Living Conditions for Low-Income Latinos May Lead to Sexual Assaults


By Melanie Williams
Living conditions for low-income Latinos in Fairfield County’s urban areas may be contributing to sexual assaults. That’s the theory of Ingrid Pasten, the bilingual crisis counselor at The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education in Stamford. Fairfield County has a population that is 20 percent Latino.
Since 2010, the number of Latinos served as part of the center’s overall clientele has increased from 25 percent to 44 percent. From 2010 to 2011, statewide, rapes increased from 16.76 incidents per 100,000 women to 19.21 incidents. At the same time, the U.S. overall saw a drop in sexual assaults, according to the Uniform Crime Report for 2011 from the state Department of Public Safety.
Pasten attributes the living conditions as a trend she has noticed in her sexual assault cases. According to her, “Normally, when Latinos come to the U.S, there is a tendency to have roommates with people from your country because they can’t afford rent. They have their families live there and it leaves the opportunity for a child to be sexually assaulted while the mom is working.”
The center is also dealing with victims of sexual assaults prior to immigrating. “I also have situations where not all my clients have been sexually assaulted in the U.S. They can be suffering from the trauma and depression of an assault they experienced years ago,” she said.
According to the center’s executive director Ivonne Zucco, “Being an immigrant myself, I understand firsthand the limitations we face when we come to the USA, and know that there is lots of need in the community. Low-income Latinos do not have access to services and health insurance. Moreover they are not aware of the resources available to them.”
She added, “Latinos without a legal status in the country are more at risk of being abused because their perpetrators will not hesitate to threaten their victims by telling them they will call the authorities and have them deported.”
When asked why the Latino community needs to be targeted for services, Pasten replies with her concern of many not knowing they can use them. “I will have to say about 90% of my clients are undocumented. I know that is a very large number, but many Latinos who are undocumented are scared to come for help because they feel we will ask for personal information.
“Even when I tell them we don’t ask for any personal information, some are still in shocked and don’t believe me,” said Pasten. “I just try to spread hope, I want to give them the hope that there is a person that can help you.”
Her hands-on position puts Pasten face-to-face with victims as an advocate after sexual assault as well as providing educational presentations for the Latino community. Her responsibilities also include providing short-term counseling to primary and secondary victims of sexual assault, support and accompany clients to the hospital, police, and court, provide support for English and Spanish hotline, and networks with other nonprofit agencies.
Pasten started at the center in 2010 as a volunteer for its 24-hour hotline. Her desire to help Latinos was sparked while working in a law office and becoming accustomed to immigration laws. She immigrated from Chile 12 years and has worked at the center since 2011.
Through partnerships and collaborations with many programs including the Stamford Adult Continuing Education and Neighbors Link of Stamford, Padres de estudiantes per un sueno (Parents of students for a dream), Adult Continuing Education program and Leadership through Action Program (ALTA), just to name a few, Pasten is working to spread the word that everyone can be helped.
Photo © Lisa Norwood via Flickr