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 17: Incorporating Community Research and Practice at Casa de Esperanza

A convo with Rosie Hidalgo and Rebecca RodriguezJul 05Time: 21:40

  • Ways to Listen
  • Listen on Apple Podcasts
  • Listen on Soundcloud
  • Listen on Spotify

This episode of Tell Us About It is the first of a two-part series focused on research and policy at Casa de Esperanza and its National Latin@ Network. In part one, we speak with staff members Rosie Hidalgo and Rebecca Rodriguez about the incorporation of community-based research into their work, and how this informs their policy advocacy and research needs.

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.

Related links:



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. Today, we’re talking with Rosie Hidalgo and Rebecca Rodriguez of Casa de Esperanza. Rosie and Rebecca, welcome and tell us more about Casa de Esperanza and your roles at the organization.

Rosie Hidalgo: Great, thank you very much and thanks for this opportunity to join you all today in conversation. Casa de Esperanza started 35 years ago in the Twin Cities in Minnesota by a group of Latin@ women that realized that Latin@ survivors, victims of domestic violence, oftentimes were not being well served and that the programs that existed weren’t sufficiently addressing the comprehensive issues that women were seeking when they were reaching out for help and they started Casa de Esperanza. And over time it’s grown. We still have a shelter, called El Refugio, which is now celebrating 35 years. But over time we realized that a lot of survivors didn’t want people sitting in a shelter waiting for them to approach a shelter. They wanted people in community. And so over time, our model has really expanded in addition to the shelter, to having family advocates that go out in the community doing a lot more community engagement, building community capacity and community leadership. Because over time we realize that it’s the community that’s going to end domestic violence – not a shelter, not the courts, not police. Those are all systems that we all have put in place. But ultimately it’s about building the community’s capacity to recognize and to prevent domestic violence. We also have been doing a lot more work with youth and youth as peer educators. Engaging men – men as allies and men working in the community. And over time, Casa de Esperanza was asked to start doing more national T.A. So that started in 2004 and we started doing some national technical assistance and training. And then in 2009, we were able to launch the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities. So it’s a national initiative that also, in addition to supporting the practitioners on the ground, really looks to lift up research policy advocacy and more comprehensive national training and technical assistance. And in 2011 we did receive a grant from the FVPSA Office of Health and Human Services – the Family Violence Prevention Services Office, recognized as a culture-specific National Resource Center working to end domestic violence. And my role is serving as our Senior Director of Public Policy, so I’m actually in the Washington D.C. area. Our headquarters is still in Minnesota, but we now have national staff in 17 different locations around the country.

Rebecca Rodriguez: So my name is Rebecca Rodrigues and I am the Director of Research and Evaluation for the National Latin@ Network. And I came into this work studying under our first Director of Research, Dr. Julia Perilla, when our research center was at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia, and that’s where I am now as one of the remote staff.

Susan Howley: Now Rebecca how does research fit into the mission of Casa de Esperanza? I know Rosie touched on this a little bit, but how is research incorporated?

Rebecca Rodriguez: So as the leading national Latin@ domestic violence organization, we are committed to research and evaluation that promotes social justice in the field of domestic violence and sexual assault. So we really use methodologies that lift up the voices and realities of the Latin@ community. So we do this work both within house and through our partnerships with our research advisory council of nationally recognized researchers and academics that have extensive experience in a variety of fields that are related to Latin@ communities.

Susan Howley: Rosie, do you have anything to add about how research fits into the mission?

Rosie Hidalgo: Research is really important because it also helps shape our understanding of what are the promising practices, what is the practice-based evidence that’s emerging and how best to understand that, and then also what are real critical policy needs, public policy needs that we also are learning from research being done. And particularly the way Casa de Esperanza has done research very much focused on community participatory research, helping the community identify the research needs and collaboratively developing these initiatives to then really bring the voices and the lived realities of Latin@s and Latin@ communities to our work, both the policy work but also to further inform how research should progress.

Susan Howley: Rebecca can you talk a little bit more about that? In practical terms, how do you incorporate the voices of communities and individuals?

Rebecca Rodriguez: So we do this in several different ways. So one way is what we call participatory action research. So what we do here is – especially in our work with youth, – we bring together a group of young adults, of teenagers and we work together to identify a research issue that they find important to their communities. So for example, in my work in this last research project that we did, it was in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was during the time where there was a lot of state level anti-immigrant legislation being passed. And so families and youth started to become more and more worried about what did that mean for their families? How is it going to impact? They were worried about whether their families would be separated. So we were working with youth whose families were experiencing domestic violence in this anti-immigrant climate. So one of the ways that we wanted to support youth and empower them to understand more what was happening in their communities was to conduct what we call participatory action research project. So these youth – there was about I think five of them ranging in ages from 16 to 21 – and we work together – I was a, at the time, a doctoral student – to identify what was the priority research question that they wanted to understand. So once they identified these questions, it was – and what they ended up kind of talking about was how is this anti-immigrant climate impacting my family and other Latin@ families that are affected by domestic violence? So after crafting those research questions together, the youth were able to do interviews. So we did some training on interview skills, or we did some training around ethics of research and then following that they in pairs went together and they interviewed each other about these experiences and then they also were able to interview Latin@ survivors of domestic violence. So from there they were able to also look at that, look at the transcripts of that data and come up with kind of themes. So really these young adults and teenagers were doing qualitative research and I was just there to facilitate that.

Susan Howley: That sounds really exciting, so you’re really growing your pool of researchers.

Rosie Hidalgo: Yeah I think what’s exciting too – some of the research, even in the past too that had been done, these young people also wanted to talk about resilience. Young people who grew up witnessing violence in the home, community violence. I think sometimes people realize we focus a lot on the negative impact and we study that and that’s important, but also what are the protective factors, what helps contribute to resilience? What does that look like in communities? And so I think that’s been really positive, hearing that from them and them taking the initiative on some of that and then being able to share out their research.

Susan Howley: That’s great. Now Rosie, how do you use research in your policy advocacy or how does the policy advocacy help you in identifying research needs?

Rosie Hidalgo: Right. So one example of a research project we did was in combination with the National Domestic Violence Hotline some years back, where we had callers to the hotline who self-identified as Latin@s answer some specific survey questions. So that’s one where we partnered with some of our allies in what we call the Domestic Violence Resource Network. And they enabled us to help shape the questions, frame the questions, train some of the hotline advocate staff, make sure that there were bilingual staff members also who were available to speak to those who wanted to speak to an advocate in Spanish. And that research was very important to lift up what were some of the barriers and challenges that Latin@ survivors were facing. So for example, it helped lift up the issue of language access that there was for those who the primary language was Spanish, they identified the barriers they were encountering with law enforcement when there was lack of language access, with the courts, and with service providers. So that research is very helpful because it was an opportunity for us then to go back into the field and say, anyone receiving federal funding, they have an obligation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to make sure that there is meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency. And we could say research is showing that these Latin@, there’s a certain percentage of Latin@ survivors who are limited English proficient who are encountering significant barriers in their pathway to safety. It’s helped influence our training and the TA that we were doing with other state coalitions and programs, but also our policy advocacy at the administrative level, working with some of our federal funders to say how are we going to make sure that even when we’re reviewing grants, making sure that those who are getting federal funding are writing in how they are going to provide language access, making sure that people are well aware that this is part of the nondiscrimination provisions. And then also, as we’ve been looking at statutory and regulatory work around FVPSA regs or on the reauthorization of VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act, finding places there too where we make it clear that we need to serve all individuals and underserved populations, include those that may have limited English proficiency. And so it has shaped our policy, our training, our delivery. And also the hotline survey revealed, as Rebecca also had mentioned, some of the increased fears as there was growing entanglement of local law enforcement with federal immigration enforcement. It helped lift up that that then leads to greater fear of accessing the help of law enforcement, of going to services. So gathering that data and in fact recently – well we completed another survey together in 2015 with some project partners to ask attorneys and advocates across the country what they were seeing the impact of this sort of climate, a climate of increased fear for immigrant communities, even those who do have immigration status, there are mixed status families, there are those who may have legal permanent residency but are fearful of what the implications may be of getting involved the criminal legal system. Those surveys have lifted up an increased number of attorneys and advocates saying they’re seeing immigrant survivors dropping cases in the criminal and civil courts or too afraid to go to the police. So we use it in our advocacy to say that we need to establish policies that can create a pathway to safety for all survivors and that some of these policies are undermining that pathway to safety.

Susan Howley: Wow, what a clear illustration of how research can effect policy. Now I want to switch gears. I hate to move away from that but I do want to find out more about what Casa de Esperanza is doing to grow the Latin@ researchers or the research-engaged communities. Now Rebecca, you talked about this before when you talked about the youth that were involved. Can you give me some more examples about things that are happening right now to grow your community partners?

Rebecca Rodriguez: Absolutely. One of our actually main goals of the Research Center is to support and promote the training and mentoring of Latin@ researchers. So we know that there are still very few Latin@s with PhDs in the field and one way that we can increase the cultural relevancy of research that’s being conducted is to engage more Latin@ researchers in that pipeline. So one of the things that we do is we provide mentorship opportunities. We might serve on graduate students’ advisory committees, dissertation advisory committees. We might write papers with emerging Latin@ scholars to try to increase the number of Latin@ scholars. So another thing that we’re really excited about is that we’ll be piloting a Latin@ scholars program early next year. So we’re going to invite two Latin@ scholars to come and work with us in some of these issues and some of the research that we’re currently doing.

Susan Howley: Wow. Let us know what we can do to spread the word about that! I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of interest in those new initiatives. And what do you do then with the researchers to help them really be community-based?

Rosie Hidalgo: It was exciting to see at this Research and Policy Roundtable also was that there were some researchers who are not Latin@s but who are now more intentionally also mentoring Latin@s who are pursuing PhDs in the universities and they went out of their way to bring to students with them. Well, one actually already has her PhD, who is working with Cris Sullivan – some people may know Cris, who’s been doing amazing research. So she has a Latin@ researcher who recently had gotten her PhD and is working with Cris. And Cris has been doing some research in Washington state about housing, how that impacts survivors and the critical need for rapid rehousing, different housing options. Part of that is they’re doing a longitudinal study following 400 survivors. And they’ve been intentional about making sure that the population they’re following is diverse, so they can lift up the needs of different communities, including immigrant survivors, including those that may have limited English proficiency. So by her having this researcher on her staff, who has a PhD but is herself originally from Central America, fully bilingual, bicultural, she was saying that she can now do this community research out in Washington state and make sure that – it’s not good enough sometimes to just translate questions, but to really make sure they’re written in the cultural context. And to have interviewers then who are fully bilingual, bicultural, bringing a different trauma-informed lens to that work so that they can engage even in the relationships with those survivors and follow them. Have that trust and then be able to capture what the experiences are of all survivors in this long study, but also particularly of the immigrant survivors that are participating in this study. So I think it really does lift up; to me when I was hearing that story, that kind of a partnership and going out of one’s way to mentor and to bring in diverse researchers who can, in a different way then also make sure that we’re reaching all survivors to participate in research.

Susan Howley: Now Casa is doing so much good research. Rebecca, what else do you all do to get your research out to the people who can use it?

Rebecca Rodriguez: So any research project that we do has two components. One will be a report for the field that’s tailored for community practitioners, community members, that’s freely available on our website. And then we also are adding to the academic literature base, so we’ll have a partner paper in your traditional peer-reviewed journal. So we’re really targeting getting our research lifted up into the academic sphere and the community. So we also host several webinars throughout the year that highlights any new research that we are conducting. We’ll do podcasts kind of like this one about our research findings. And you can go to our website,, and if you click on “Fact Sheets” or “More Information,” we also update our key facts about Latin@s in domestic violence every year. So we’re constantly revisiting the research literature and distilling that into digestible summaries for people to use.

Susan Howley: That all sounds terrific. Now what’s next? What type of research or evaluation are you all about to undertake?

Rebecca Rodriguez: So right now we’ve been working with one of our research advisory board members, Dr. Rosa Gonzalez-Guarda from Duke University, to develop a smartphone application for Latin@ youth and young adults who are newly immigrants to the United States. So what we’re doing is we’ve conducted focus groups with Latin@ youth and have really tried to delve into what do they need to know about healthy relationships, what is some kind of information that would help them promote healthy relationships with their own partners. And we’re really targeting some of the protective factors that research is showing that’s important in this community. So we’re working with some program developers right now in developing the content of that app, which we’ll be taking back to those focus group participants to review and provide us feedback and iteratively improve this app. So we’re hoping that when this pilot project ends in the development that we’ll have the opportunity to scale this up and evaluate its impact in the field.

Susan Howley: That’s a very exciting next step. Rosie, what kind of research and policy would you like to see grow in the next five years, or research and policy interaction?

Rosie Hidalgo: One of the things we’re looking to see grow is how do we reach Latin@ community leaders, Latin@ community-based organizations, that are not necessarily the kinds of people we would consider to be DVSA advocates or domestic violence service providers, but rather are engaged in much broader community leadership and through community-based organizations that provide maybe health services, educational services, Latin@ resource centers that exist around the country and hear from them. What is their role? Because we know that a lot of survivors may first talk to family, friends, faith-based organizations, go to other resources in the community before they would call the police or before they would go perhaps to a mainstream shelter that’s outside their community. But sometimes you don’t really find ways to gather that information of how that’s playing out in communities. So we’re very excited for the opportunity to partner as part of a national coalition that’s called the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. And it’s a network of 46 national Latin@ organizations working in all different areas and Casa de Esperanza was invited to be a member of the NHLA as we call it – the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. And then we all come together, we have meetings several times a year focused a lot on policy. And what we bring to that is we help co-chair the Latin@ task force of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda and help bring a gender lens to the issues, whether we’re talking about health or immigration or education or economic issues, and weave in what are the needs to better address the issues that we see at the intersection with gender-based violence. But we’re planning to team up with one or two of these national Latin@ organizations and do a research project with them reaching out because a lot of them have chapters all over the country, have community based leaders, have large conferences that bring together thousands of individuals in the Latin@ community, and do some joint research with them to reach populations that normally may not be impacted by the kind of research we normally do or that even the field normally does. And to hear from them what kinds of ways in which they are aware of gender-based violence issues in their families, in their communities. Where do people go for help? What additional need is there to build community capacity, both to prevent and end gender-based violence and to better respond to it? And to even hear from community based organizations – how are they identifying, making referrals, better serving, better receiving the kind of information they need to be a resource when there are individuals who show up in those different settings seeking help. So we’re very excited about that and think that’s going to be a very exciting way to lift up better research and understanding of Latin@ communities and to also build capacity and improve our policy advocacy at the same time.

Susan Howley: This concludes part one of our conversation with Rosie Hidalgo and Rebecca Rodriguez about the research activities and policy advocacy of Casa de Esperanza. Tune in next time for part two, where we discuss their recent research and policy roundtable and how that dialogue will shape and strengthen their future work to promote social justice for Latin@ victims and survivors.