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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Dear Mexican: I found your column about Mexican men and spousal abuse, and my question is: Is there any help for this?

I’ve been with a Mexican man, who is also an abuser of alcohol. He gets angry out of the blue and starts hitting me, and later realizes what he has done and cries. I had to leave him for my protection, but the feelings between us remain, and I don't know what to do with the situation.

Can you provide any comments or help?

Abusada

Dear Abused: Get out of that relationship—now. But before you leave, coat that pendejo’s toilet paper with habanero powder, so he gets the burn in the culo he deserves.

Dear Mexican: How do Mexicans feel about environmental issues—specifically, a population explosion that will cause eventual food shortages?

I am told that procreation is a very macho thing for the Mexican male. You have even mentioned in the past that men do not perform oral sex on women because it’s not important when having children. How does that way of thinking weigh in with regard to the future of the planet?

El Blanco Pedro

Dear Pedro Gabacho: Malthus called—he wants his crackpot theory back. Besides, the gabacho love of suburbia has probven far more toxic to the environment than any 12-child Mexican mom ever did, so vete a la chingada con your faux environmental concerns.

OPEN LETTER TO OUR NEW PRESIDENT

Gentle cabrones: as I write this, the Mexican still doesn’t have a feel for whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (or neither?) will be the next president of the United States. (The Mexican has to file his columna a week early.) In the interest of not looking more pendejo than usual, I will write three open letters to ensure I get the results right. Enjoy!

TO PRESIDENT HILLARY CLINTON

Congrats on beating that pendejo Trump—you’re now the greatest female savior of Mexicans since the original Santa Sabina, the legendary curandera for which the goth-Mex band was named.

But that’s not enough. Do not inherit the title of Deporter-in-Chief from Obama. Realize that the only reason you won is because raza overwhelmingly voted for you—and we want results besides appointments of token vendidos (although please do give a cool gig to Congressman Xavier Becerra, a truly down Chicano). Don’t pay attention to all the Know Nothings who insist on enforcement before amnesty. There are millions of Mexicans who have lived their entire lives in limbo, and it’s your job to save them. And if you do that? We’ll create a new altar to you at Tepeyac.

TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

Congrats on beating that pendeja Killary—you’re now the greatest unifier of Mexicans since Porfirio Diaz. Don’t even try to deport 12 million people, or build that nasty, small-handed wall. Back in the day, raza mostly stood meekly by as presidents from Hoover to Roosevelt to Eisenhower to Obama enacted mass deportations—but those were honorable men. You’re not. We will protest; we will resist; we will struggle; we will take over elected offices the way Irish took over Boston. You hear me, President Pendejo? We ain’t no sleeping giant—we woke, and we’re ready to make your one term more pitiful than Enrique Peña Nieto.

Oh, and #fucktrump.

TO NO RESULTS YET

No mames, America.

Ask the Mexican at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!

Published in Ask a Mexican

In the United States, 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute of every day on average, according to a 2015 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence report. That equates to more than 10 million victims annually.

While there was a steady decline in the number of incidents reported in California from 2005 to 2012, the last two years for which statistics are available have seen increases, according to the California Department of Justice. In 2014, the nine cities of the Coachella Valley recorded 1,317 domestic-violence incidents; more than 20 percent involved the use of a weapon. On average, that works out to just less than four reported incidents per day in our valley—where Shelter From the Storm (SFTS) provides one of the only sources of hope to frightened and often desperate victims and their families.

“There’s a high need, and we’re still the only provider out here,” said executive director Angelina Coe during an interview in her office, located in a strip mall surrounded by a commercial area of Palm Desert. “The demand is there, but it’s a question of getting people to come in for help. It’s about the stigma of being in a shelter, which is still very negative. The fear factor involved in leaving the cycle of domestic violence, and leaving safely, has an impact on people coming into shelter.”

Coe has worked in the nonprofit, family-services, domestic-violence and homelessness-services sectors for almost 20 years, and came to SFTS in October 2012.

“These are not the easiest type of shelters to run, because you have to consider safety and security,” Coe asserted. “You have women with their children who are in serious need, and their resources are limited, because most of them do not have an income and won’t be able to establish an income in a 60-day time span (which is the normal period permitted for transitional housing assistance). They don’t have any skill sets, because they were young when they got married or got into the abusive relationship. They don’t have any family support system, because there’s a lot of fear and intimidation.

“You have to deal with their medical issues that result from being physically abused, and there are mental-health issues that come from being verbally and psychologically abused for years, and the trauma that happens to the children. It’s not that victims are choosing to stay because they don’t want to leave; it’s just harder to leave because their life is at risk: ‘I’ll kill you if you ever tell the police,’ or, ‘If you leave me, you won’t make it another night,’ or, ‘I’ll take the children away from you,’ or, ‘No one will believe you,’ or, ‘I’ll have you deported,’ which has become a big threat with many of our undocumented victims.

“There are often drugs and alcohol involved—not just on the abuser’s part, but the victims are forced into usage as a means for them to be kept under control. Also, the victims worry about the uncertainty: ‘What happens after I go to the shelter?’ ‘How am I going to live?’ ‘How am I going to provide for my family?’ ‘How am I going to provide for myself?’ ‘At least he (or the abuser) gives us a home. It’s not safe … but it’s a home.’ The victims kind of learn to live around the abuse: ‘OK, don’t do this so he won’t get angry, or if he is angry, do this so that he’ll de-escalate.’ ‘Wear certain things to avoid the injuries being more serious.’ The children become buffers sometimes.”

As if trying to protect and resuscitate the lives of victims isn’t hard enough work, SFTS is being forced to do more with less: Last year, SFTS saw a major portion of its funding abruptly cancelled.

“We lost our critical $150,000 in funding from (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) this past August, because their priorities changed, and they were no longer funding transitional housing programs. Instead, their focus was more on permanent housing solutions for homeless people in our society,” Coe said. “That was a devastating cut for us, but we were able to reach out to the community, and we received donations of about $40,000 which helped us to get through to the end of last year.”

The shortfall did lead to a cut in services in 2016, however.

“Our transitional, longer-term housing program, where victims and their families could be housed by SFTS for up to two years, was discontinued as of Dec. 31,” Coe said. “Fortunately, the families we did have in that program at the time were able to move onto permanent housing, so they are stable and moving forward, and remain connected with us for community counseling and outreach services if they need.”

Thankfully, some additional funding is arriving this year.

“We got an increase in our California (Governor’s) Office of Emergency Services funding, and that’s helping to supplement a lot of the overhead expenditures at our shelter, although we have downsized some,” Coe said. “But our main priority is to continue to provide quality care for the women and children and deal with their healing process which we’re doing through our hotline, our crisis shelter and our community counseling and community outreach. All those core services are still going and flourishing and fully funded for the majority of the year ahead.”

What is the status on the housing front? “We do still have our emergency shelter where victims and their families can stay for up to 60 days, and if we have a family that’s in need of longer-term housing, we can work with that family on a temporary transitional basis at that shelter as well. Then we work with other out-of-town facilities that … have longer term housing.”

The 22-person full-time SFTS staff has its hands full. So what can community members do to help?

“We very much appreciate monetary donations,” Coe said. “… And there are also donations of goods that we are always in need of and appreciate receiving.”

For more information or to donate, call 760-674-0400; visit www.shelterfromthestorm.com; or send mail to 73550 Alessandro Drive, Suite 103, Palm Desert, CA 92260.

Published in Features

The new development in Orange County featured lovely homes, wide streets and lots of families. Block parties were common in the neighborhood, and everyone seemed to know everyone else.

The couple on the corner socialized—always as a couple. In fact, the wife didn’t even drive: Her husband took her to the market. They seemed inseparable and always appeared happy. The other wives were jealous. “My husband would never go to the market with me,” they would say, enviously.

It wasn’t until much later that we found out he was beating the crap out of her behind their lovely drapes. Perhaps that explained why she never socialized by herself and often would not be seen for several days at a time.

With the recent high-profile stories of “domestic” abuse—named as if were somehow tamer than other violence—I’ve been thinking about that woman, and how isolated she must have felt. In those days, back in the 1960s, nobody talked openly about what happened behind closed doors. In those days, it wasn’t even considered possible that a man could be guilty of raping his wife. After all, they were married.

My next experience of such abuse was the young couple who lived downstairs. We used to hear them fight through the thin walls of the apartment complex. It got so loud and scary several times that we called the police. In those days, the early 1970s, police would show up, talk to the people involved, try to settle the guy down, and leave. Police used to tell me such calls were often the most dangerous, because they were never sure what might happen. If they were scared, think about how the women felt.

It never occurred to me that what had gone on in my own home while I was young could be classified as domestic abuse. I remember when my father would explode in anger when my mother broke the yolks while making his breakfast eggs. I remember the times my mom and I were laughing about something that happened to me at school that day—but when we heard his car drive up, we would look around the house to make sure nothing obvious would set him off.

My father never raised a hand to my mom, although he did once explode and start hitting me. I am not sure to this day why it happened, but I think it was because my parents had been discussing money issues—and I, not having any idea what was going on, walked into the kitchen to ask for some money for something I needed for school.

“I can’t even afford new shoes,” my father said.

“I’ve never kept you from buying shoes,” I replied.

He exploded and came after me, throwing me across the room and hitting me. I thought he might kill me—he was so enraged. My mom broke it up, and he left the house for several days. When he returned, I asked my mom, “Why did you let him come back?” She said, “I hope someday, someone will love you as much as your father loves me.”

All I could think was, “I hope not!”

At my 25th high school reunion, some friends and I were sitting around reminiscing about those long-ago days. “You know why we never came over to your house very often,” one said to me. “Your dad was so abusive.” I was shocked. I had never put that label on what happened in my family.

Despite my years in the women’s movement—including marching to raise consciousness about violence against women—I, too, ended up in a relationship that included abusive behavior. I finally left after “only” one hit, but the verbal invectives and threat that he could blow up at any time permeated our household. I didn’t leave soon enough.

People ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave? Why did she stay?”

The reasons are as varied as the individual situations. It’s because you know him and love him, and he’s always sorry and promises it won’t happen again. It’s because you can’t support yourself and your children and have nowhere to go. Often, it’s because you’ve been deliberately isolated from family and friends, totally dependent on the man, like the woman who lived in the house on the corner.

It may be because you grew up in a household, like mine, where high drama seemed to be a “normal” part of being married. Or it can be because you don’t want the public embarrassment, especially if the man is in a prominent position. Maybe it’s just because you don’t feel as if the community will support you in leaving. After all, you marry “for better or for worse,” or you come from a family where divorce is considered unthinkable. Somehow, it’s your fault it turned out that way—if only you hadn’t said or done whatever it was you knew might set him off.

Fran Ferguson was executive director of Shelter From the Storm for about five years in the early 1990s, shortly after our local shelter for battered women opened. “I’m shocked,” she says, “that it has continued to be a commonplace part of our world. What has really changed after all these years?”

For one thing, laws have changed, largely as a result of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which established, among other things, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which receives more than 22,000 calls each month; increased prosecution and sentences; training to raise awareness on these issues for police officers and judges; requirements that protection orders be recognized and enforced; and permission for warrantless arrests if a responding officer finds probable cause.

The act was reauthorized this year. In a presidential proclamation, President Obama said, “This law enshrined a simple promise: Every American should be able to pursue her or his own measure of happiness free from the fear of harm.” All women, and men, should be as protected from the threat of violence in their own homes and families as on the street. (Violence can happen in same-sex relationships, too.)

Men can make a big difference by making it not acceptable for any man to behave in this way. Women can support their friends and neighbors, particularly by never finding fault with the victim. Whether you yell or spit at someone—or break yolks—that is no excuse for a violent reaction, especially from someone stronger in whom you have put your trust.

We need to tell our stories, the way prominent people including Meredith Viera have done recently. Statistics indicate that in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds. This violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. 

We need to call it what it is: There’s nothing “domestic” about it.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

After hearing the lamentable Rush Limbaugh refer to the “chickification of America,” because NFL football players wore pink to support breast cancer research (men have breasts too, you know, and also get cancer), I was fuming and determined to write about my anger and frustration.

In spite of that initial impulse, here’s what I’m NOT writing about today:

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As someone who was once in an abusive relationship (and if it could happen to me, it can happen to anyone, men included), I’m NOT writing about how important it is that society recognize the reality of how difficult it is to leave and to stay alive. I’m NOT writing about how 44 percent of all women murdered with guns in the U.S. are killed by a current or former intimate partner

More than 135,000 women became extremely poor in 2012—not just poor, but “extremely” poor—and people 65 and older are now more vulnerable to poverty, up significantly from 2011. Although my big fear is to end up eating cat food, I’m NOT writing about why women haven’t demanded compensatory Social Security for those whose “job” is to be a homemaker and mother, so they can survive old age.  Nor am I writing about the growing economic disparity between those at the very top and everyone else, and its disproportionate impact on women.

• The United States is among only eight nations in the world who don’t give women paid maternity leave—it’s often unpaid if you get it at all without jeopardizing your job—and our need for universally available and affordable day care is an embarrassment among nations. But I’m NOT writing about how this affects women’s ability to hold gainful employment or complete their education and thus be economically independent. 

• Women are not present at all on the boards of major corporations. Twitter has a seven-man board with no women; 36 percent of the 2,770 largest public companies have no women on their boards; and companies with women on their boards have better overall economic results. Yet I’m NOT writing about why women aren’t controlling and influencing all investment decisions based on this regrettable fact—although if we could get rid of apartheid, we should be able to get qualified women on corporate boards.

• While “half of all American children will at some point during their childhood reside in a household that uses food stamps for a period of time,” I am NOT writing about the callousness of those who refuse to make work pay a living wage, or who demand deficit reduction by penalizing the vulnerable with food stamp cuts, or who characterize those who need assistance as lazy and unmotivated “takers,” yet won’t support the education or child care that would allow self-sufficiency. 

• Even as abortion and access to “women’s health services” are increasingly subject to ridiculous and onerous restrictions, I’m NOT writing about the difference it makes who appoints judges to federal courts—although it does.

As a political commentator, it’s enticing to address any of these issues and take both policy and political stands. But I decided to write about something bigger than issues or politics: the need to set an entirely new policy agenda. I believe that women, and men who respect women, are uniquely poised to make that happen.

My experience as a mediator has shown that when two polarized sides of a debate are dug in, there is room to head right down the middle and define a new way of moving forward.

Politicians are staking out ever-more-radical positions for niche constituencies, so I am sending out a clarion call to women of every political stripe: WE can demand a new agenda. 

There are more of us. We live longer. We’re getting more educated. We already do whatever we have to do to take care of ourselves and our children. We make choices—not always good ones—and we live with the consequences. We have a collective voice, and it’s time to be heard.

Get involved. Demand, as a group along with your neighbors, to meet with elected officials at every level, and tell them you expect them to pay attention, or you will organize voters against them. If big business and the wealthy can influence public policy, organized and informed voters as a bloc can have an even greater impact.

We can’t leave it to anyone else. Change takes time. Results won’t come quickly. But we have to be present and involved, invested for the long haul.

Get informed. Educate others. Consider running for office. Vote in EVERY election, no matter how small or local. Contrary to conspiracy theories, votes do count! 

Don’t get suckered in by slick slogans designed to “sell” a candidate with sound bites that don’t really inform.

Visit nonpartisan websites like the League of Women Voters or No Labels. Spend as much time on this as you do playing computer games.

Bottom line: I think it’s time for a women’s strike. 

What if, for just two days, women (and the men who support them) across the country stayed home from work, didn’t cook or clean, didn’t deliver a tray of drinks, didn’t operate the cash register, didn’t re-hang clothes on the racks, didn’t make appointments, didn’t help people fill out forms, didn’t sell anyone’s home or didn’t process a bank deposit. 

What if a few agenda items—paid maternity leave, universal child care, comparable equal pay, a raised minimum wage, and greater representation where decisions are made—were highlighted as SO important they must no longer be ignored?

If all else fails, there’s always the Lysistrata strategy

This is adapted from a speech given to the Sun City, Palm Desert Democratic Club on Oct. 28, 2013.

Published in Know Your Neighbors