The city of Hialeah on Monday launched a “No Mas/No More” campaign aimed at preventing domestic violence in the community, which has skyrocketed recently.
The president of Hialeah’s City Council, Isis Garcia-Martinez, said the initiative will focus on encouraging victims to report their abusers and educate the community to openly reject abuse.
“We know silence kills,” Garcia-Martinez told el Nuevo Herald at City Hall. “If we don’t have the public’s support to report these cases then it’s almost impossible to help. ... Nowadays, victims don’t have to be afraid because there are many resources available to stop the cycle of violence.”
From January to June of this year, 367 domestic violence cases were reported in Hialeah, said Garcia-Martinez, who estimates this amount “will double or increase a lot more” during the upcoming holiday season, when people become depressed and suffer financial problems.
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Mayor Carlos Hernandez emphasized that the “zero tolerance” campaign against domestic violence in Hialeah will be long-standing, since the intent is to create awareness in a community mainly made up of immigrants, who come from countries where “many times domestic abuse is often unreported.”
“The statistics say it all,” said Hernandez. “It could be that in a year, fewer people reported abuse but the abuse still took place. ... We created this campaign to attack domestic violence in different ways, not only speaking to victims, but also educating children, with the objective of breaking the chain of violence.”
Garcia-Martinez indicated the first stage of the campaign will include workshops held in the city’s public libraries during the holidays.
As part of the strategy, the campaign will be promoted in the 17 afterschool care centers throughout the city in schools and parks. The campaign will be coordinated by Marla Alpizar, Hialeah’s director of Education and Community Services.
The initiative will involve about 750 families in Hialeah.
Lectures will also be offered at 11 Hialeah middle and high schools, Garcias-Martinez said.
The councilwoman assured the “No More” campaign will employ Channel 77, the city’s television channel, to produce content that encourages people to report abuses.
The citywide effort will also focus on helping victims who separate from their aggressors, the councilwoman said.
In order to do so, Garcia-Martinez stressed, Hialeah police has set up a special team dedicated to assisting victims.
Loudes Mendoza, a social worker assigned to the team, said one of the most frequent problems faced by people struggling with domestic violence abuse is that victims, who are undocumented, usually refuse to denounce their abusers “in fear of being deported.”
Sergeant Manuel Colon, supervisor of Hialeah’s Special Victims Unit, said his team includes eight detectives whose work solely involves domestic violence cases in the city.
“Unfortunately, many times in the police department we feel very frustrated because we arrive at the scene after the crime has taken place,” Colon said. “But it’s also a little frustrating when you proceed with an investigation and the victims don’t cooperate, they back down ... they don’t go on with the case because they stay with their abuser.”
Hernandez, who was a Hialeah police commander before becoming mayor, recalled an experience during the 1980s when he and two other officers answered a domestic violence call in a Hialeah apartment complex. At the scene, they found a man who was hitting his wife with a broom. When the man realized police had arrived, he ran to the kitchen to grab a knife. Hernandez subdued him but suddenly felt broom blows to his back.
“The one hitting me and the other officers was the woman we were trying to rescue,” Hernandez said. “Domestic violence is a crime which exposes, not only physical scars, but also deep physiological damage.”
Garcia-Martinez highlighted the work carried out on a daily basis by Mendoza and Guzman, who coordinate the search for free shelters for victims. At the shelters, victims are advised to educate themselves and work so they can become financially independent from their abusers.
“We have a team who can do everything necessary to help these families,” Garcia-Martinez said.
Follow Enrique Flor on Twitter: @kikeflor
▪ Report domestic abuse to Hialeah Police at 305-953-5200. If it's an emergency, call 911.
▪ If you're a victim of domestic violence and you wish to press charges against your aggressor, call the state attorney at 305-547-0150.
▪ National Help Line for Domestic Violence: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), a guide for support resources.
▪ Coordination Center for Victim Assistance in Miami-Dade County: 2400 S. Dixie Hwy., 305-285-5900.
▪ For therapy and professional assistance: Family Counseling Services of Greater Miami, 7412 Sunset Dr., 305-740-8998, or the national hotline against violence: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).