An important aspect of Darío´s work is based upon violence prevention. Due to their long history with the issue, Dario and his team have discovered that the majority of abusers have been victims of domestic violence during childhood. In response to this, they created workshops in schools and soup kitchens for teens to construct a positive model of relating with others. At the same time, Darío and his team have been in charge of the Specialization in Domestic Violence in the Social Work Department at the Universidad de La Plata. Their aim is to train these professionals to occupy leading positions in court houses and other state departments related to domestic violence.
Police forces are the first to come into contact with victims of domestic violence but to date their management of the situation has been inefficient and depersonalized. In most cases, the police force is unfamiliar about the rights being threatened through domestic violence. Taking this into account, Darío generated an agreement with the Ministry of Social Development in the Province of Buenos Aires; the agreement specifies that a team from María Pueblo will train 26 commissars in the region (where they live) and policemen in the treatment of victims, including how to provide aid, issue a report, and abide by the juridical resolutions. For the first time, a social organization will train state police forces.
The direct attention provided to the victim in this model is aimed at maintaining the family. Casa Abierta María Pueblo has a 24-hour telephone line for victims of domestic violence. Victims may reach a team from María Pueblo who will host a gathering to listen, inform them of their rights (unknown in society at-large and by most women suffering from domestic violence) and evaluate with the victim their alternatives for the future. As a last resource, if the victim has no family member who they may ask for help and shelter, they may enter Casa Abierta María Pueblo. Only 20 percent of all the cases the organization handles during the year enter the shelter.
The main objective of the shelter is to empower victims of domestic violence to start exercising their rights. It is an alternative to the traditional system, as the judicial system tends to decide for the victim by means of juridical-administrative measures, and therefore, taking away the victim’s identity and independence. The judicial system decides the best measures to take without the victim’s input. In order to break this methodology, every person who enters Casa Abierta María Pueblo shelter does so voluntarily.
The first days in the shelter seek to protect the victim and reach emotional stability. After the first week, women and children begin to participate in workshops related to empowerment, reflection, and therapeutic activities. Taking into account the transitory nature of the shelter, they have developed productive workshops where women may work to generate income for themselves and their children. The dress making workshop, (donated by the firm RepsolYPF) employs 16 mothers in rotating shifts and produced 1,800 overalls this year for the Ministry of Education of the Province of Buenos Aires. At the same time, mothers employed in the loom workshop have exported part of their production to Spain. The methodology in Casa Abierta María Pueblo aims to diminish the possibility of returning to an abusive relationship by empowering them to make decisions concerning their lives and their children’s lives.
The victims entering the shelter are given pro-bono legal representation. Only 30 percent of the cases that enter Casa Abierta María Pueblo have previously pressed charges. In 2006, the shelter represented more than 100 cases. This sheer number of cases allowed them to gain a deeper understanding of the law. Based on this knowledge, Darío has directly influenced the creation of a Domestic Violence Law for the province of Buenos Aires and has introduced the need to penalize violence outside of marriage.
Darío is also working on the development of a project in the Olmos Prison (La Plata), together with the Penitentiary of the Province of Buenos Aires, with prisoners that have been committed due to inter-family crimes. The main goal is to generate an investigation into the pattern of violence that might contribute useful data and tools for working with concrete cases.
The team of Casa Abierta María Pueblo is made-up of twenty professionals, all led by Darío. His model is considered a reference by the provincial and city governments. Darío has partnered with 15 other sheltering organizations to provide counseling and advice to incorporate an integrated approach by which women are empowered and children are defended. The National Minor and Family Council recognized the efficacy of Darío’s programs and are considering adopting his approach. Darío is working to replicate his model in other provinces, encouraging them to put aside their philanthropic approaches in favor of a more strategic plan. Amnesty International has also recognized his work and is interested to expand it to other Latin American countries. The first step is to expand the model through an international publication to evaluate possible collaborations with other international entities.