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Carolina Aguilera moves to Cleveland as advocate against Domestic Violence
By Federico Martínez, Special to La Prensa

Carolina Aguilera knows first-hand what it’s like to be an immigrant—trapped in a domestic violence relationship; unable to speak English to communicate her dire situation and afraid to turn to authorities because she feared deportation.

It’s that personal experience that fuels her passion to begin her new job as a domestic violence advocate for the Cleveland,

Ohio-based Domestic Violence and Children Advocacy Center beginning Sept. 19, 2014. Ms. Aguilera has spent the past 1½ years working as a paralegal for the DiFranco Law Office in North Toledo, where she has helped many immigrants facing potential deportation and trying to keep families together.

“I’m going to miss Brian (DiFranco),” said Ms. Aguilera of her current boss. “He’s a very good attorney and I’m very grateful for the opportunities that he has given me. I’ve learned so much working for him.

“But I’m also excited about my new job where I’ll be helping women with their immigration status and apply for new visas.”

Other duties will include overseeing a support group for women who are victims of domestic violence and assisting them with filing police reports, hospital care, finding shelter and serving as a court translator. Ms. Aguilera previously managed a similar program for Toledo’s Adelante, The Latino and Community Resource Center for three years until grant funding dried up.

Domestic violence in Latino and immigrant communities is a topic that is still rarely acknowledged in those communities, according to Ms. Aguilera. National statistics support her concern.

 According to a recent data collected by the National [email protected] Network based in St. Paul, Minnesota, 20-25 percent of all Latinas will be the victim of intimate partner violence during their lifetime and 1 in 20 in the previous 12 months.

It’s difficult to accurately determine if Latina immigrants tend to victims of domestic violence in the United States than Latinas born here because many incidents of violence go unreported; foreign-born women often arrive without the ability to speak English, don’t know where to seek help, or have been led to believe culturally that domestic violence against them is acceptable, said Ms. Aguilera.

More than half of all Latinas who have experienced abuse never report that abuse to authorities, the National [email protected] Network reports.

Ms. Aguilera’s ability to relate to other immigrants and women who are struggling with domestic violence situations is what makes her so effective, said attorney Brian DiFranco. Her last day with the law firm is September 12.

“Carolina has a great sensibility for people who’ve been victimized,” he said. “She definitely has a sense of community; she went through the whole immigration process, so she’s no stranger to it.

“But she’s going to be sorely missed.”

A native of Bolivia, Ms. Aguilera, now 30, was still a teenager when she migrated to the United States with her parents. She married soon after graduating from high school.

 “I was 18 when I got married,” said the single mother of 10-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. “I didn’t know anybody; I didn’t know any English and I believed that I didn’t have any rights. It’s been six years since the divorce and it’s still a struggle being a single mom.”
 

Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/09/14 17:09:35 -0700.

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