As part of our series highlighting our network members, meet an organization making a difference in the lives of survivors. In this conversation we speak with Justice for Migrant Women’s Founder and President, Mónica Ramirez.
What brought you to the work of supporting survivors and sexual violence?
I started my work because gender based violence was something that was in my consciousness from the time that I was a little girl. Domestic and sexual violence are problems I lived through and have survived for as long as I can remember. Violence, unfortunately, was a lens through which I saw the world. It dictated many of the decisions I made in my life about how to be in the world, mainly trying to figure out how to manage and avoid it. This consciousness made me want to do whatever I could to stop the violence and support survivors. As I did my own work around these issues and later managed my own survivor hood, the gaps in services, care, education and overall support were ever present. My work is my way of doing what I can to try to make the world a little safer and survivors’ path toward healing a little easier.
What do you currently do in your position to support survivors of sexual violence?
The heart of Justice for Migrant Women’s work is supporting migrant women who are survivors of sexual violence. We understand that many issues are interconnected, so our work is not only focused on sexual violence. It is focused on all of the issues that intersect with and make people vulnerable to gender based violence. We can’t talk about violence against migrant, rural and Latinx women- the folks who I have mainly had the honor to serve throughout my career- without talking about poverty, isolation, lack of infrastructure, racism and all forms of gender discrimination and bias. We help people understand how all of these issues directly impact migrant women who are in rural America, many of whom who are also survivors of sexual violence. Finally, we want to ensure that migrant women are the decision makers for issues directly impacting their well-being.
How can we support loved ones who have been impacted by sexual violence?
Listening to and believing survivors are two of the most important jobs we have when it comes to supporting survivors. Many of the women with whom we work are often afraid to speak out due to fear of deportation or losing their jobs. It’s essential to create a safe space and to support these brave women and their loved ones who are also impacted. Another key role we have is to provide information about services and support that could help the individuals who come to us.
What advice would you give advocates working with Latinx survivors of sexual violence during the pandemic?
My best advice to advocates who are supporting Latinx survivors is not to make any assumptions. A lot of people make assumptions about who we are and what we care about as a community. Our community is vast and complex. We have different migration histories and experiences. Some of us speak Spanish and some of us do not. Some of us are deeply religious and some of us are not. There is no one-size fits all solution for caring for our community. Making generalizations or stereotyping survivors because we happen to be from a certain community or of a certain ethnicity is problematic, too. Advocates should take the time to listen to the survivor and really understand their individual situation and needs before trying to apply a general plan of support. There is no “Latinx survivor guide” that truly captures the lived experiences and needs of each and every one of us in our community. Start each care plan by centering the individual, no matter what community they come from.
How do you practice well-being and self-care?
I am a work in progress. I have to do a lot better when it comes to taking care of myself because I love my work so much and my work is also really hard on my heart because I carry so many people’s pain. The best decision that I made for myself was to regularly see a therapist. I have tried changing my diet, exercise and sleep habits to be focused on my long-term needs rather than short-term campaigns or wins that we are trying to secure. I am also trying to get really disciplined in saying no. My most valuable time is time with my family so I am trying to do all that I can to say no to extra things and yes to time with my loved ones.