New America Media, News Report, Viji Sundaram, Posted: Oct 05, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO – District Attorney George Gascón yesterday reached out to members of the ethnic media here to announce his office’s launch of a program that seeks to help victims of domestic violence within immigrant communities.
“We want to demystify the issue of domestic violence,” Gascón said during the press conference in his office, touching on concerns that many domestic violence victims in these communities don’t seek help from law officials. “We want to provide services that are linguistically and culturally competent. We don’t want these cases to go unreported.”
October marks domestic violence awareness month across the nation, explaining the timing of Gascón’s decision to launch the program at this time. Last month, his office held a “stalking summit” in the city to train police officers, domestic violence advocates and prosecutors about how to detect and deal with stalking.
Gascón’s office received a total of 1,553 domestic violence cases in fiscal year 2008, 1,767 cases in fiscal year 2009 and 1,886 cases in fiscal year 2010.
This year, between January and June, the DA’s office received 900 cases, and at least 20 percent of them involved women with limited English language skills, said Jean M. Roland, assistant district attorney in charge of the domestic violence unit.
Roland said her office did not have a break down of cases by race and ethnicity.
The district attorney said the new program, which he believes is the first of its kind in the Bay Area, hasn’t got a name yet. But it will serve the whole family, not just the victim, he said. For example, it will offer such intervention programs as counseling for the children of domestic violence victims so they won’t develop emotional and behavioral problems when they grow up.
Studies show that “most victims of domestic violence, as well as most perpetrators of violence, have grown up in homes where domestic violence occurred,” he said.
The program will also provide such services as anger management and drug and alcohol treatment to offenders after they are released from prison so they will modify their behavior.
He said his office plans to send multilingual advocates into community centers of immigrant communities once a week for now, and more often later, to do outreach work and educate them about domestic violence. The multi-service agency, Cameron House in Chinatown, will be one of them.
His office will let even undocumented victims of domestic violence know that it is “safe” for them to speak out and seek help.
“We will not report them to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement),” promised Gascón, who had many a run-in with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio over his harsh immigration policies when Gascón was police chief of Mesa, Ariz., between 2006 and 2009.
In fact, his office will work with federal officials and help the undocumented women get U visas, Gascón asserted. The visa is given to victims of certain crimes that gives them temporary legal status and permission to work in the United States. Family members may also be included on the visa petition.
Gascón said in the three years he served as police chief of Mesa, he initiated a similar program for victims of domestic violence that resulted in a decline in such crimes there, he said.