leaving a harmful or violent relationship is one part of the picture, but so is staying out of the cycles of abuse afterwards – and friends and family support are crucial.
What advice would you give advocates working with Latin@ survivors of sexual violence during the pandemic?
When everyone talks about cultural competence, this is what we mean! During the COVID-19 pandemic many organizations have surpassed capacity, crises are happening all around us and it has been incredibly difficult to provide human services through the phone or a screen. Working with Latinx survivors, especially ones who do not speak English, requires many extra steps of care, compassion and support. Why? Because mainstream services are incredibly hard to access, especially when you don’t understand the language. I’ll tell you a secret – most of these services have a language access plan! Whether it is a social service, bank, incarceration facilities, law enforcement or the court system, many of these places are required to have a language access plan, yet many of them do not use it. As an advocate, this is where you come in! If your client is having accessibility issues, needs more support or hasn’t had luck accessing resources – always assume that it is not for lack of trying, but rather for lack of cultural humility from these outside agencies. Look inward too, if your organization needs training, technical assistance or needs to implement a LAP, be the voice for your clients. Look at the red flags that create barriers to access for Latinx survivors and find some work buddies to help you tackle some of them.
How do you practice well-being and self-care?
I was recently in a training where the facilitator shared that staying hydrated and rested are some of the most important things someone can do for self care in times of high stress. They gave this example about how if you are running through the jungle and a lion is chasing you, you couldn’t stop to take a sip of water, and if you did, it must mean that you aren’t actually in danger. As a care worker, some days staying hydrated is all I can muster. In my leisure time, I enjoy making teas and reading a good book. One of the biggest challenges with self care is how much pressure people put on it. It’s okay if you cannot take a bubble bath or get your nails done, doing what feels right to YOU is the most important part.