Victims of Violence, Victims of Recession

By Yvonne Yen Liu May 18, 2009

Four years ago, Maria Cecilia Osorio followed her husband north from Mexico with her two children, now eight and twelve. Her husband traveled to the United States in search of work and Maria followed. But upon arriving in Nogales, Arizona, a small border town with a population of 20,000, they separated. Her husband was abusive. Maria took her children and left her husband. They sought refuge in a family shelter. Finding work was difficult for Maria, now a single mother. When the economic slowdown on Wall Street trickled down to Nogales, Maria and her co-workers lost their jobs at a produce factory. Maria cannot apply for unemployment insurance or other forms of federal assistance because she is undocumented. She lies awake at night worrying about what the next day may bring. Maria worries about being able to make the rent, feed and clothe her children, and get another job. She struggles to keep her family afloat and fears having to return to the homeless shelter, or worse, to her abusive ex-husband.

“I am in crisis right now,” says Maria.

She is not alone. Like many women of color across the nation right now, the recession makes their already precarious position even more tenuous, especially for those who suffer at the hands of an abusive spouse or partner. Losing a job, falling behind on monthly mortgage or rent payments, and timing out on welfare cash assistance is another form of structural violence in women of color’s lives, compounding the violence in the home. The Applied Research Center recently traveled across this country to gather stories such as Maria’s, from Nogales, Arizona to Providence, Rhode Island and New Orleans, Louisiana to New York City, to write a report Race and Recession (released today) on the racial impact of this recession on communities of color. Experiences varied but one common denominator remained the same: people of color experience the effects of the recession disproportionately. Like Maria, we are all victims of the violence that this economic downturn wreaks upon our lives. Read the report for more of Maria’s experience and other people’s stories. But, more importantly, read it for strategies on how we can collectively fight back and stop the violence of unemployment, poverty, and foreclosures from devastating our communities.