Tell Us About It: Victim Research Convos


In this CVR podcast series, we talk with those doing research and serving victims and learn about the work they've done together.

Tell Us About It, Episode 18: Incorporating Community Research and Practice at Casa de Esperanza, Part 2

A convo with Rosie Hidalgo and Rebecca RodriguezJul 19Time: 20:29

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This episode of Tell Us About It is the second of a two-part series focused on research and policy at Casa de Esperanza and its National Latin@ Network. In part two, we continue our conversation with Rosie Hidalgo and Rebecca Rodriguez of Casa de Esperanza. We discuss the topics and insights they covered at the recent Latin@ Research and Policy Roundtable, which brought together research and policy advocates for Latin@ survivors.

Rosie Hidalgo is the Senior Director of Public Policy for Casa de Esperanza. She previously served as the Deputy Director for Policy at the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice. She also worked to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013 as a member of the Steering Committee of the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Rebecca Rodriguez is the Director of Research and Evaluation for Casa de Esperanza. She is also a community psychologist whose research interests broadly focus on culturally-specific and community-centered approaches to prevent family violence in Latin@ families.

If you’d like to listen to part one of our conversation, please click here:

Related links:
• Learn more about Casa de Esperanza and the National Latin@ Network from their website:
• Find out more about the research work of Casa’s National Latin@ Network:
• Listen to the Casa de Esperanza podcast, Conversations Over a Cafecito:


Susan Howley: Welcome to Tell Us About It: Victim Research Convos, a podcast from the Center for Victim Research with support from the Office for Victims of Crime. On each episode of Tell Us About It, we talk to researchers and practitioners about their work, the tools being built for use in the field, and how we can work together to build an evidence base for victim services. In this episode, we continue our discussion with Rosie Hidalgo and Rebecca Rodriguez of Casa de Esperanza, with a focus on their recent Latin@ Research and Policy Roundtable. Now I know that Casa de Esperanza recently held a roundtable in Washington D.C. that brought together researchers and policy advocates. Can you tell us more about that?

Rebecca Rodriguez: So every couple of years we bring together a research advisory board, which I mentioned earlier, to come together and work with us to help identify what are the current trends that we’re seeing in the research in regards to domestic and sexual violence in the Latin@ community and to help shape our agendas and where we’re going in the future. So in 2015, we have held a Research Roundtable and invited practitioners from Latin@-serving domestic violence organizations all over the United States. And with that meeting, we were able to together identify some critical issues that they were experiencing on the ground and then we were able to respond to that in the last few years. So for example, one of the areas that they identified at that roundtable was the need to provide proof of the effectiveness of their work, so the evidence-based practice. So they were asking for us to help them evaluate their programs. And we went into this knowing that what they were doing on the ground and providing services were effective and they knew that from the practice-based evidence that they were doing good work. So what we wanted to do was just to be able to provide some tools on how they could capture their work. And we have from that developed a toolkit, it’s called the Building Evidence Toolkit, which you’ll find on our website. And that really provides a gentle introduction to evaluation for programs on the ground to be able to do this work, and it also reflects their language. So we use a very culturally specific metaphor of referring to evaluation as kind of like a recipe: getting the ingredients together, taste testing and being able to improve your recipe based on those responses. That really came from one of these round tables. And then this year, just recently, we were able to do a similar approach where we brought together our research advisory board members and our policy council and wanted to explore more ways that we could support each other’s work. And Rosie can talk a little bit more about that.

Rosie Hidalgo: So it’s interesting, again likewise in the past, we have had a convening of our policy advisory council and it’s a great opportunity get their input and helping hear what’s happening on the ground, what we’re seeing as policy priorities, figuring out how to also lift up from different perspectives, recognizing that our communities are very diverse. The Latin@ communities 58 million Latinas and Latinos, representing more than 22 countries. Even the language diversity is actually increasing, we’re seeing a lot more indigenous languages too, from Central America. So things change. And even what’s happening on the ground is changing, the way policies are impacting the lived realities. So it’s really important to have a policy advisory council reflecting different areas of work, different parts of the country, different backgrounds and get that input. And so this year, we were going to potentially do two separate meetings, and then in talking together decided it’d be great to combine it because we realize how important it is in our advocacy to have research that can lift up what people are seeing in communities. And anecdotes are important in our policy advocacy. I find that stories and the way survivors are impacted is a way to reach policymakers in the heart. But then you need some research to show that it’s not just anecdotal, and the research is important, as well as then the policy recommendations that come after that. Because you can go to policymakers and say here’s a survivor story and by the way here’s research. But then what? Like what are the changes we’re asking for? And the more that we can know what those asks are and bring that to policymakers, the more effective we can be. And bring it to our allies, who are also all together through the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, we seek to lift up these policy priorities. So it was an opportunity for us to better establish a network and connections among some of those who are on our policy council, on our research council, and really have a very rich dialogue. It was very fruitful and some of the things that emerged from that were, for example, we were identifying prevention is just a critical issue. Our communities are really saying, yes we need to pull people out of the stream, but when are we going to go upstream more? How are we going to really work to help change the social norms? We recognize that across all cultures, ethnicities, income levels, education levels, there is issues of sexism and gender-based violence. We recognize that. And yet the solutions or the way it plays out in different communities may be different as well. So we want to lift up what are we seeing in our communities and how do we also strengthen the ability of culture-specific community based organizations to do the work in a way that’s most responsive to those needs and community. And that highlight not only risk factors that may be more complex at times with intersections of issues, but also highlight what a protective factors that our richness in our culture and our community as well. So we had rich discussions from policy. And then some of our policy advocates, of course, are also practitioners. They are people providing legal services and community, they are people who are doing other kinds of advocacy at the state level, and there are some who are directors of community based organizations that work with the Latin@ community. So it was a rich dialogue about how do we get the research that can also lift that up. Because for example in the Violence Against Women Act and now through the reauthorization of the Family Violence Prevention Services Act, as well as the way VOCA dollars are reaching communities, oftentimes we find those dollars are not sufficiently going to support the work of culture-specific community based organizations that are reaching individuals who may not go to a mainstream program, who may not want to engage in systems. And we can talk about that, but the more we have the research that can lift that up and show what the value added is – and in fact Rebecca recently had finished a research paper too that really highlighted the value added of trauma-informed approaches that are culturally-specific. So that research can help us now as we’re on the Hill and as we’re talking to policy makers to make sure that how are the resources reaching our communities.

Susan Howley: Well I am so sorry I missed that roundtable. It sounds like what came out of it was policy advocates realizing here’s research I can use in my work, in my meetings that are coming up, or in this bill that I’m addressing. And researchers came away with, okay and here’s what I should be thinking about for my next project. But I think even more importantly, just the opportunity to interact and collectively come up with a vision of what’s next.

Rosie Hidalgo: Yeah absolutely and something that came up that was very powerful too – one of our policy council members, she’s a legal service provider down in south Florida. And she shared the transition that she has seen over the past even five years, five to 10 years, of new arrivals of immigrants who really are seeking protection from gender-based violence, in particularly three countries that we’re aware of right now in what’s called the Northern Triangle: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Recognizing there’s a whole complexity of what is happening and what’s at the root of why only those three countries – because there are many other countries, but there are a particular context and factors that are complex – and why we now are seeing women and children who are fleeing that violence, encountering more violence and risk of trafficking, even when they get here, and are encountering significant barriers in seeking asylum as victims of gender-based violence when their country of origin, the law enforcement was not able to provide the protections they need. But one of the things that she was highlighting is that there’s more complex layers of multiple victimization. And the cases themselves, the legal cases, are much more difficult right now. There’ve been a lot of additional change and really going backwards in a pathway to seeking the kinds of remedies that have always been there and have received bipartisan support for immigrant survivors. But as we see many additional barriers, she’s saying these legal cases are taking a lot longer, so our legal services resources are being stretched very thin. Things that legal advocates could do before, now there’s a lot more risk, because if someone’s denied protection, now they could potentially be put quickly on a pathway to deportation even for a U Visa. Before that wasn’t the case; if you were denied, it was seen as not something that merited turning over someone’s information to ICE. So now there’s huge risks, even in immigrant victims seeking whether or not to file a remedy that is there to try to provide a pathway to safety. So even that whole dialogue helped people recognize that some of the research, existing research, on immigrant survivors is somewhat outdated in terms of what the current context, current realities, current complexities. And so some of the researchers were like wow, this really lets us know then that even if we thought oh this research was done 10 years ago, we’re not sufficiently reflecting what is on the ground now, as well as the need to do some studies in Latin America as well and better understand. I mean they might be even opportunities for collaborations with researchers in Latin America too, to better understand some of these layers of complexity. But for the most part then, there was a lot of interest. And even the whole issue of legal services then, we were talking about how do we lift this up to policymakers and funders, the fact that the legal services are not reaching critical populations that need to make sure that they can seek this pathway to safety as victims of violence.

Susan Howley: Were there any other hot button topics that came up at this meeting?

Rosie Hidalgo: Casa de Esperanza originally started with a focus on domestic violence. And over time you know we’ve really begun to realize, as the field as a whole, that sometimes this work was being done in silos – those who do domestic violence work, those who do sexual assault or trafficking. And really people’s lives don’t exist in silos. There’s a lot of complexity and intersection. And so we’re now expanding to really make sure we’re also listening to the voices of those who are addressing issues of sexual assault, sexual violence. But also in particular what we’ve really been hearing in our communities is the critical issue of sexual violence in the workplace and how in particular that’s impacting Latin@s and immigrant Latin@s. For example, immigrant farm workers have experienced high rates of sexual assault – in fact PBS Univision did a whole documentary called “Rape in the Fields” – and the way in which that kind of sexual violence is perpetrated with a sense of impunity because oftentimes, they know that they’re preying on individuals who may be too afraid to seek help. Likewise, more research is starting to come up and demonstrate, for example, those who work in the janitorial industry, those who work cleaning our buildings late at night, those who are home health aides, those who are domestic workers doing cleaning in homes are extremely vulnerable. And so this is a place where we’re seeing a lot of grassroots advocacy. There’s a whole initiative in California called Alianza de Campesinas, farmworker women really rising up and organizing, and the janitorial workers to rising up and talking about these issues and the domestic workers with the National Domestic Workers Alliance. So we were addressing some of these complex issues of sexual violence in the workplace, how to better recognize even when someone might be talking about domestic violence, how to even ask about what they have encountered in the workplace, what has happened. Because oftentimes there is multiple victimization and people at times don’t know how to explore all of that and how to make sure that we’re reaching individuals who are experiencing sexual violence in the workplace in order to help them in seeking safety and justice. And again, connecting them to legal services, understanding what the remedies are. So that was a very rich discussion where we realized we need to do more and more collaborations across those issues. Another hot button issue is, how do we work with those who have caused harm? And we had some rich dialogue realizing not enough research has been done in this space. What does it mean? Is there a space to talk about trauma-informed ways of working with those who’ve caused harm? And we hear that from our communities, people say I want the violence to stop or I want this person to acknowledge the harm that they’ve caused, but at times they don’t want to engage with systems that may end up incarcerating someone or potentially end up bringing greater harm to what they see as the family – If they end up homeless, without access to economic resources. So we had some rich discussions. Even we had very powerful sharing of how this plays out with the LGBTQ Latin@ community. Someone shared about this effort in New York City recognizing a lot of individuals in those communities are very afraid to interact with law enforcement and want to figure out how to call out and hold accountable someone who’s caused harm without necessarily potentially causing further harm to someone, let’s say who’s a transgender Latin@ who may have caused harm in a relationship but her partner knows that for that person to be incarcerated could lead to more harm to that individual. These are what we termed emerging issues to talk about what are these complexities, how are we better serving Afro-Latin@s, indigenous women are Latin@s. We were really having some rich discussions about the need to do more research and more policy advocacy at the intersections. And we were also, for example, another issue that came up is we recognize for example in New York City, that they have been making efforts to reduce the DV homicide rates but have recognized that they’re not coming down at the same rate that other crime, other homicide rates have come down. And recently in a roundtable we had Bea Hanson, who now is coordinating the New York City Task Force on Domestic Violence, had shared that about 70 percent of DV homicide victims in New York City are individuals who never contacted the police. So again, we’re talking about how do we provide options? How do we reach those people maybe who are too fearful to seek services and really again look at different pathways to safety. So a lot of that, we didn’t necessarily solve those issues right away. We were just highlighting emerging issues about even what does it mean to work towards transformative justice approaches? What does it mean to find better ways to work with those who have caused harm? And then again prevention was just something that kept coming back up and the need for more. Many times people are challenged, well what’s the evidence based on prevention? And that is starting to emerge more. I think the field has not had sufficient resources or opportunity to invest in really looking at prevention. I think sometimes the field comes more from a scarcity mentality, where there’s a sense that if all the money isn’t going to victim services then we’re not serving enough victims. And so it shouldn’t be either/or, it’s both/and and how do we get more resources to continue to make sure we’re reaching survivors but also investing a lot more upstream on prevention. So that’s something that was definitely a critical issue that emerged.

Susan Howley: Tell us a little bit about how you set your research agenda. So you just came off of it sounds like this very intense and very deep discussion. How does that then become a research agenda?

Rebecca Rodriguez: Great question. Thank you. So I think that in addition to the roundtables that we do, Casa de Esperanza is in a very unique position. So we have our work locally on the ground in St. Paul and we also have our national work. So our staff is located all over the country and with their engagement there, they’re able to share what are the unique experiences that are happening there on the ground with those Latin@ communities because, as Rosie mentioned, we’re not a monolithic community. So I think that Casa de Esperanza’s unique position allows us to really prioritize community voices in our research agenda.

Rosie Hidalgo: So as we now leave this roundtable, we’re still going to be absorbing all the different input we got and be pulling that together in a report as well, where we want to highlight what some of the promising practices are, where the gaps that were identified, help then lay out some priorities in terms of opportunities for research in the short term or longer term, as well as policy priorities as we continue to shape those. And recognize also with the limited capacity that individuals have, how do we continue to do the work that can be done through Casa de Esperanza’s National Latin@ Network and those who are in our policy and research council. But also how do we lift this up potentially to have others be aware of these gaps and to be able to support additional research and hopefully additional funding for research. There was also a very rich discussion of what can be done with federal funding, but how do we also get more foundations and others with more flexible funding to support more research. It became very clear, for example, we had some very rich dialogue about what does it mean to bring a racial equity and social justice lens to this research? What does it mean to look at issues like transformative justice and those who may not necessarily be engaging with the criminal legal system and the harm that’s done when people don’t have more widespread options. Some of that we may need additional sources of funding to really be able to take research in many different directions as well. So that be part of how we continue moving forward identifying priorities.

Susan Howley: You all have so much going on. I know that this is a very, in some ways, troubling but also exciting time. You are building such a network to address these really crucial issues. This has been a wonderful conversation. Thank you both for your time today.

Rosie Hidalgo: Well thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

Rebecca Rodriguez: Thank you.