Center aids minority victims

Emma Carew

According to the 2000 census, the minority population of Minnesota was around 12 percent.

In 2007, the number of Aurora Center clients who identified themselves as an ethnic minority was nearly double the proportions of the general public.

In addition, The Aurora Center has served two clients who required translation or interpreter services in the fiscal year 2008 so far, Roberta Gibbons, associate director of The Aurora Center said.

In the 2007 fiscal year (July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2007) about 20 percent of the victims who identified themselves ethnically were of a minority culture, she said.

In 2007, The Aurora Center didn’t use translation or interpreter services for any of their cases.

In addition to advocacy training, The Aurora Center provides cultural competency training to its staff members and volunteers, Gibbons said.

where to go

Help Center Information
If you have experienced sexual assault, sexual violence or relationship violence and are seeking help:
Contact: Aurora center 24-hour help line: 612-626-9111 or stop buy the offices (Suite 407 at Boynton Health Service) for walk in advocacy M-F, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
For more information, visit the Aurora center website.

Last year, two Aurora Center student volunteers began working on a resource packet for sexual assault victims and survivors of color.

Mayano Ochi, a former Aurora Center intern and one of the students on the project said the packet addressed the different needs victims of color might have due to their cultural background or differences in societal standards.

Some of the language they used was chosen to be more culturally sensitive, Ochi said.

Instead of suggesting that the victim go straight to reporting a crime to the police, this packet explains that the relationships with law enforcement can be very different, so that reporting sex crimes is an option, she said.

Women of color could face barriers to reporting and dealing with sexual assaults, Ochi said.

There’s an “image of black women being strong or in control,” she said, “and therefore they may not feel like they can reach out (for help) as easily.”

Additionally, some cultures believe that “if a woman is sexually assaulted, they have to marry their perpetrator because they’re seen as dirtied,” Ochi said.

Since Ochi and the other intern graduated, not much progress on the packet has been made, Aurora Center director Jamie Tiedemann said. They are looking into using the Cultural Handbook from the Family Violence Resource Prevention Fund.

The Aurora Center tries to familiarize its volunteers to “what can be the unique needs for survivors of different cultures,” Tiedemann said.

For instance, some cultures try to solve domestic abuse issues within the community, rather than turn to law enforcement, she said.

The Aurora Center also frequently calls upon and refers clients to community resources.

Der Her, outreach coordinator for sexual offense services of Ramsey County, said one of the main jobs of advocates is to make sure the victims understand what their rights and options are.

“We want the victim to be the one driving the wheel,” she said. “Every decision they make needs to be their own.”

She said in her experience working with the Hmong and Somali communities, she’s found situations where the victim and the perpetrator are from the same community and the attack is dealt with by their elders.

It’s a much faster process than going through the legal system, which is why some victims prefer it, she said.

Other barriers for victims might include language and lack of a support network, Aurora Center volunteer coordinator Melissa Schmidt said.

“If they’re a new (international) student, they may not have established a new network,” she said and “that plays into who they are willing to talk to and where they can gather support from.”

Additionally, if the victim isn’t comfortable with English, they might not know “how to identify what they experienced in terms of Minnesota state law and University policy,” Schmidt said.

The Aurora Center and community advocates agree not to make assumptions based on the color of their skin or their ethnic background.

“(Victims) go through the same initial fear, initial anger, feeling violated, feeling humiliated and feeling as though you’re not going to be believed,” Tiedemann said. “That is sort of a universal response, and I think that’s an issue in every culture.”