A national organization dedicated to ending sexual violence has awarded $50,000 to the YWCA of Southern Arizona to expand a program aimed at removing barriers for Latina victims.

Raliance, a national partnership dedicated to ending sexual violence in one generation, announced Tuesday its award of $470,000 in grant funding to 10 organizations across the country, to fund efforts to prevent sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse.

YWCA of Southern Arizona will use its $50,000 award to expand its Promotoras Rompiendo Cadenas Program, or Community Educators breaking through Barriers, which is a yearlong bilingual community-based program focusing on awareness and prevention, and removing barriers for Latina victims of sexual violence to seek help and report abuse.

The program includes training in leadership, community organizing and legal rights for immigrants. Participants also receive training on prevention and intervention in domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking. And they undergo “know your rights” training for immigrant communities, with the hands-on leadership training course cultivating leadership skills and raising social awareness on gender violence and other issues that impact immigrant communities, according to the YWCA’s website.

This is the fourth round of Raliance’s ongoing impact grant program. The Washington, D.C.-based organization was founded in 2015 through a multimillion dollar seed investment by the NFL.

The YWCA serves a large number of immigrant Spanish-speaking women in their programs, which include workforce readiness, leadership development and small business skills.

“One of the things that we couldn’t help but notice is that one of the barriers to becoming financially and economically sustainable for many of the women we’re working with is a history of domestic violence and/or sexual violence, or the fact that they’re currently kind of living in that situation,” said Kelly Fryer, CEO of YWCA Southern Arizona. “As we looked around the community, there is really a lack of great programs and services for all women who have experienced sexual violence but especially immigrant Spanish-speaking women, who are just among the most vulnerable people in our community for a variety of reasons.”

In response to the need, the Promotoras program was launched a few years ago and started off as educational programs surrounding sexual assault, sexual violence, harassment, stalking and domestic violence, Fryer said.

The program has grown to a certificate-earning program now made up of four modules.

The women — called promotoras — “become equipped to not only deal with these issues in their own lives, but to educate and support other women — their friends, their coworkers, their family members, people that they meet in the community,” Fryer said.

The program, which is an established approach to community education in immigrant communities, has seen at least 200 promotoras who have trained in at least one module. Fryer said these women are now at work in the community.

The program has been run without any outside funding, simply because the YWCA Southern Arizona saw a need, Fryer said.

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The grant will enable YWCA to launch a “train the trainer” program, with a minimum of 10 women a year learning the program, who will then go on to train 10 other women.

“At the end, we will have 100 trainers who can really begin to spread out like a beautiful spiderweb of educators and supporters in these vulnerable communities,” Fryer said.

The grant will also enable the YWCA to work with at least three agencies that work with Spanish-speaking women to train their staffs on resources that are available in the community and how to recognize signs of domestic and sexual violence and the trauma that brings in their clients and co-workers.

Eighty percent of women say that they’ve experienced sexual harassment or assault in their lifetime, with that number being much higher in vulnerable populations, including immigrants and people whose first language isn’t English, Fryer said.

“They’re afraid to report, they don’t know where to get services and when they do finally get themselves into a position where they’re ready to ask for help, there’s few places to go,” Fryer said. “We’ve developed these programs organically, in direct response to what we were seeing our own participants needed, but what it’s done is it’s really made us take a look at the wider landscape in Tucson to ask the question, ‘Where are the gaps and what can we do as the YWCA to begin filling them?’”

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlincschmidt.

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I'm a watchdog reporter covering local government, the University of Arizona and sports investigations.