NZ’s Latin Americans tackle domestic violence


Domestic violence has become a problem within the Latin American community, made worse by cultural barriers.

The Auckland Latin American Community Inc, a group that offers social services and cultural support for migrants and refugees from Latin America, found that a culture of silence and the inability to speak English is preventing Latin American women from seeking help.
Community social worker Sergio Opazo explained that although culture can positively contribute to society, sometimes it can also be a drawback for those women.
“It’s like they bring a small part of their country to New Zealand, which
is fine, because it’s part of our culture. [But there is] a little bit of a stigma when talking about family violence. They tend to keep it a secret,” he said.
Community legal support worker, Felipe Forero, said no one wants to
speak of it. “We try to provide distraction, engage with them and provide
them with a safe environment so they are keen to talk about it,” he said.
Mr Forero said the Auckland Latin American Community (ALAC) is providing
workshops to bring together women and open the topic in a roundabout way.
On November 1, for example, they held a yoga and relaxation class for
women, hoping that would bring them together and offer some camaraderie.
“The idea is to talk about relaxation, talk about yoga, and try to understand
what is going on and try to pick up particular cases that we recognise, critical cases that need special support. After this activity, we are planning a workshop where we will talk about all these issues,” Mr Forero said.
Mr Opazo added that a lot of South American women simply do not know their rights. “New Zealand is a different way of living. Women have a lot of rights. But South American women, they don’t know how to use those rights,” Mr Opazo said.
He also said another problem for Latin American parents and children is the clashing cultures.
“You need to realise that you need to mix in and you need to be open. New
Zealand has a different lifestyle.
“That’s happened to us, there is a problem of identity. Because at home,
they would have to live like Chilean or Colombian, but outside of home,
they are Kiwis. They speak like Kiwis,” he said.
The group also offers parenting programmes to help families deal with
the diff erences in culture.
Catholic Caring Foundation general manager Darragh O’Riordan said ALAC
had recently been granted funds by the Catholic Caring Foundation to keep its
operation going.
“New Catholic communities are very important to the foundation, as poverty
and isolation can be very hard for these Catholic families to come to terms with as they transition into their new lives,” said Ms O’Riordan.
Mr Opazo said that although they cater to the Latin American community,
they off er help to anyone who needs it.
They provide emergency housing and food and clothing, particularly to those
who feel at risk.

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Rowena Orejana

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