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Latina survey finds bias, domestic abuse
News update posted July 28, 2011
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

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A new report released by Mujeres Latinas en Accion and Amigas Latinas July 28 shows disturbing rates of discrimination and violence impacting LGBT Latinas.

"Latina Portrait: Latina Queer Women in Chicago" surveyed 305 queer women in Chicago about their experiences ranging from everything from health and well-being to inequity within and beyond the city's LGBT community.

Researchers, who presented their findings in a panel discussion July 28, said some of their findings are alarming.

The survey—conducted in 2007, and just coming out now—sheds light on issues facing Chicago Latinas that researchers say is needed to address a myriad of disparities.

The most pressing of those issues, they said, were rates of domestic abuse; rates of depression and anxiety; and a lack of access to culturally sensitive medical care.

"I hope this disrupts the idea that violence only affects poor women," said Dr. Lourdes Torres, a DePaul University professor who co-authored the report with Nicole Perez.

Forty-three percent of respondents reported that they had been physically assaulted by a partner, while 31 percent said a female partner had threatened to kill them.

"They had a history of violence and the violence is continuing," said Lu Rocha, a member of Amigas Latinas, who presented the study findings July 28. "What was alarming was that the women admitted they were participating in the violent behavior"

Forty-five percent of the women surveyed said they had hit or punched a female partner, and 23 percent said they had threatened to kill a partner at some point.

Violence reported came from outside of relationships, too, however.

Many women reported being discriminated against in the mainstream LGBT community because they are Latina. Nearly 69 percent said that racist remarks had been directed at them, while almost 85 percent said they had been in the presence of such remarks.

"We have to understand that violence can be perpetrated through remarks in a number of different ways," said Torres.

Study findings suggest that discrimination contributed to high rates of mental health concerns. Seventy-seven of the respondents reported depression, while 66 reported suffering from anxiety.

The survey also found that many women do not have a primary health care physician, and that if they do, they are not always out as LGBT to their doctors.

Researchers say that more work needs to be done in the community to make sure that doctors are sensitive to LGBT Latinas and transgender people, especially given the high rates of reported domestic abuse going unreported.

Torres believes the study has its shortcomings. Only one of the 305 respondents self-identified as a transgender, she said. Further, respondents showed higher education rates than have been reported in larger Latin@ communities, making researchers believe that the survey is skewed toward more formally-educated women.

The study is the fifth in a series by Mujeres Latinas en Accion that focus on Latinas.

The survey, which was drafted as a follow-up to a 1996 study, was modeled by Dr. Marisa Alicea of DePaul University after a survey done by Affinity Community Services. Torres said that findings from both studies will eventually be compared.

According to Maria Presqueira, CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Accion, this latest study expands significantly on research done in 1996, especially in areas of mental and physical health.

In response to survey findings, Amigas Latinas has revived an old tradition: members have begun hosting platicas, community gatherings in people's homes where queer Latinas can share issues and concerns. The organization hopes to address concerns revealed in the survey and also provide a supportive space where women can share issues and interests.

"I don't want to leave you with the idea that there are not good things happening in our lives, in the lives of queer Latinas," said Torres.

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