Existe Ayuda (Help Exists) Toolkit
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About the Toolkit

Terminology and Symbols


Although the Associated Press Stylebook prefers "illegal immigrant" to "illegal alien," and although "illegal immigrant" has been used in Supreme Court decisions, such terms are politically charged. Many victim advocates see them as dehumanizing labels that have no place in victim advocacy. As she delivered the Supreme Court’s first opinion of the new term in 2009, Justice Sotomayor pioneered the use of "undocumented immigrant" (Liptak, 2009).

It is important that victim advocates not make assumptions about the immigrant status of those they assist. According to the Pew Hispanic Center (2009a)

  • Most Latina/o youth in the United States are not immigrants; two-thirds were born here.
  • Of Latina/o youth in the United States who are in the third and higher generation, 40 percent are the grandchildren of immigrants.
  • The remainder of Latina/o youth can trace their roots in this country much further back in time. This is especially true of families who reside in the Southwest region that once belonged to Mexico.

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Latina/o versus Hispanic

Though the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" are often used interchangeably in American English, they are not identical. "Hispanic" is an older term used more often in governmental publications and reports. In the 1970s, the U.S. Census Bureau began to use the term "Hispanic." In 1997, a Federal Register notice provided revised racial and ethnic definitions in which "Hispanic or Latino" replaced the single term.

The term "Latino" is generally used by grassroots organizations and community-based initiatives that embrace a shared Latin American heritage. More than half (52 percent) of Latinas/os ages 16–25 identify themselves first by their family’s country of origin (Pew Hispanic Center, 2009a).

All Existe Ayuda materials use "Latina" and "Latina/o" in their content and "Hispanic" when referring to official government publications.

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The terms "promotora," "animadora," "community health worker (CHW)," and "community or lay health advisor" are all used to refer to workers who are indigenous to the community and who serve and train through a community-based organization or a public health entity. Some states provide statewide training and certification for the promotora or CHW. If you reside in a state with a large or rapidly growing Latina/o population, you probably already have existing promotora programs with which you can establish collaborative working relationships.

The largest system to formally use the skills of CHWs was established in 1968, when the Indian Health Service adopted the Community Health Representative Program from the Office of Economic Opportunity.

Established promotoras can develop meaningful links to victim service agencies because—

  • They are part of social networks through which community members offer and receive social support.
  • They may already be concerned about the sexual violence issues that affect their communities and know where both survivors and perpetrators live.
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The Rattle Image

The rattle image used in Existe Ayuda’s design is an artistic rendering of the chicahuatzli stamp from ancient Mexico, which means rattle or rain stick in Nauhuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Rattles and other instruments were used in ceremonial dances, which at times included hundreds of dancers who moved in collective synchrony to promote the health and well-being of the community. The original image was painted by hand by Arte Sana Executive Director Laura Zárate and was later transformed into digital format by Oralia Díaz. The Existe Ayuda Toolkit uses this image to honor the Latina/o cultural heritage and to symbolize the engaging purpose of these documents.

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The Office for Victims of Crime is a component of the Office of Justice Programs,
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