|Edinalva Ferreira da Silva and Paulo Sérgio (Photo: diariodoaco.com.br)|
The Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) is offering information and help to anyone in the Brazilian community affected by domestic violence, following the violent deaths of two young Brazilian women in the area.
"It’s very troubling to hear of two such tragic deaths in less than a week—one in Brighton and now another in Marshfield,” said Osvalda Rodrigues, Director of the MAPS Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Program and of the MAPS Lowell Office. “This is a compelling reminder of the need to increase domestic violence education and prevention among Brazilians and other Portuguese speakers, who make up the largest linguistic minority population in Massachusetts.”
On Sept. 21, Boston Police began investigating the death, later labeled a homicide, of 30-year-old Edinalva Ferreira da Silva in her Brighton apartment. Her husband was missing and reported to be a suspect. Just five days later, 24-year-old Patricia Frios was stabbed to death in Marshfield. Police arrested her longtime, recently estranged boyfriend, who allegedly also stabbed himself and then led police on a long chase that forced the lockdown of three local schools before he was caught. Both women worked as house cleaners and both had spoken of relationship problems to those they knew.
“We can only guess at the circumstances that led to their murders,” said Rodrigues. “What we know is that many in our immigrant communities continue to suffer silently in abusive relationships because they can’t access information and help in their own language. They are also extremely afraid to report crimes and violence because they think they might end up being deported, regardless of their immigration status.”
Rodrigues added that often women are actually afraid that their abusers might be deported back to Brazil. MAPS has heard of many cases of women being threatened with harm to their families back home if they spoke up about domestic violence. Many abused women also depend on their partners or spouses for financial support, and are afraid to report them because they don’t know how they will survive without that income.
“The message that we want to send out to women is that they are not alone and they do not need to continue suffering from this abuse,” said Rodrigues. “There is help, and there is help in Portuguese. We have a team of dedicated, highly trained professional staff who are here to answer their questions, and to guide them through the process of becoming safe and free from violence.”
Anyone seeking Portuguese-language information or assistance should contact one of the MAPS Domestic Violence Prevention Advocates: In the Boston area, Dulce DePina at (617) 825-5897 or Soledade Dinis, MS or Alessandra Lopes, at (617) 864-7600; or Kate Lessard in the Lowell area at (978) 970-1250. Dulce DePina also speaks Cape Verdean Creole.
Paulo Pinto, Executive Director of MAPS, said the agency is committed to stopping violence against women in the Portuguese-speaking communities of Massachusetts.
“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the two young women who died so cruelly and needlessly,” he said.
MAPS is a private, nonprofit organization that has provided a wide range of culturally and linguistically competent health and social services for Portuguese speakers of all backgrounds since 1970, including domestic violence prevention, education and services for nearly 15 years with support from both government and private sources. Most recently, with a multi-year grant from the federal Office on Violence Against Women, the agency also began providing sexual assault services for its communities, which include Brazilians, Cape Verdeans, Portuguese and others. MAPS is a longtime member of Jane Doe Inc., the statewide advocacy coalition of 60 community-based sexual and domestic violence organizations.
"Too many societal and cultural barriers still keep victims from reaching out for help,” said Toni K. Troop, Director of Communications of Jane Doe Inc. “Everything we know about domestic violence homicide is that it doesn't happen in a vacuum. Therein lies the hope: we can prevent these deaths with increased outreach, education and coordinated community responses."