Please note: Entries within this blog may contain reference to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text “loveis” to 22522.

Culturally Responsive Advocacy for Diverse Young Survivors of Dating Abuse or Sexual Assault

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, during the month of April we will be featuring our partners across the nation in a Guest Blog Series on issues of sexual violence. Please be aware that this blog post references incidences of sexual violence, and may be triggering to some readers. This week’s post comes from Lumarie Orozco at Casa de Esperanza.

“The greatest and most inspiring achievements are not produced by those who conform to society’s idea of normal, but by those who courageously adopt the unconventional.” – J.J. Herbert

There is no denying that young people from racially and ethnically diverse communities who are survivors of dating violence or sexual assault often live realities different from other young people around them. As a youth practitioner, I learned many years ago that in order to develop culturally responsive advocacy strategies that address the needs of racially and ethnically diverse young people, I would have to work in a manner which would honor, respect and value their lived realities and experiences, yet be reflective of their culture, beliefs, and traditions. As such, my work became about being flexible, open and responsive to their self-identified needs. I worked to put tools, resources and support in the hands of racially and ethnically diverse young people, so that they themselves, could take leadership in guiding and informing how they want us to work with them. Adopting the unconventional provides young people from racially and ethnically diverse communities with the opportunity to be leaders in their own healing, in creating healthy relationships, families and communities.

Unconventional culturally responsive strategies that target young people from racially and ethnically diverse communities allow us to utilize approaches outside of the conventional way of thinking about the development of interventions. Community engagement is seen by many as being an unconventional approach to developing advocacy interventions.  However, this type of engagement is a very effective approach by which we can build the foundation for the development of culturally responsive strategies.

Community engagement is a process that includes multiple techniques to promote the participation of residents in community life, especially those who are excluded and isolated. It involves them in collective action to create a healthy community, but for many, the impacts of community engagement go far beyond whatever the specific outcome of that action may be. Impacts may include community healing, reclaiming a healthy identity, reconnecting with culture and spirituality, building relationships, and embracing individual and collective power. In fact, good community engagement requires the strengthening and maintenance of those elements.1

Community engagement as a strategy for developing culturally responsive advocacy services that target racially and ethnically diverse young people:

  • is grounded in and guided by the experiences and expertise of young people
  • cannot happen if young people are not at the center of the work dating violence and sexual assault
  • is done in partnership with young people
  • puts the tools, resources and supports in the hands of young people
  • creates leadership opportunities for young people to take on the work of developing strategies that promote their own healing and in creating healthy families and communities

Casa de Esperanza’s community engagement approach is both a strategy and a result of working directly with community members to develop their leadership and engage them in addressing critical community concerns, such as domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault. It is an approach by which we work in partnership with communities to address and understand the challenges and needs that Latin@ young people face when experiencing dating and domestic violence, and sexual assault. Utilizing this approach ensures that Latin@ young people who are survivors are active participants in the development of strategies that impact them.

We believe that Latin@ communities have the desire and great capacity to support each other in informing the development of strategies that address the challenges and needs that they face. We also believe that this work cannot happen in a vacuum. We, along with other leaders and organizations, play an important role in supporting these efforts by providing opportunities for leadership, coaching and access to other supports and resources as needed. Through our 30 years of experience, we have learned that culturally responsive advocacy strategies that are grounded in the community’s realities are critical in the creation of healthy individuals, families and communities.

To learn more about sexual violence and Latin@ communities, or about community engagement and how it can be an effective strategy for developing culturally responsive advocacy interventions, visit the following resources:

  • Resource Library
  • Special Collection: Domestic Violence in Latin@ Communities Special Collection: Latin@ Youth as Agents of Change
  • Community Engagement and Social Capital
  • Community Engagement: Community at the Center: Building the Field of Community Engagement

1. Building the Field of Community Engagement Partners & Babler, Tracy. (2014). The impacts of community engagement.