“Today I am going to let my burdens go. I am going to face this day and have faith that everything will get better!” Marisol Carrasquillo ends every email this way. With hope for the future, with hope for domestic violence survivors.
Carrasquillo is the housing resource coordinator at Prudence Crandall Center in New Britain, a domestic violence service agency. She is also a domestic violence survivor.
Carrasquillo didn’t start out as a domestic violence survivor advocate. She originally got her degree in child development. But as she began working with children and as a parent educator, she saw the need to educate herself in domestic violence issues.
She started attending workshops at Prudence Crandall and shortly after became certified as a counselor. Carrasquillo then worked answering the hotline, which she did for 7 years before being promoted last year to her current role. Her background, both as a survivor and educator, helps her empathize with her clients and with their individual situations.
“People who have never been in that kind of situation,” explains Carrasquillo, “sometimes don’t understand how difficult it can be to leave.”
Carrasquillo says there are many factors that play into someone leaving an abusive situation. For Latinos, the most common barrier she encounters is fear about one’s immigration status and/or an inability to speak English.
“A lot of times people are afraid to call the cops because they think they will be deported,” she explains. “They think if they come to a shelter they will have to call the cops.” At Prudence Crandall, as with many domestic violence service agencies, this is not true. A victim does not have to call the cops. A victim does not have to do anything they are uncomfortable with… and they will not be deported.
What will happen is that Carrasquillo and her team will work each case individually to make sure that the victim is provided the necessary support. That could mean contacting a legal team to help the client with their immigration paperwork or other needs. It can mean getting them involved with ESL classes. It means helping them become independent of their abuser… whatever that may require.
Services provided by Prudence Crandall range from emergency shelter and support groups to advocacy programs and hotlines. There is a local and national hotline (numbers provided at the end of this article) provided in both English and Spanish.
The Spanish hotline was implemented a few years ago, and since, Carrasquillo says, the center has seen an influx of Latinos seeking assistance. “Before we had the Spanish speaking hotline,” Cassasquillo says, “there was a lot of frustration. People would maybe call one day and get only an English speaker and assume we didn’t have Spanish speakers here.”
Today, Carrasquillo says about half of the residents in the Temporary Living Program are Latino. Residents can stay for years while they begin their new life. Carrasquillo is very proud of many of the survivors that utilize the services. “We had one woman with three young children stay with us for 3 years,” she recalls. “During this time, she took ESL classes, went back to school, become a pharmaceutical assistant, learned to drive a car for the first time and is now living on her own and thinking of going back to school to get a second degree.” The woman Carrasquillo is referring to first came to the shelter not knowing even how to take the bus on her own, as her abuser was very controlling. Carrasquillo and the team at Prudence Crandall were happy to help her find her independence and break free.
Times have changed a lot since Carrasquillo found herself in a domestic violence situation 25 years ago in Puerto Rico (where there were no domestic violence services like there are today), and the understanding of what domestic violence is has become more widely understood. For Carrasquillo, she says she used to think domestic violence was only physical. But in fact, domestic violence ranges from emotional to verbal to financial to controlling behavior.
If you have any questions about your situation and are concerned you could be in a domestic violence situation, Carrasquillo encourages you to reach out. Use one of the hotlines; people are ready to listen, give advice and offer support.
CCADV domestic violence hotline: 888-774-2900. To talk or receive help, please call, 844-831-9200.