The Oklahoman



Latino make up more than 11% of Oklahoma’s population, enough to be the state’s largest minority, according to 2019 U.S. Census data.

But the population is growing at an incredible rate.

From 2010 to 2019, Oklahoma’s Hispanic or Latino population grew by more than 105,000 individual­s, which was more than half of the state’s total population growth in that time. More than 438,000 Hispanic or Latino people now call Oklahoma home. And to put that number in context, there are about 402,000 total residents in Tulsa.

Still, Hispanic or Latino individual­s represent a small fraction of those receiving services for domestic violence across the state.

An Oklahoma attorney general’s office report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which administer­s federal funding to domestic violence programs, including shelters, says 21,618 Oklahomans received help through OAG-certified programs between Oct. 1, 2019, through Sept. 30, 2020.

Only 1,442 of clients were identified in the report as Hispanic or Latino.

In Oklahoma City, organizati­ons like La Luz and Palomar provide customized services for Hispanic victims in addition to their overall resources.

The YWCA is one of the largest agencies in the metro area providing Hispanic families desperatel­y needed crisis interventi­on, housing, legal help and therapy to victims of domestic violence.

But fear and suspicion often stop victims from seeking help.

“(There) is a reluctance to report and a reluctance to engage not only with law enforcemen­t, but also other social service agencies,” said Brandon Pasley, director of training for the YWCA of Oklahoma City. “Overwhelmi­ngly, we see distrust.”

Warning signs

Keiser, now 43, is a small woman, just about 5 feet tall. She has three children and runs her own housekeepi­ng business. Originally from a tiny village in Guatemala, she speaks only a small amount of English.

Growing up, her family wasn’t close. She saw family members hit one another, and she thought it was normal.

Keiser always wanted a tight-knit family, and she thought she had found it when a friendship and then a budding romance developed with a man from work.

The abuse was incrementa­l over the two-year relationsh­ip, making it difficult for Keiser to leave.

Along with working 12 to 16 hours a day, Keiser did chores and cooked for the household. Fights about dinner or spending time together would erupt when all she wanted to do was sleep.

“Everything was OK, but then he started to demand things, and when I did not do what he asked for, he would hit the wall,” Keiser said.

“Then he would say, ‘Forgive me, but you made me mad.’ That kept on happening until he stopped hitting the wall and started hitting me.”

Her boyfriend accused her of cheating, pressured her for sex and made threats against her children.

Now a legal resident of the U.S., Keiser feared police wouldn’t listen to her or understand the problem. Her boyfriend warned her not to contact authoritie­s and risk involving immigratio­n officials. She worried about her boyfriend’s reputation being ruined among family and friends if they learned about his violent ways.

By the time her boyfriend was arrested in 2013, Keiser was constantly “terrorized, scared and panicked.”

In addition to charges of kidnapping and second-degree robbery, her abuser pleaded guilty to domestic abuse and was sentenced to state prison. Records

Domestic abuse resources

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence, there are people and resources available for your help. The Oklahoma domestic violence hotline is 800-522-7233, which is available 24⁄7. Additional­ly, victims are encouraged to reach out to any of the following services.

La Luz Org provides services to Latino victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Their services are confidential, free, and culturally and linguistic­ally trauma-informed.

Call: 405-724-8474

24⁄ phone line: 405-812-0762 7


Walk in: 1140 N Hudson Ave

Palomar provides protection, hope, and healing to victims of violence & abuse. They partner with other community agencies to provide wraparound services to victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, stalking, elder abuse, and human traffickin­g.

Call: 405-552-1010

Text: 405-355-3556

Email: help@palomarokc .org Walk in: 1140 N Hudson Ave., Oklahoma City

YWCA Oklahoma City provides safety, education, and hope to victims of domestic violence in our community. Their crisis services programs are designed to help break the cycle of violence and provide victims with the empowermen­t they need to be self-sufficient. All programs are offered free of charge.

Call: 405-948-1770 Hotline for those fleeing home: 405-917-9922

Email: show he was released on probation in April 2015.

To this day, Keiser does not know his whereabout­s.

Moving on with help

Keiser has since remarried and describes herself as a strong, happy, caring woman.

Some days, it’s hard for Keiser to get out of bed, and she still needs medication for depression. She focuses on not letting her past consume the family relationsh­ips she has now.

“I don’t want what happened to me to affect them (my family),” Keiser said. “I prefer to be quiet and sometimes cry in my room. I have always made sure that they see me strong. After all that happened, I have learned to love life more. If I look back, I realize I am a stronger woman. I can keep going no matter what happens.”

Keiser keeps going, with the help of therapy and victim services from the YWCA.

Post-trauma counseling is one of the services offered by the YWCA, and Keiser hopes her story helps encourage other women to seek help if they are currently in abusive situations or are recovering from past trauma.

“There are people ready to listen to them,” Keiser said. “If I went through this, and I am OK, then other women should do the same. They are not alone.”

But whether it’s getting a U Visa or simply getting away from an abuser, many Hispanic women, faced with contacting authoritie­s and working through the long and winding justice system, indeed feel alone.

“Especially here in Oklahoma, a lot of the Latino clients are here by themselves, so they don’t have anyone,” said Jayra Camarena, founder of La Luz, a provider specifically serving Hispanic survivors of domestic violence. “It’s very important to know who is their support system and where they stand.”

 ?? CECILIA HERNANDEZ-CROMWELL/TELEMUNDO ?? Brandon Pasley, director of training for the YWCA of Oklahoma City, is pictured.
CECILIA HERNANDEZ-CROMWELL/TELEMUNDO Brandon Pasley, director of training for the YWCA of Oklahoma City, is pictured.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States