By Olivia Garcia, Ph.D.
About 10 years ago, I was writing my dissertation on the Violence Against Women Act and Latina survivors. Around then, I learned about the exceptional work Esperanza United (then known as Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities) was doing as a Health and Human Services national resource center. It was also about the time I first met Rosie Hidalgo. She was serving as Esperanza United’s senior director of public policy and my initial impression of her was that she was a powerful force.
Things have really come full circle.
My research indicated that while the 2013 VAWA provided substantial support for underserved communities and culturally specific programs working to provide support to Latin@ survivors, VAWA, as a policy and through implementation, lacked a holistic understanding of the struggles that Latin@s and Latina immigrants faced as they sought help and healing from domestic violence. VAWA in 2013 forced survivors to cooperate with legal systems and services to access compensation, housing, and immigration certification documents.
As an outsider in the movement to end gender-based violence, I learned so much from Rosie’s guidance on how policy advocacy really worked. While I am a Political Scientist by training, I lacked practice and real know-how in policy at the time. As a leader in the GBV space, Rosie taught me (and so many others) about the real lawmaking process, the various coalitions that need to come together to provide stakeholders with insight and oversight, and the ways we can cooperate with lawmakers to move policy forward.
Fast forward ten years and now I’m serving as Director of Public Policy at Esperanza United and watching Rosie get sworn in as the Director of the Office on Violence Against Women.
I know I speak for everyone at Esperanza United when I say we are so excited to see Rosie in this position. She is an advocate at heart, a strategist in practice, and a leader who can bring people together. Moreover, Rosie knows that Latin@ survivors of gender-based violence face barriers to help and services like language access, immigration concerns, fear when interacting with criminal legal systems, isolation, and many more – and that policy can help overcome those barriers. Rosie has seen firsthand the value that culturally-responsive programs provide to communities of color and unserved populations. She knows these programs build pivotal help like community and familial support and creative solutions to gender-based violence. Survivors couldn’t have a better or more dedicated leader.
So adelante, Rosie! Estamos contigo! We’re with you!