MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — According to one survey, Latin-American women will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime.

Now, a program at the University of Minnesota is not only trying to educate these women, but help change the statistics. The program is called “Breaking the Silence.” It was started three years ago at Community-University Health Care Center after receiving a grant from the state.

Here are some of the startling numbers Latin-American women face:

• 1 in 7 will experience rape in their lifetime. (according to 2010 National Intimate Partner Survey report from the CDC)

• 1 in 12 has experience domestic violence in the last year.

• Married Latino women are more likely to experience domestic violence

Teresa LLanas-Villareal knows firsthand about domestic abuse.

“Growing up, my mother went through domestic abuse,” Villareal, who saw her father abuse her mother as a child, said.

Now a Minnesota resident, Villareal was raised in California, her parents immigrated to the United States and were granted amnesty.

“I wanted to help my mother, but couldn’t.Tthat’s why I am doing this,” Villareal said. “We have a lot of barriers.”

Although Teresa couldn’t help her mother then, she is paying it forward now. The social worker spends her time as an advocate to a group called, “Breaking the Silence.”

“Breaking that chain, that was my purpose for getting into this group,” Villareal said.

That chain is talking about is many women like her mother stay in abusive relationships. They don’t see that there is a way out.

The main mission of the program is to empower Latino women to feel safe enough to leave abusive relationships, just like Mely Herrera did.

“When you’re a survivor and you’re afraid to get out and confront the world, this helped me a lot,” Herrera said, with the help of a translator.

After being in an abusive relationship, the mother of three finally found the courage to take a stand. Her voice helped send her husband to jail.

“That has been the greatest thing because now I can help other women move forward and give them the services they need to do so,” Herrera said.

Herrera is one of 15 graduates from the mentor program with Breaking the Silence curriculum, which was started in 2012.

The program typically graduates six mentors a year. Together the group has given 450 presentations to educate women across the Twin Cities, touched 4,000 people and organized 60 different outreach events.

What is the biggest barrier for women getting out of these relationships? Both Villerreal and Herrera agree it’s the “machista” culture in their community.

In many of these households, the men are working, are the sole providers of the income so it can make it challenging to for the women to feel confident enough to leave the relationships.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau one in six American citizens is Hispanic-Latino. That number is lower here in Minnesota at about 5 percent of the population.

Ali Lucia

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