COLORADO SPRINGS — October is domestic violence awareness month and a local organization is raising awareness about this issue impacting the Hispanic population.
Centro de la Familia is dedicated to serving Hispanic survivors of domestic violence. They provide many other resources outside of that, and have been helping hundreds of people in the Latino community since 1996.
"First generation immigrants, they are in need of certain services that would allow them to heal, adapt and thrive in a new culture," said Lucia Guillen, the executive director for the organization since 2018. "This organization is here to make sure they have a safe space where they can feel that someone who is speaking their own language will be there for them and understand all the aspects of being a new immigrant in a new country."
Guillen says the organization was founded more than 20 years ago because there was a shortage of bilingual services and therapy locally, which still holds true today.
"I see it every day with other organizations in the community wanting to collaborate because they're serving a population they don't understand and they don't have the skills to meet those needs," said Guillen. "A big problem in our state is while we are providing those services, we realize that we still need more individuals and workers that speak the language."
80% of the Hispanic population the center serves are survivors of domestic violence survivors, and 80% of them are women.
"I came here getting out of a relationship really depressed, really down, but they make you feel comfortable and make you feel like family here," said Anabel Rodriguez, who's faced domestic abuse in the past. She began going to the center for help about six months ago and goes twice a week.
"This place is amazing, and it was a blessing just coming here and getting support from them, and trying to start a new life by myself with my kids, something I'd never thought I'd be doing," said Rodriguez.
The center also provides resources for immigration support, financial support, personal and legal advocacy, crisis intervention and mental health services.
"I came because I needed help psychologically, and I ended up having therapy here," said Zarate.
Julian Zarate was on his way to citizenship when he tested positive for COVID-19. After getting the virus, he spent four months in the hospital. His doctors told him he'd be on oxygen for a long time because his lungs were damaged. Since then, he lost his job and struggled to provide for his family and his wife is also unable to work due to caring him and their young daughter. But he's now grateful for the organization's help.
"It's very difficult. It's difficult because I'm used to working and providing for my family. This organization, they've helped me pay my rent, they've helped me put my daughter in school. They've helped me find the oxygen," said Zarate. "Now I feel good, because I feel supported."
There's still a big need for bilingual services in the community. The organization is in the process of creating a counseling program. They're expected to hire more bilingual counselors soon.
The organization also worked closely with TESSA, another organization which provides resources for domestic violence. A spokesperson from TESSA said if any of their clients need bilingual services, they refer them to Centro de la Familia. They also mentioned they have a 25-hour safe-line anyone can call if they need help. The phone number is 719-633-3819.
To get in contact with staff at Centro de la Familia, call 719-227-9170.