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“We are all Miramonte!”

February 14, 2012

Excerpt from Alianza Latina en contra la Agresión Sexual (ALAS) position statement 2/10/2012, endorsed by the Sexual Violence Center

“Cultural competency is essential for all levels of sexual violence prevention. The recent travesty at Miramonte Elementary, a school nestled in a large Latin@ community, speaks loudly about our need to make this societal shift. The children of Miramonte Elementary and their families deserve healing through a community of practice approach based on credibility, intervention, response and support. These same standards of care and community engagement can be used to inform our primary prevention efforts, actions that prevent sexual violence from happening in the first place.

What happened in California will continue to happen in other states until we can truly understand the root causes of sexual violence against Latin@ communities. Like all sexual violence, the abuse of schoolchildren at Miramonte Elementary was caused by the predatory motives of individuals, preying on the vulnerability of their victims. To continue unchecked, however, sexual violence relies on cultural norms that mask perpetrators and enforce the silence and invisibility of victims. In the Miramonte case, these factors were further entrenched by anti-immigrant legislation and a history of cultural norms that support a position of ‘power over’ Latin@ communities. These factors combine to create devastating victimization:

• According to FBI statistics released last year, hate crimes against Latinos have steadily risen from 45 percent of crimes based on ethnicity committed against Latinos in 2003, to 67 percent of hate crimes committed against Latinos in 2010.
• According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), of those reported, 2,202,000 Latina women have been raped in their lifetime. 5,442,000 Latinas have experienced sexual violence, approximately 1 in 3.
• According to the UN, 70 percent of women attempting to cross the Arizona border are sexually exploited en route, and every year more than 20,000 Mexican children are victims of sex trafficking.
• According to a survey in 2010 by the Southern Poverty Law Center of 150 undocumented women immigrants employed in the food industry, intensified enforcement of immigration laws has made undocumented workers more vulnerable to workplace exploitation.

The Miramonte case is an example of how Latin@ children face additional risk factors to sexual victimization. It should also serve as a teaching point around the importance of being child advocates for early intervention when suspicions arise. While a pharmacy photo technician served as an active bystander by preventing further victimization, it took two decades for formal charges to be made, after students alerted school officials of questionable behavior of Mark Bernt. This delay in intervention powerfully illustrates just how vulnerable Latin@ children can be for abuse, re-victimization and undetected or dismissed abuse, factors of a code of silence that feeds a system of power imbalance in educational settings and in the larger society.”

The full position paper can be viewed here in English and Spanish.

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