Find help

If you're experiencing abuse and need help now, one place to start is the national domestic violence hotline.
Call 800-799-7233 (TTY 800-787-3224), text "START" to 88788, or visit


Domestic Violence and Housing Insecurity

Please note that this series includes descriptions of violence that may be difficult to hear.

Domestic violence and housing instability are deeply intertwined. Up to 57% of all women experiencing homelessness report domestic violence as the direct cause of losing their housing. When survivors and their children can't afford — or find — safe homes, they are more likely to stay in dangerous situations. Because domestic violence and housing instability are so connected — we can’t solve one without addressing the other.

In this episode, Bonnie Boswell speaks with Senator Susan Rubio and  Maricela Rios-Faust about how work to prevent domestic violence and housing insecurity must be addressed together.

We also hear from Lorinda Hawkins Smith. Lorinda is part of the Peace Over Violence Advisory Circle and a certified Domestic Violence advocate and Violence Prevention Specialist with the Domestic Violence and Homeless Services Coalition

Here are some actions you can take to help prevent domestic violence and homelessness: 

  1. End the silence around DV - Whether it’s starting a conversation with your own family around the kitchen table or on social media, the more that we all bring the issue of domestic violence into the light, the better we can address it.
  2. Learn about housing work - Fear of homelessness is one of the top reasons survivors return to (or never leave) a person who is harming them. Learn about organizations that are working on the connections between housing, financial security and domestic violence. 
  1. The HOME Cohort
  2. Domestic Violence and Homeless Services Coalition 
  3. Domestic Violence Housing First 
  4. California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
  5. Time for Change
  6. FreeFrom
  7. Downtown Women’s Center 

If your work touches on programs or policy, you can: 

  1. Consider DV Survivors in Housing Discussions — Ask  how housing policies or funding decisions are addressing the unique needs of domestic violence survivors and their families, and increasing their access to housing. Counties or local Continuums of Care can create opportunities, such as subcommittees, that give survivors a seat at the table to share their expertise when it comes to housing decisions.  
  2. Support Survivors’ Economic Needs — Help survivors access existing programs, such as  paid leave and eviction protections, to improve their economic stability and prevent homelessness.  Flexible  funding cash assistance can play a critical role in helping survivors and their families get back on their feet. Evaluation of the Domestic Violence Housing First program shows that 94% of survivors were able to maintain housing after receiving  flexible funding.  Policymakers can address both domestic violence and homelessness when they improve women’s economic stability and see domestic violence and homelessness more broadly, as problems with financial underpinnings. 
  3. Fund Wrap-around Programs for Survivors: It’s not enough to just supply housing, though we need more of that. Survivors have other needs to help them rebuild after experiencing domestic violence. Funding mental health services, financial education,  job skill-building or entrepreneurship training can set survivors and their families up for success, which can reduce and prevent homelessness. 
  4. Fund Education: Organizations that support survivors are funded for critically important direct services but not for comprehensive education for the communities they serve. Education is key for preventing domestic violence and more funding is needed for organizations to accomplish this.

Bonnie Boswell

Award Winning Journalist & Producer

Bonnie Boswell is an award-winning producer/reporter, talk show host and speaker. Ms. Boswell is currently the executive producer/reporter of Bonnie Boswell Reports, a feature news series, and Bonnie Boswell Presents, a news magazine program, broadcasting and streaming on KCET/PBS SoCal.

Ms. Boswell is the executive producer of “Saving Moms” a feature length documentary on the challenges and solutions to maternal health in America broadcast. The program premiered on KCET and is on the PBS app.

She is also the executive producer of The Powerbroker: Whitney Young’s Fight for Civil Rights,” a film about her uncle that aired on PBS and was the inspiration for community dialogues in 100 venues across the country. First Lady Michelle Obama presented the film at the White House and called it “very moving and powerful.” The Powerbroker received critical acclaim from film festivals and reviewers in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun Times and The San Francisco Chronicle, among others, and was a CNN, Saatchi and Saatchi and HBO finalist for Best Documentary.


Maricela Rios-Faust

Maricela Rios-Faust provides vital leadership, support and vision to the continued growth and success of Human Options. Since 2006, she has capitalized on her 20 year experience working with vulnerable populations and been a key driver in Human Options becoming the most comprehensive domestic violence service providers in Orange County.

Her commitment comes from a desire to raise her daughter in a world where domestic violence isn’t tolerated. Recognized as a leader in the field, Maricela is past President of the Board of Directors for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. She co-chairs the Orange County Domestic Violence Death Review Team and serves on the Orange County Women’s Health Project Advisory Board. Maricela was named one of Orange County’s Most Influential of 2014 for her leadership on increasing awareness of health impacts of domestic violence.


Senator Susan Rubio

Susan Rubio was elected to the California State Senate in 2018 and re-elected in 2022. She previously served two terms on the Baldwin Park City Council and one term as Baldwin Park’s City Clerk. Professionally, she worked as a public-school teacher in Monrovia and Baldwin Park for 17 years.

Rubio serves as Assistant Majority Whip of the State Senate, and she is the first Latina to ever serve as Chair of the Senate Insurance Committee. She is Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Domestic Violence.

Born in Juarez, Mexico, Rubio is the proud daughter of a former bracero worker and housekeeper. She attended East Los Angeles College and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Master’s Degree in Education from Azusa Pacific University. She lives in Baldwin Park.

Blue Shield California Foundation: [00:00:00] Please note this series includes descriptions of violence that may be difficult to hear. At Blue Shield of California Foundation. We work to end domestic violence by addressing its root causes: racism, gender, and economic inequity. This special podcast series explores what we can do in California to heal from and prevent domestic violence. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can find support at or call 1 (800)799-7233. Thank you for joining us.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:00:46] Welcome to Let's End Domestic Violence: Heal, Restore, Prevent. I'm journalist Bonnie Boswell. I'll be speaking with today's leading domestic violence prevention experts about how we can break the cycle and end domestic violence in California. Domestic violence and housing instability are so interconnected we can't solve one without addressing the other. Today, I'm joined by California State Senator Susan Rubio and Maricela Rios-Faust, the CEO of Human Options. It's a nonprofit that provides support to survivors. Now we're going to talk about this intersection and how addressing housing and homelessness can prevent domestic violence. Before we dive into this important conversation, I just want to play a little audio of a woman named Lorinda Hawkins Smith, who experienced homelessness herself as a result of domestic violence. Here's what she told us.

Lorinda Hawkins Smith: [00:01:48] There needs to be a more humane approach to the root causes of homelessness. A lot of women are fleeing domestic violence. I was one, so we need to attack that as well. We can't paint homelessness with one brush. You can't tell me people are choosing to be on the street. Yes, there are people who are choosing to be out on the street rather than to be in an abused house. That's a choice. They just want to be in a place where they are not being abused.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:02:20] Now I think Lorinda's story is a good reminder of why we're here having this conversation today. Thank you so much, Maricela and Senator Rubio for being here. This is a really important topic we're talking about: domestic violence, housing insecurity, and the relationship between them. So I'd like both of you to share with me briefly, if you could, your personal nexus with this story. Why don't we start with you, Senator Rubio?

Senator Susan Rubio: [00:02:45] Well, first of all, thank you for having me here. Yeah, it always takes personal experience to really push you into a subject matter that perhaps you're not an expert in. And, you know, I am a survivor of domestic violence. And so I know my personal experience and the challenges I faced. And I always wanted to figure out how do I help the next victim. And so when I became a state senator, I have been relentless as it pertains to passing laws to protect victims not just of domestic violence, but family violence, children and and anyone that's experiencing a horrific circumstance at home. I'll turn it over to to Maricela. Thank you, Senator Rubio.

Maricela Rios-Faust: [00:03:26] A pleasure to meet you. For me, it's actually, I think there's a number of examples that I could talk about that kind of put me on the path to do this work in the domestic violence field, but I want to talk about a 13 year old girl that I met who just was just, like, lit up a room and she walked in and to sort of anybody, right, as a young professional and I would look at her, I would never have thought that she was living in an abusive home. And one day she came in and you could see something had changed in her look. She wasn't smiling. She almost sort of looked a bit vacant, if that makes sense. There was like no light in her eyes like you would normally see. And in talking to her, I learned that her dad was extremely abusive to the mom and that she took it upon herself to be the person who intervened quite often between the fights that her mom and her dad had, and the night before she had done that, and her dad had been so abusive that he had left substantial marks on her, and she was sort of still reeling from that. And I remember feeling as a young social worker that this was something that not just I, but that we all needed to be working on and doing something in and finding the right support for that individual, that young girl, for her mom and for everybody that really deals with the aftermath of an abusive relationship.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:04:48] Thank you so much. Well, what is the intersection between housing and domestic violence? Could you explain to people who maybe don't know that much about it what that intersection looks like? Let's start with you, Senator.

Senator Susan Rubio: [00:05:01] Yeah. Well, thank you. And I want to thank Maricela. Thank you for for the work you do as a social worker. I've gathered a lot of data throughout my five years now as a state senator. And, you know, what I found is the circumstance is so different for so many people. For example, I didn't have children, but when I speak to victims of domestic violence that have children who are like, the circumstance is so much different. I had a hard time feeling like I could walk away. I could only imagine the stress of having your own child potentially put in harm's way. And through the work that I do, I also have real life experiences of victims that walked away and their children were murdered because of it. And so we always say, at least I hear it often, which really bothers me, you know, why didn't she leave or why didn't he leave? And we try to have this perfect formula that works for everyone, but it just doesn't. I hear from a lot of victims that some of them stay until their children are 18, before they actually could walk away or feel safe enough to walk away. One victim shared that personally, that she waited until the kids were in college to be able to walk away. And so when we talk about housing insecurity, you talk about so many factors. So I know, again, through stories and personal interviews, a lot of victims are sort of trapped in this situation where sometimes they have to hand over their finances. They they get their money and they have to turn it over. So when you don't have access to, to to money, which is what you need to be able to to get away and perhaps get your own place, that's a challenge. Then other victims, shared one in particular, that her abuser ruined her credit, spent all her credit cards, and just absolutely destroyed her credit so she wouldn't be able to walk away. And he would say it verbally — "You're never, nobody's ever going to rent you an apartment," or "You're never going to be able to get away." So so they start eating away at all the access you have to walk away, whether it's financial, mental you know stability, it just there's so many factors. But I'll turn it over to to Maricela and so she can share her her experience and stories that she's heard.

Maricela Rios-Faust: [00:07:17] Thank you. Yeah. Much like Senator Rubio has has mentioned already. It's the economic, the not just, it's access to economic resources, it's access to your checking account. It's many abusers often run up a credit, and so many of the victims or survivors have bad credit, so they have difficulty finding their own or actually getting their own location. What we find at Human Options, as many of the individuals that are coming into the emergency shelter are really trying to stabilize, so maybe they have not been allowed the opportunity to work. Maybe they have never been apart from their children, and now they're struggling to be able to think about employment and then where are their kids going to be. Oftentimes, you know, like Senator Rubio mentioned, they're talking about "my credit score is awful," right? Or "I've got some kind of a history with renting because the abuse would occur in my in my own unit. And so I don't know that I can get access." So and then also wanting to be in communities where they have the support from family members, those family members or friends that they have somehow, through this relationship, still manage to stay in contact with. So we actually have found as an organization that what really has benefited victims and survivors is to make sure that they know they don't have to make a choice between being safe and staying housed, and really trying to offer those opportunities for them to understand, you know, leaving an abusive relationship does not have to mean you have to, you're going to end up on the streets, right? That we really want to work with you to bring together resources and make sure that you have access to those resources so that you can be safe and in stable housing.

Senator Susan Rubio: [00:09:01] If I may add to that, in particular, because I want your listeners to to know this, but domestic violence is the top three, on the top three leading causes of homelessness. And 50%, 57% of women that are homeless have reported domestic violence being the cause, why they're unhoused. For example, many do have families. However, instead of going to a family member where they feel embarrassed and they feel ashamed, they choose to try to live in their cars, try to find housing. And it just it's a snowfall, a snowball effect where they end up unhoused. And so I wanted to share that it there is a very specific connection to DV and those that end up homeless.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:09:46] Now, Senator, I want to talk a little bit about your bill, Senate Bill 914. What problem were you trying to address in this bill specifically? And how does the bill go to solving the problem?

Senator Susan Rubio: [00:09:57] When we think of and we focus and work on programs for housing and homelessness, we wanted specific populations to be included. So what the bill did, really, it said if the state or federal government gives you funding to to tackle this issue, there has to be a component in which we look at this subgroup. And so that we wanted to make sure that the response is specific to domestic violence victims, and that they are were also included in the planning process. So we wanted a homeless plan that that really focused on all subgroups, not just a specific. So hopefully this will encourage them to do it because there is a reporting component where they have to report back to the legislature what they're doing in that particular area.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:10:43] One of the things I noticed covering this story for years is that, for example, now compared to 20 years ago, at the Downtown Women's Center in Los Angeles, rather than just providing food, shelter and counseling, they've created a program where survivors are becoming entrepreneurs, creating their own pathway toward economic self-sufficiency. So now how do we build those kinds of models and provide funding so that more people experiencing homelessness as a result of domestic violence can become independent?

Senator Susan Rubio: [00:11:14] We cannot just house. That's just not going to be enough. So we have to figure out the next steps. And I know that traditionally our communities talk about mental health services, right? Or substance abuse services and all that. It's great. So my brain always goes, what is the next step? So by way of example, I created a program in the San Gabriel Valley, which is a district that I represent. I created a housing trust. And what that does, it helps communities. It helps cities with funding to ensure that they're able to build these communities to help those unhoused. So so far, we have three tiny villages where we have a village for single individuals. It could be one man, one woman. We have another little village for families of three. It doesn't matter what the makeup is. We also created a program called SGV Works, and that is an opportunity to to leave those little communities with a job. So I'm happy to report, as of last month, I believe there's 47 families that we've transitioned into permanent housing with an opportunity for for a job, which then leads to these other career opportunities that that you discuss. So I think it's important that we provide the funding. And I think I was successful in securing it, but it's not the case across the state. And so my hope is that we give all these organizations, you know like the Downtown Women's Center, you know, that we just don't think of the homeless piece or the housing piece, but how do we set them up for success? And how do we make sure that they're able to be entrepreneurs and create their own wealth? Right. And so it takes funding. So I hope to be able to to support these programs in a much broader way.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:12:57] So Maricela, tell me what is your thinking?

Maricela Rios-Faust: [00:12:59] So a couple of things is Human Options has the sort of privilege of being part of a cohort that's statewide, which is Housing Opportunities Mean Everything. And there are six domestic violence agencies that have been part of this cohort. And this cohort is really focused on having really active conversations around the Domestic Violence Housing First model and what that looks like and how it can really support many survivors. Through that program, we are able to offer rental assistance as well as flexible funding. And for a survivor, flexible funding is key to be able to address anything that would get in the way of maintaining employment once you've gotten employment. That could be childcare, that could be your tires on the car need to be replaced. All of those pieces to have that as really a great asset and a great resource for many survivors who are just getting back into their own home. But we have found at Human Options, as a result of the DV Housing First model and flexible funding, is that 94% of the survivors that we assist into getting into their own apartment post leaving the abusive relationship are able to maintain their housing post any support. So even after we can't provide the flexible funding, and even after so six months after when we cannot provide the same level of rental support, they've been able to navigate that because the first six months are critical for a survivor, but then also having resources beyond that. Also because of the work through the cohort, is we were able to really talk about as a Continuum of Care. So every county has a continuum of care which addresses homelessness, or housing insecurity. And what we were able to do is really advocate for making sure that victims were part of the conversation, that everybody understood that domestic violence was a core thing we needed to talk about. And in Orange County, we've actually been successful in applying for Domestic Violence Bonus Project through HUD as a result of that. And then recently, I think one of the things that is also going to be able to elevate the needs of survivors, is that there is now a domestic violence subcommittee as part of the Continuum of Care in Orange County, and that will really help people understand that survivors exist and many, many continuum. So we as an organization are able to serve them directly through wraparound services. And there are many that come in the doors through other housing programs. And being able to connect them back to a service provider who understands domestic violence while they provide the housing elements and job security is critical to success.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:15:39] So how do we really go about expanding the opportunities for new housing, creating more affordable housing for people who are trying to take the next step?

Senator Susan Rubio: [00:15:48] It is critical that we all work together and not in silos, so that we are sharing those those resources. I know that L.A County is doing a lot of great things. You know, we just passed a bill recently that created La Casa, which is now trying to you know, we're in the process, I think, of creating a board that's going to have a member from each region. So then everyone is sort of working together across Los Angeles County. And so it's important because they're trying to secure funding. So I think when everything when we talk about housing, funding continues to be the biggest barrier. And so this will provide a little bit of the funding we need that's going to funnel out to smaller cities to be able to provide the affordable housing piece that you discussed. We are so short in housing stock. The cost of housing has increased tremendously. So we have these landlords that know that and you have one place and there's ten people trying to get into this one apartment. So then the rents keep going higher and higher. It's almost, it goes to the highest bidder, if you will, right? Of course, it's not something that we would promote, but unless we have enough housing stock that we can at least have enough housing for everyone, we're going to continue to run into these barriers. So building enough housing to ensure that prices are able to, to be lowered, that's really the focus of La Casa and a lot of the legislature legislators in the region. We want to make sure that we build those homes so people are not fighting for 1 or 2 houses, but that these victims are able to sustain themselves and not end up homeless again because they cannot afford the rent.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:17:24] I want to talk more about prevention. I feel like messaging is really important. So let's talk to you, Senator, about prevention.

Senator Susan Rubio: [00:17:32] Prevention, really a lot of the time has to do with education. And I want to highlight a little bit of, you know, my personal story in terms of, you know, how we grow up. And I'm going to speak to the Latino community in particular. You know, as we're growing up, it's very clear and often told very explicitly, you know, you're not to get involved in other people's business, everything that happens in the home needs to stay in the home. Again, my personal experience, you know. I remember my case in particular, a cousin of mine was being assaulted by her husband. And I remember my uncle, and this is myself as a little girl, I remember my uncle taking her back saying, you know, "That is your husband. You know, you need to listen to him." The message was, "Don't come to us. You're part of his family." We we call it machismo, which we hear a lot. You know, when someone's telling you how to dress. Oh, he's macho, so to speak. Or they tell you who your friends could be. Something as simple as that. And I try to educate, to understand that that really means, you know, macho to me, and I hope I don't disrespect anybody, that just means you're you're exerting coercive control over someone. And so education is key. And I want to highlight some of the bills that I've passed. So I passed a bill which I'm very proud of, SB 1141: coercive control, which now allows victims of domestic violence to be able to use coercive control as supporting evidence in court. Traditionally, people needed to see the bruises and the black eyes or they wouldn't believe you. Now they can document an abuser monitoring their finances, taking their finances, or wanting to read their emails, their text messages. Everything that takes your free will away, that is coercive control. So that's something that I want victims to hear. The other thing is, I mandated that every ID in the state of California, from seventh grade to higher education, have the domestic violence hotline in the back of the ID cards, because even that little girl that you spoke of, Maricela, might not have had someone to turn to. So they have the number right in their ID cards. And also, another thing that I thought was very important was extending the statute of limitations for victims. In California we have three years to come forward and seek justice, and everyone has different circumstances. You have to decide for yourself when it's the right time to leave. When do you feel safe? And I have a bill named Piqui's Law. It's named after a little boy who was five years old that was murdered by his father when Ana Estevez, the mother, walked away. And that's what we tell victims, right? "Walk away. Why are you still there if you're getting assaulted?" Well, she did what we asked victims to do. She walked away. And the result was that the abuser ended up hurting her little boy. He was murdered. A lot of the times, our immigrant community stays because the perpetrator threatens to call INS or immigration. And so, again, it's understanding that it doesn't matter if you're undocumented. There are laws that protect you. There's people that are going to help you and not to be afraid to to say something. My bill did extend the statute of limitations, to we went from 3 to 5. I had the bill this year again, I was trying to extend it to 15 years, because we know the average takes about 8 to 10 years for for women to finally walk awa, or men. And it wasn't successful this year. So so that just gives you a sense that it's not an easy thing to, to champion. And so again, education, getting the information out there is super important. So I'll leave it at that.

Maricela Rios-Faust: [00:21:14] I would agree education is is key and having the resources to educate. Sometimes we have the resources to do the direct services, but we don't have the resources that it would require and take to do the comprehensive education for our communities and to understand the barriers, even when when there is comprehensive education, there are sometimes barriers to accessing the resources that are out there. So really understanding that. So having well-rounded resources from a prevention perspective all the way through housing. The other thing that I think is important to note is that there's there's still a tremendous amount of stigma around domestic violence, and there's a tremendous amount of stigma around homelessness or being unhoused. Obviously, there's a really big intersection and removing the stigma and being able to talk about it like this and being able to really deeply understand it and remove stigma is going to be key when individuals who really need the support, access help, because, again, two issues that impact a large portion of our population and both with high stigma, we need to be the voice that's really removing that stigma and telling someone "it's okay to reach out," and "we are here for you as a community."

Senator Susan Rubio: [00:22:26] The one thing that I always walk away saying to every single group I speak to is get rid of those words — "Why did, he didn't he leave or why didn't she leave?" That is the worst thing you can say to a victim, because you're not only not validating what they experience, but you're shaming them again, almost blaming them for not speaking up. And that is unacceptable. As Maricela said, we have to be supportive and not judge or question, but offer support. How may I help you? Because the more we shame people, the more that they're going to stay in silence. So we need to change that.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:23:04] I really appreciate both of you for taking the time today to have this important conversation. Thank you so much. To find out more about this episode and what actions you can take to help prevent domestic violence and listen to the other episodes in this series, visit

Blue Shield California Foundation: [00:00:00] Esta serie incluye relatos de situaciones de violencia que pueden ser difíciles de escuchar. En la Fundación Blue Shield of California, trabajamos para terminar con la violencia doméstica abordando sus causas principales: el racismo y la inequidad económica y de género. En esta serie especial de pódcasts, exploraremos lo que hacemos en California para poder sanar de la violencia doméstica y prevenirla. Si estás sufriendo violencia doméstica o conoces a alguien en esta situación, puedes encontrar ayuda en o llamar al 1-800-799-7233. Gracias por acompañarnos.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:00:46] Les damos la bienvenida a Terminemos con la violencia doméstica: sanar, recuperarse, prevenir. Soy la periodista Bonnie Boswell. Estaremos conversando con las principales expertas en prevención de la violencia doméstica sobre cómo podemos romper el ciclo y terminar con este tipo de violencia en California. La violencia doméstica y la inestabilidad habitacional están tan estrechamente relacionadas que no podemos abordar una sin considerar la otra. Hoy me acompañan la senadora del estado de California Susan Rubio y Maricela Rios-Faust, CEO de Human Options, una organización sin fines de lucro que brinda apoyo a sobrevivientes. Hablaremos de esta intersección y de la manera en que abordar la problemática de la vivienda y la falta de esta puede prevenir la violencia doméstica. Antes de sumergirnos en esta importante conversación, quiero compartirles un breve audio de Lorinda Hawkins Smith, quien sufrió la carencia de vivienda a causa de violencia doméstica. Esto es lo que nos contó.

Lorinda Hawkins Smith: [00:01:48] Es necesario un enfoque más humanitario hacia las causas fundamentales de la falta de vivienda. Muchas mujeres huyen de la violencia doméstica; yo fui una de ellas. También debemos abordar eso. No podemos generalizar la carencia de vivienda. No podemos decir que las personas eligen vivir en la calle. Sí, hay personas que eligen vivir en la calle en lugar de estar en un hogar donde se las maltrata. Esa es una elección. Lo único que quieren es estar en un lugar donde no se las maltrate.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:02:20] Creo que la historia de Lorinda es un buen punto de partida para nuestra conversación de hoy. Muchas gracias, Maricela y senadora Rubio, por estar aquí. Hablaremos de tres temas muy importantes: la violencia doméstica, la inseguridad habitacional y la relación entre ambas. De ser posible, me gustaría que las dos contaran brevemente cuál es su conexión personal con esta historia. ¿Por qué no empezamos con usted, senadora Rubio?

Senadora Susan Rubio: [00:02:45] Claro. En primer lugar, gracias por invitarme. Para adentrarnos en un tema sobre el que no somos expertas, siempre se necesita una experiencia personal. Soy una sobreviviente de violencia doméstica, por lo que conozco mi experiencia personal y los desafíos que enfrenté. Siempre quise encontrar una forma de ayudar a la próxima víctima. Desde que me convertí en senadora estatal, he trabajado incansablemente en la aprobación de leyes para proteger a las víctimas, no solo de la violencia doméstica, sino también de la violencia familiar, proteger a los niños y a cualquiera que esté atravesando una situación así de espantosa en su hogar. Le cedo la palabra a Maricela.

Maricela Rios-Faust: [00:03:26] Gracias, senadora Rubio. Es un placer conocerla. En mi caso, hay muchas experiencias que podría decir que me llevaron a trabajar en el campo de la violencia doméstica, pero me gustaría contar la historia de una niña de 13 años a quien conocí. Ella iluminaba cada lugar al que entraba. Para cualquier persona… Como joven profesional, al mirarla, nunca habría pensado que vivía en un hogar abusivo. Un día entró y fue evidente que algo había cambiado en su expresión. No sonreía. Hasta parecía un poco ausente, si es que eso tiene sentido. Ya no había luz en sus ojos como solía haber antes. Al hablar con ella, descubrí que su padre era extremadamente abusivo con su madre, y que, con frecuencia, ella era quien intervenía en las peleas entre su madre y su padre. La noche anterior, eso había ocurrido, y su padre la había maltratado tanto que le había dejado marcas significativas. Aún se estaba afectada por ello. Como trabajadora social joven, recuerdo haber sentido que esto era algo en lo que no solo yo, sino todas las personas debíamos trabajar, y hacer algo para encontrar el apoyo adecuado para esa niña, para su madre y para todas las personas que tuvieran que lidiar con las secuelas de una relación abusiva.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:04:48] Muchas gracias. Ahora, ¿cuál es la relación entre la vivienda y la violencia doméstica? ¿Podrían explicarles a quienes quizás no conozcan mucho sobre el tema de qué se trata esa intersección? Empecemos con usted, senadora.

Senadora Susan Rubio: [00:05:01] Sí, gracias. También quiero agradecerle a Maricela. Gracias por el trabajo que haces como trabajadora social. He recolectado muchos datos a lo largo de mis cinco años como senadora estatal, y lo que he descubierto es que la situación es diferente para cada persona. Por ejemplo, yo no tenía hijos. Cuando hablo con víctimas de violencia doméstica que tienen hijos, la situación es muy diferente. A mí me costó sentir que podía irme. No me imagino el estrés que debe sentir alguien que sabe que su hijo está potencialmente en peligro. Mediante el trabajo que hago, también conozco historias reales de víctimas que se alejaron y cuyos hijos fueron asesinados por ese motivo. Siempre escuchamos, al menos yo la escucho a menudo, y eso me molesta muchísimo, la pregunta de «¿Por qué no se fue?”. Intentamos tener una fórmula perfecta que funcione para todas las personas, pero simplemente no la hay. He escuchado a muchas víctimas decir que esperan a que sus hijos cumplan 18 años para poder alejarse de verdad o sentirse lo suficientemente seguras como para hacerlo. Una víctima contó que había esperado hasta que sus hijos estuvieran en la universidad para irse. Por lo tanto, cuando hablamos de la inseguridad habitacional, hay muchos factores que se deben tener en cuenta. Sé, una vez más, por historias y entrevistas, que muchas víctimas quedan atrapadas en una situación en la que pueden verse obligadas a ceder [la gestión de] sus finanzas. Reciben su dinero y tienen que entregárselo [a la persona que las maltrata]. Entonces, cuando no puedes acceder a tu dinero, que es lo que necesitas para poder alejarte y tener tu propio lugar, te enfrentas a un desafío. Una víctima en particular compartió que su agresor arruinó su historial crediticio. Usó todas sus tarjetas de crédito y destruyó por completo su historial crediticio para que no pudiera irse. Literalmente, él le decía: «Nadie te alquilará un apartamento» o «Nunca podrás irte». Así, comienzan a eliminar todas las opciones que tienes para irte, ya sea en términos de recursos financieros [o] estabilidad mental. Hay muchos factores, pero ahora le cederé la palabra a Maricela para que comparta su experiencia y las historias que ha escuchado.

Maricela Rios-Faust: [00:07:17] Gracias. Tal como mencionó la senadora Rubio, esto se centra en la economía, no es solo… Se trata del acceso a recursos económicos, el acceso a tu cuenta bancaria. Con frecuencia, los agresores acumulan deudas y muchas víctimas o sobrevivientes tienen un historial crediticio desfavorable, lo que les dificulta encontrar o conseguir su propia vivienda. En Human Options, hemos descubierto que muchas de las personas que llegan a nuestro refugio de emergencia realmente están tratando de recuperar la estabilidad. Es posible que no se les haya permitido trabajar. Tal vez nunca se han separado de sus hijos y ahora están luchando por encontrar un empleo y ver dónde dejarán a sus niños. A menudo, como mencionó la senadora Rubio, dicen frases como «Mi puntaje crediticio es pésimo» o «Como el abuso ocurría donde yo alquilaba, eso figura en mi historial de alquiler y no sé si tendré acceso a una nueva vivienda». También desean vivir en comunidades donde cuenten con el apoyo de familiares o amistades con quienes, de alguna manera, aún mantienen contacto a pesar de la relación abusiva. Como organización, descubrimos que lo que realmente beneficia a las víctimas y sobrevivientes es asegurarles que no tengan que elegir entre su seguridad y un hogar. Por eso, tratamos de ofrecer oportunidades para que comprendan que irse de una relación abusiva no significa que tendrán que vivir en la calle. Queremos trabajar junto a las víctimas para reunir recursos, asegurarnos de que tengan acceso a estos y garantizar su seguridad y estabilidad habitacional.

Senadora Susan Rubio: [00:09:01] Me gustaría agregar algo a eso en particular porque quiero que los oyentes sepan esto: la violencia doméstica se encuentra entre las tres principales causas de la falta de vivienda y, de acuerdo con el 57 % de las mujeres sin hogar, la violencia doméstica es la razón por la que viven en la calle. Por ejemplo, muchas de ellas tienen una familia. Sin embargo, en lugar de acudir a un familiar, como se sienten avergonzadas, eligen vivir en sus automóviles o buscar una vivienda por su cuenta. Esto genera un efecto dominó que las lleva a terminar sin hogar. Quería decir eso: existe una conexión muy específica entre la violencia doméstica y quienes no tienen un hogar.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:09:46] Ahora, senadora, quiero hablar un poco sobre su proyecto de ley, el proyecto de ley 914 del Senado. ¿Qué problema intentaba abordar en particular? ¿Y cómo contribuye este proyecto a resolver el problema?

Senadora Susan Rubio: [00:09:57] Cuando pensamos y nos enfocamos en programas relacionados con la vivienda y la falta de esta, queremos que se incluyan poblaciones específicas. Entonces, el proyecto de ley estableció que, si el estado o el gobierno nacional le otorgan financiamiento para abordar este problema, debe haber un componente en el que se analice a este subgrupo. Queríamos asegurarnos de que la respuesta fuera específica para las víctimas de violencia doméstica y que también se las incluyera en el proceso de planificación. Por eso, buscábamos un plan para atender la falta de vivienda que se centrara en todos los subgrupos y no solo en uno en particular. Con suerte, esto los alentará a hacerlo, ya que hay un componente en el que deben informar al poder legislativo lo que están haciendo en esa área en particular.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:10:43] Algo que he notado al cubrir esta historia durante años es que, por ejemplo, en comparación con lo que ocurría hace 20 años, en el Downtown Women's Center de Los Ángeles, en lugar de solo proporcionar alimentos, refugio y asesoramiento, han instaurado un programa mediante el cual las sobrevivientes se convierten en emprendedoras y crean su propio camino hacia la autosuficiencia económica. Entonces, ¿cómo construimos este tipo de modelos y otorgamos financiamiento para que más personas que experimentan la falta de vivienda como resultado de la violencia doméstica puedan independizarse?

Senadora Susan Rubio: [00:11:14] No podemos quedarnos apenas en la provisión de viviendas. No es suficiente. Debemos contemplar los próximos pasos. Sé que, tradicionalmente, en nuestras comunidades se habla de servicios de salud mental o de servicios para el abuso de sustancias. Y eso es genial. Pero mi mente siempre se pregunta: «¿Cuál es el próximo paso?». Por citar un ejemplo, creé un programa en el Valle de San Gabriel, un distrito al que represento. Creé un fideicomiso de vivienda que ayuda a las comunidades y a las ciudades otorgándoles financiamiento para garantizar que puedan construir comunidades y así asistir a las personas sin hogar. Hasta ahora, hemos desarrollado tres aldeas pequeñas: una aldea para individuos solos y de género indistinto, Otra para familias de tres personas, sin importar su composición. También creamos un programa llamado SGV Works, que ofrece la oportunidad de conseguir un empleo a quienes abandonan esas pequeñas comunidades. Así que me complace informar que, desde el mes pasado, logramos trasladar a 47 familias a viviendas permanentes y con una oportunidad de empleo, lo que, a su vez, les brinda estas otras oportunidades laborales que mencionaste. Por ello, considero fundamental proveer el financiamiento necesario. Aunque logré obtenerlo con éxito, no se da de igual forma en todo el estado. Deseo que apoyemos a todas estas organizaciones, como el Downtown Women's Center de Los Ángeles, y no solo que consideremos el aspecto relacionado con las personas sin hogar o el aspecto de la vivienda, sino que también pensemos en cómo podemos ayudarlas a que alcancen el éxito. ¿Cómo podemos garantizar que puedan convertirse en emprendedoras y generar sus propios ingresos? Con financiamiento. Espero poder respaldar estos programas de una manera mucho más amplia.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:12:57] Maricela, cuéntame qué te parece.

Maricela Rios-Faust: [00:12:59] Quisiera decir varias cosas. Human Options tiene el privilegio, por así decirlo, de ser parte de una cohorte que está en todo el estado, llamada Housing Opportunities Mean Everything. Esta cohorte ha tenido seis agencias de violencia doméstica y se enfoca en hablar de manera constante y activa sobre el modelo de Domestic Violence Housing First, de qué se trata y cómo puede ayudar a muchos sobrevivientes. A través de ese programa, podemos ofrecer asistencia para el alquiler y un financiamiento flexible. Para un sobreviviente, el financiamiento flexible es esencial porque le permite mantener el empleo nuevo sin importar las contingencias que podrían ocurrir; por ejemplo, podría necesitar una guardería infantil o un cambio de los neumáticos del auto. Tener todas estas piezas es un gran recurso para muchos sobrevivientes que apenas están mudándose a un nuevo hogar. Lo que descubrimos en Human Options, por el modelo Domestic Violence Housing First, es que el 94 % de los sobrevivientes que asistimos para que encuentren su propio apartamento luego de salir de la relación abusiva son capaces de mantener su nuevo hogar después de que dejan de recibir la asistencia. Incluso cuando ya no podemos seguir proporcionándoles el financiamiento flexible y seis meses después, cuando ya no podemos ofrecerles el mismo nivel de asistencia para el alquiler, logran allanarse el camino. Atravesar los primeros seis meses es crítico para un sobreviviente, pero también lo es tener recursos más allá de ese período. Además, por el trabajo que se hace en la cohorte, hemos podido hablar como un programa de cuidado continuo. Cada condado tiene un programa de cuidado continuo que aborda problemáticas como la falta de vivienda y la inseguridad habitacional. Lo que pudimos hacer fue asegurarnos de que las víctimas fueran parte de la conversación y de que todos entendieran que la violencia doméstica es algo fundamental de lo que debemos hablar. En el condado de Orange, el resultado de esto fue que logramos aplicar para el Domestic Violence Bonus Project a través del Departamento de Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano. Creo que una de las cosas que también permitirá elevar las necesidades de los sobrevivientes es que ahora hay un subcomité de violencia doméstica en el programa de cuidado continuo del condado de Orange, y esto ayudará a las personas a entender que los sobrevivientes existen y que muchos de ellos siguen adelante. Por eso, nosotros, como organización, podemos asistirlos directamente a través de servicios integrales. Hay muchos que se acercan a nosotros por otros programas de vivienda, y tener la posibilidad de conectarlos con un proveedor de servicios que entienda la violencia doméstica mientras que provee elementos para la vivienda y la seguridad laboral es fundamental para que tengan éxito.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:15:39] Entonces, ¿cómo hacemos para expandir las oportunidades de nuevas viviendas, para que haya viviendas accesibles a disposición de las personas que están tratando de dar el siguiente paso?

Senadora Susan Rubio: [00:15:49] Es fundamental el trabajo en equipo, y no en solitario, para que compartamos los recursos. Sé que en el condado de Los Ángeles se están haciendo muchas cosas buenas. Hace poco logramos que se aprobara el proyecto de ley que creó La Casa y estamos en proceso de formar una junta que cuente con un miembro de cada región. Entonces, trabajaremos en conjunto en todo el condado de Los Ángeles. Es importante porque están tratando de asegurar el financiamiento. Cuando hablamos sobre el tema de la vivienda, este continúa siendo nuestro obstáculo más grande. Entonces esto proporcionará parte del financiamiento que necesitamos y que se canalizará hacia ciudades más pequeñas para poder proveer las viviendas accesibles de las que hablábamos. Son tan pocas las opciones de vivienda que los costos han aumentado muchísimo. Tenemos algunos propietarios que saben esto, pero tienen un solo apartamento mientras que hay diez personas tratando de alquilarlo. Entonces, los precios de los alquileres son cada vez más altos. Es casi como si se alquilara al mejor postor, por decirlo de alguna manera. Claro que no es algo que promovamos, pero, a menos que tengamos más opciones de vivienda, para tener, como mínimo, una para cada persona, continuaremos encontrándonos con estos obstáculos. Por eso, construir suficientes viviendas para garantizar que los precios puedan bajar es el verdadero enfoque de La Casa y muchos de los legisladores de la región. Queremos asegurarnos de que construimos estas viviendas para que no haya competencia por uno o dos apartamentos, sino que las víctimas puedan sustentarse y no terminar en la calle de nuevo porque no pueden pagar el alquiler.

Bonnie Boswell: [00:17:25] Quiero que hablemos de la prevención. Creo que es un mensaje muy importante. Senadora, hablemos sobre la prevención.

Senadora Susan Rubio: [00:17:32] La prevención, muchas veces, se relaciona con la educación. Quiero resaltar una parte de mi historia personal en cuanto a cómo crecimos y hablaré, en particular, de la comunidad latina. Cuando somos chicos, se nos dice muy seguido y de forma muy explícita que no debemos involucrarnos en los asuntos de otras personas y que todo lo que ocurre en casa debe quedarse allí. De nuevo, esta es mi experiencia personal. Recuerdo un caso cercano en particular. Cuando era pequeña, presencié el momento en que a una prima mía la estaba agrediendo su esposo y recuerdo a mi tío llevándola aparte y diciéndole: «Ese es tu esposo. Debes escucharlo». El mensaje era muy claro: «No nos pidas ayuda. Eres parte de su familia». A esto lo llamamos machismo y lo vemos muchísimo. Si alguien te dice cómo vestirte o quiénes pueden ser tus amigos estás ante una persona machista, por así decirlo. Es tan simple como eso. Intento educar a las personas para que entiendan que esto es lo que realmente implica ser machista para mí y espero no faltarle el respeto a nadie. Solo significa que una persona está ejerciendo un control coercitivo sobre otra. Entonces, la educación es fundamental. Me gustaría resaltar algunos de los proyectos de ley que logré que se aprobaran. Hay uno del que estoy muy orgullosa: la ley SB-1141 sobre control coercitivo, que les permite a las víctimas de violencia doméstica usar el control coercitivo como prueba respaldatoria ante un tribunal. Tradicionalmente, era necesario ver un hematoma o un ojo morado para creerle a la víctima. Ahora, la víctima puede registrar cómo el abusador revisa o controla sus finanzas o cómo intenta leer sus correos electrónicos o mensajes. Todo lo que te impida actuar con libertad es control coercitivo. Eso es lo que quiero que escuchen las víctimas. Otro proyecto fue hacer que todos los documentos de identidad del estado de California, desde séptimo grado hasta cursos de educación superior, tuvieran el número de la línea de atención para casos de violencia doméstica en el dorso. Incluso la niña que mencionabas, Maricela, tal vez no tenía a quién recurrir. Entonces, tienen el número allí mismo, en sus documentos. Otra cosa que me pareció importante fue extender el plazo de prescripción de los delitos para las víctimas. En California, tenemos tres años para hablar y pedir justicia. Todas las víctimas tienen circunstancias diferentes. Cada persona tiene que decidir por sí misma cuándo es el momento correcto de irse y cuándo se siente segura. Tengo un proyecto llamado Ley Piqui. Lo nombramos así en memoria de un niño de cinco años que fue asesinado por su padre cuando su madre, Ana Estévez, se marchó. Eso es lo que le decimos a las víctimas, ¿verdad? «Vete. ¿Por qué sigues ahí si te está lastimando?». Bueno, ella hizo lo que le pedimos a las víctimas que hagan. Se marchó. El resultado fue que el abusador terminó lastimando a su pequeño. Lo asesinó. Muchas veces, nuestra comunidad de inmigrantes se queda porque el abusador amenaza con llamar a inmigraciones o al INS. Entonces, repito: hay que entender que no importa si no estás aquí de forma legal. Hay leyes que te protegerán. Hay personas que te ayudarán. No tengas miedo de hablar. Mi proyecto extendió el plazo de prescripción de tres a cinco años. Este año volví a presentar el proyecto con la intención de extenderlo a quince años, porque sabemos que las víctimas tardan entre ocho y diez años en promedio en irse, pero no tuvimos éxito. Eso nos da a entender que no será algo fácil de lograr. De nuevo, educar sobre el tema y difundir esta información es superimportante. Lo dejaré allí.

Maricela Rios-Faust: [00:21:14] Estoy de acuerdo con que la educación es clave, pero también tener los recursos para educar. Algunas veces, contamos con los recursos para brindar los servicios directos, pero no con los recursos necesarios para educar a nuestras comunidades y entender los obstáculos. Incluso cuando tenemos una educación integral, a veces hay obstáculos para acceder a los recursos. Entonces hay que entender esto y, además, tener recursos integrales, desde la prevención hasta la vivienda. Otra cosa que me parece importante es comprender todo el estigma que hay alrededor de la violencia doméstica, así como también del hecho de no tener hogar o de vivir en la calle. Por supuesto, hay una clara intersección. Quitarle el estigma, poder hablar como lo estamos haciendo y poder entender el tema en profundidad será fundamental cuando los individuos que necesitan el apoyo accedan a la ayuda. De nuevo, son dos asuntos que impactan a una gran parte de la población y ambos están muy estigmatizados. Tenemos que ser la voz que les quita el estigma y les dice a las personas que está bien pedir ayuda y que estamos aquí como comunidad.

Senadora Susan Rubio: [00:22:26] Hay una cosa que le digo siempre a cada grupo con el que hablo y es que se deshagan de esa pregunta: «¿Por qué no se fue?» Eso es lo peor que podemos decirles a las víctimas porque no solo no estamos validando sus experiencias, sino que también las estamos avergonzando, casi culpando, por no hablar. Y eso es inaceptable. Como dijo Maricela, tenemos que apoyarlas y no juzgarlas ni cuestionarlas. Ofrezcamos apoyo y preguntemos cómo podemos ayudarlas. Cuanto más las avergoncemos, menos querrán hablar. Tenemos que cambiar esto.

‍Bonnie Boswell: [00:23:04] Realmente aprecio mucho que ambas se hayan tomado el tiempo para tener esta conversación tan importante. Muchísimas gracias. Para saber más sobre este episodio, enterarte qué puedes hacer para ayudar a prevenir la violencia doméstica y escuchar otros episodios de la serie, visita