Te Invito: Freddy’s story of finding culturally relevant domestic violence intervention support
Thursday, February 28th, 2019
Working effectively with the Latin@ community requires knowledge and understanding of key cultural values. These short vignettes from the life of Freddy, a Latino man, will give you the opportunity to learn and understand some aspects of Latin@ cultures. However, it’s important to remember that not all men are like Freddy and not all of his cultural values are present in the lives of all Latin@s.
After each section, we’ll present a series of questions for reflection to stimulate your learning or conversation with other men (or women).
Freddy will be your guide:
Hello, my name is Freddy, and I live with my parents in West St. Paul, Minnesota. I am 23 years old, single and a senior at the university. I have a stepbrother named Jorge, and he lives with his wife and children in Minneapolis, 20 minutes from my home. I also have many uncles, aunts and cousins in this area. We get together almost every Sunday to have dinner; sometimes there are more than 40 family members gathered at our house.
A few months ago, during one of our Sunday dinners, I realized that my sister-in-law was alone in the kitchen crying. I asked her what was wrong, but she didn’t want to tell me. I told my mother, and they went to the bedroom to talk. Blanca trusts my mother a lot, and she told her that my brother Jorge had hit her that morning. She said it wasn’t the first time, and that he frequently insulted and degraded her even in front of their children.
When everyone was gone, my mom told my dad and me about the situation. Jorge is my mom’s son from her first husband, and she’s afraid of him because he has a bad temper. My mom asked my dad to talk to Jorge but he said he’d already tried talking to him many times, and besides, this was a private matter between Jorge and Blanca.
Jorge was raised by his father, who is very sexist (machista). Perhaps that’s where he learned to be very dominating and violent towards women. Luckily my dad isn’t like that. He taught me to be a gentleman and to respect women. My uncles and cousins are also very respectful and affectionate with my aunts.
I don’t agree with my dad’s reaction that Jorge’s problem is personal and there’s nothing that can be done, but I didn’t want to contradict him in front of my mom. My friend Jack, however, has invited me several times to a men’s group that gets together to talk and organize activities against domestic violence. The truth is that I haven’t wanted to go because I don’t know if there would be other Latinos in the group, but I need to seek help for Jorge and his family. I’m not going to abandon my brother, his wife or their children.
Questions for Reflection:
- How important is family in Freddy’s life? Why?
- What’s your opinion about the fact that Freddy still lives with his parents?
- Why do you think Blanca didn’t want to talk to Freddy but was willing to talk with his mom?
- What do you think of Freddy’s father’s attitude with respect to Jorge?
- What cultural values can you identify at the beginning of the story (without reviewing the notes at the end of the document)?
Last night I went to the men’s group with Jack, and as I suspected, I was the only Latino there. It wasn’t a good experience. I told them Jorge’s story, and many of the men told me that I should call the police. I told them that would not be possible because calling the police meant putting Jorge’s immigration status at risk. They told me that deporting Jorge would be a good solution as he could not continue mistreating his wife. They don’t understand that this is the last thing my sister-in-law Blanca would want, or how it would destroy the family. Because of their reaction, I realized that Anglos often don’t realize that we live different realities, even if they have good intentions. One of the men even said that we would not resolve the issue of domestic violence as long as more Latinos kept coming to the United States, implying that all Latin@s are sexist and violent. This made me feel very bad, and I was surprised that Jack didn’t say anything. I will never return to that group, but I still have to find help for Jorge, Blanca and their children.
Questions for Reflection:
- What happened in group that made Freddy feel bad?
- What cultural problems can be indentified in this story among Anglos and Latin@s? Which of Freddy’s cultural values and realities was the group unable to understand?
- If you were Jack, what would you do in this situation?
Just a week after attending the group, I was watching TV and saw a commercial in which several Latino men were discussing domestic violence in Spanish. I couldn’t believe it! At the end of the commercial, there was a telephone number to call and learn more information.
The next day, I called the number, and an organization for victims of domestic abuse answered. When I mentioned the commercial, they told me that a group of Latino men gathered weekly to organize against violence. They gave me the information, and I promptly attended the group the following Saturday.
What a difference from Jack’s group! To begin with, they had Latino food for everyone. At the beginning, we ate together and talked about everything except violence. Everyone welcomed me very warmly. Once we finished eating, they asked what brought me to the group, and I began to tell them Jorge’s story. They immediately understood my dilemma, and no one suggested I call the police. Two of the men told me that they also had family members in the same situation, while yet another shared with me that he used to abuse his own partner a few years prior.
They told me it’s very important that I talk with Jorge, although it wasn’t going to be easy. They advised me to invite him to dinner in a public place, and, if possible, bring another family member as support. They said I should begin by expressing my love and concern for his well-being and for his family. One of the men told me that what worked in his brother’s case was sharing information about the damage caused to children who witness violence. He even gave me a brochure in Spanish and English on the subject and a list of resources for Blanca and the children. At the end of the meeting, all the men offered to talk directly to Jorge and suggested I invite him to participate in the group. I left feeling hopeful and, above all, supported.
Questions for Reflection:
- How is the reaction of the Latino group different from that of Jack’s group?
- In what manner does this group use the Latin@ cultural values?
- Do you think that Jack’s group could learn something from the Latino group?
- How should the facilitators prepare to deal with cultural issues in groups with participants of diverse cultures?
- If you were Freddy, how would you respond to a situation similar to Jorge’s? Would you follow the same steps or have a different response?
This account and guide comes from one of many sections of the Te Invito campaign, a campaign to engage Latino men and boys in the fight to end gender-based violence. For more information, visit teinvito.org.