Hispanic tradition of “el machismo” can lead to abuse
By Karla Lozano
/mäˈCHēzmō/, strong or aggressive masculine pride.
The tradition of machismo among Hispanic men can lead to aggression and abusive behavior towards the women in their lives.
Their sense of masculinity includes a belief in their sexual prowess and power. A machismo male feels entitled to obedience from the men and women around him.
“Latino men believe you are the ‘King of Your Castle,’ and think ‘I have the right to anything I see,’ including the women,” said Kristiana Huitròn, a member of National Latino Network, a non-profit that advocates against domestic violence. One in three Latinas will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the NLN. Immigrant women who are married, including Latinas, are more likely to experience domestic violence than unmarried women. Studies have found that Latino youth who witness domestic violence are at higher risk for poor health outcomes.
“There’s a lot of victim-blaming that goes on when you talk about abuse and particularly partner abuse. Folks are reticent to come forward because they don’t realize how pervasive the problem is. I think we need to do more research and collect those statistics. We need to help folks understand that they aren’t alone and it’s not their fault,” U.S. Surgeon General and physician Jerome Adams said in an interview.
Trauma from domestic abuse can have a big impact on someone’s life. Trauma can lead to depression and isolation. Instead of talking to someone close or to an expert, victims choose to remain silent. “It made me doubt myself and not appreciate my own power,” said Huitròn, recalling her own experience with sexual abuse within her Latino family.
According to a study of domestic violence and sexual assault in the U.S. Latino Community by NoMore.org, a non-profit against sexual assault, more than half (56%) of Latinos know a survivor of domestic violence and one in four (28%) knows a survivor of sexual assault. Of Latinos who knew a survivor, the majority reported that the survivor was a family member or friend.
Studies have found that parents think children are unaware of domestic violence occurring in their home. But in fact, children know, and it can cause long-term emotional damage. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “youth who are victims are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety, engage in unhealthy behavior, like using tobacco, drugs and alcohol, or exhibit antisocial behaviors and think about suicide.”
“Adverse childhood experiences include watching your mother or father be abused when you’re growing up, and it instills in you the idea that it’s okay. That, this is a proper way to interact with folks,” said Surgeon General Adams.
L.Y. Marlow, who founded Saving Promise, to prevent the fifth generation of women in her family – her granddaughter, Promise – from falling victim to domestic abuse.
“When we talk about intergenerational abuse, there typically is a pattern of all those types of things running in the family,” “There becomes a sense of normalcy.”
Why do women stay after being abused?
Women who have been physically, emotionally or sexually abused may stay in a toxic environment for economic stability, said Dr. Melanie Greenberg, a clinical psychologist in California. “They’re afraid that the man of the house who provides for them will leave, and they won’t have any support,” she said.
Like many women, Latinas are raised to believe that they have an obligation to clean, cook and be a good wife. As the man, her husband should be the provider to bring money home. Many Latinas “have grown up to always value family and to make sure it’s kept together,” said Greenberg. “It can also be a sign of denial, of not wanting to accept the reality of what’s going on.”
Women who are abused may not want to warn their daughters, either, said Greenberg. For example, mothers could have open conversations about ways to protect themselves when going into a relationship or even giving pre-caution the difference between a healthy relationship and an unhealthy relationship. Most importantly, mothers could be telling a daughter that she has a support system. Dr.Greenberg says in many cases, the mother has been abused and then finds herself confronting the reality of her daughter being sexually abused. When this happens, the common response is: “You do not have it as bad as I did. It could've been worse.” The ending line could be: “Life is difficult. You’ll get through this.”
Sexual abuse and violence affects teen dating, too
When you think of teen dating what comes to mind? Many might say young and dumb puppy love. In fact, many teens have short term relationships from the ages of 11 to 15. According to the Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse Survey:
- Dating relationships and dating violence and abuse start by age 11, much earlier than expected. Girls who are 11-14 years old report surprising, significant levels of abusive behavior.
- Significant numbers of teens are experiencing emotional and mental abuse and violence in their dating relationships; this is even more alarming among teens who have had sex by the age of 14.
Verbal or emotional abuse consists of non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking, according to BreakTheCycle.org. Teen dating violence also includes sexual assault and emotional and verbal abuse.
“Recognizing adverse childhood experience and adolescent experiences as a risk factor and, teaching our providers to have a trauma-informed care approach to responding to those adverse experiences. It’s really asking people: ‘What happened to you?’ Instead of asking: ‘What’s wrong with you?’” said Surgeon General Adams.
Social media is a big part of teen abuse
For many girls and boys, dating isn’t allowed by their parents, so instead, they date and communicate with their partner via social media without their parents knowing. Others date while in school and see each other in classes and during breaks.
Currently, 45% of teenagers are using some sort of social media. This includes Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Musically, Twitter, Tumblr, and Kik. Children should be informed of the dangers there is when using these applications and taught the proper way of using these applications and what is appropriate to post.
Many organizations such as Break The Cycle, tweeness, RAINN and others want to get people informed to protect their children and their families. Break The Cycle is a nonprofit organization that provides information on dating abuse and legal services. Its mission is to “inspire and support young people to build healthy relationships and create a culture without abuse.”
Breakthecycle.org also wants to educate young people about consent.
Some parents don't bother to teach their kids at a young age what the good and bad touch is, or what consent is. What does consent mean? Consent is giving permission for something to happen or agreement to do something. According to an article Sex abuse survivor pushes for prevention programs in schools: "Lyon was never taught about the “unsafe touch”. She testified: “Had I known what that was, I could go to a teacher or counselor about what was happening to me in the middle of the night. Instead, it took six years for me to go to the police directly.”
If Lyon had been taught about the difference between a safe and unsafe touch, she could have told someone that same night or prevented it from happening.
Educating kids about sexual abuse in schools can help them protect themselves and understand difficult terms, and know whom to approach when seeking help in case anything has already occurred or happens in the future.