Existe Ayuda (Help Exists) Toolkit
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About the Toolkit

Project Background

In 2003, Arte Sana embarked on Existe Ayuda in response to the many inquiries from primary and secondary victims of sexual violence regarding the availability of victim services delivered in their native language—Spanish. The initial goal was to create an online directory of the different types of services for sexual assault victims that are offered in Spanish by agencies throughout the United States.

After communicating with many Latina victim advocates from across the Nation, learning of their marginalized working conditions, and identifying the Internet as a possible forum for support, technical assistance, and resource development, Arte Sana developed not only the online directory of services in 2003 but also the Alianza Latina en Contra la Agresión Sexual or ALAS (Latina Alliance Against Sexual Violence) listserv in 2004. ALAS is a national Latina-led membership network of victim advocates working to address and prevent sexual violence.

The Existe Ayuda Toolkit is the fruit of the national project that began in 2003. For the toolkit products to be relevant to diverse Latin American groups, the project’s creative partners needed to reflect Latina diversity as well. Involved in the effort were bilingual and bicultural victim advocates from state sexual assault coalitions and rape crisis centers and promotoras (community health workers) with diverse Latina/o cultural origins from Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, México, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.

What follows is a brief description of the planning and testing stages involved in creating this toolkit.

Planning Stage

Through the ALAS listserv, 17 agency representatives from 15 states shared their ideas, translated text, and offered content revisions and feedback during this stage.

In 2006, Arte Sana conducted an online survey of state sexual assault coalition members of the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence public policy listserv. The survey revealed that 15 out of 50 state sexual assault coalitions had bilingual Spanish-speaking staff. The lack of bilingual Spanish-speaking staff within state coalitions may affect not only the type of information that is available to the public, but also the type of training that is available for local center staff and volunteers.

In 2007, members of the Existe Ayuda online creative group reviewed the centers listed on the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) Web site as offering services in Spanish. In 3 states that were home to 26 million Latinas/os, the number of centers identified as offering services in Spanish ranged from 18 to 38 percent, as follows:

  • California: 31 out of 81 centers (38 percent).
  • Texas: 20 out of 74 centers (27 percent).
  • Florida: 6 out of 34 centers (18 percent).

(In 2010, Arte Sana and ALAS conducted a subsequent Web content review that revealed little improvement in the level of Spanish-language access in these states. Of the 201 Web sites reviewed, only 12 provided 900 words or more of information in Spanish regarding the rights of victims of sexual violence and the services available to them.)

These reviews helped solidify the Existe Ayuda project. As time went on, the Existe Ayuda online creative group was able to determine the toolkit’s areas of focus and content, and the listserv polling system was used for voting on content decisions and to determine the best terms to include in the glossaries. Even the subjects for the toolkit’s two public service announcements were determined via group polling to ensure that the final products would be relevant to the community. Through homework assignments and the implementation of deadlines for first-, second-, and even third-round revisions, the toolkit’s products were completed on time for the pilot-testing phase.

Pilot Testing and Feedback

Twenty-nine agencies throughout the Nation collaborated to help pilot test the Existe Ayuda products during conferences, agency meetings, and local community gatherings. The products were tested in California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Both the value of the materials created and the impact of the project experience are best reflected in the following quotes from the online creative group members who participated in the pilot-testing phase:

I see this project as a third hand for those Latinas that are translating existing materials that are not culturally appropriate for their communities. Pretty soon they are going to have access to high quality materials that will make their lives easier and possible and help them achieve longevity in the movement.

Existe Ayuda should be an ongoing project. The need for culturally appropriate materials regarding sexual violence in Spanish is overwhelming. Contrary with the stereotype regarding Latinos and sexual violence, our community is ready and willing to talk about sexual violence. We need to arm ourselves with the right tools to send the correct message and Arte Sana has proved now how to achieve this.

Thirty-six agencies—including state sexual assault coalitions, rape crisis centers, and shelters for homeless immigrants—have been involved in the Existe Ayuda project. Beyond the product deliverables and programmed activities, this OVC-funded project has had an impact on the state of Latina/o victim advocacy on both national and personal levels for many who have supported and contributed to it.

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