Cultural Issues in Domestic Violence

Defining DV in Cultural Context
Basic Definition:
• a pattern of coercive behavior by a spouse or intimate partner to gain power and control.

DV may include any of the following: • physical violence/assault, • battering; • rape and sexual abuse; • psychological abuse; • economic or financial abuse.

Scope of Domestic Violence
• FBI Estimate: • Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten • 2,880 women beaten each day In the United States • 20-30% of all women have been abused • by a spouse or intimate partner during their adult life

Domestic Violence Does Not Discriminate

No racial, ethnic, or class boundaries

Role of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity in Domestic Violence Minimal research studies have been conducted Several issues are important to consider.
• U.S. becoming increasingly multicultural. • Approximately a quarter of the U.S. population members of "minority" groups. • Demographic projections:
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By 2050, ethnic minorities 47.5% U.S. population. By 2056, “whites” will probably be minority

Victims may share the same battering event, but
• perception of the event may be interpreted differently, • may be attributed to different cultural belief systems.

What is Different for Ethnic Minority Victims?  Immigrant and ethnic minority women face unique problems.
• Different life experiences and social realities • racism, • discrimination, • language barriers, • prejudice, and • different cultural value systems

Attitudes toward domestic violence vary from culture to culture
Some Examples African American women may be less inclined to report abuse to police because they fear maltreatment of the perpetrator by the police.

Traditional Asian cultural values emphasizing "loss of face" and the importance of the family also affect help-seeking patterns.
• ashamed of the abuse • feel that the disclosure would shame themselves and family

Anglo American women perceived more incidents to be abusive compared to their Mexican American counterparts.
• One study: 92% of Anglo American women classified "punching," "pulling hair," "slapping," and "pushing" spouses as abusive compared to 62% Mexican American women • Mexican American women may be less stringent in their definitions of domestic violence due to Mexican cultural norms emphasizing the centrality of the family and male dominance ("machismo").

DV Issues Common to Many Victims Increased Due to Cultural Issues
• Lack of Economic Resources • Housing or Shelter Shortages • Retaliatory Threats • Fear of Losing Custody of Their Children • Lack of Familiarity with Navigating the Legal System • Shame and Guilt • Perceived Lack of Legal Recourse • Lack of Services and Resources for Domestic Violence Victims • Religious Beliefs • Wanting to Keep the Family Together • Fear of Deportation

General Guidelines for Working with Immigrant and/or Ethnic Minority Victims of Domestic Violence
• A culturally-sensitive assessment takes into account level of acculturation, language preferences, immigration history, family structure, economic status, and age of victim

Assess for prior exposure to violence such as family history of trauma such as torture, war atrocities, rape, lynchings, and other forms of violence.  Prior exposure to violence may exacerbate the effects of crises, such as domestic violence.  Providers may instigate memories of trauma during the clinical interview.
• For example, a Camodian woman interviewed for wife beating may remember the interrogations at the resettlement camps or memories of past rapes.

Explore the meaning of “abuse” and “battering”
• Since culture, race, and ethnicity influences how these terms are defined.

Rapport building is crucial in any clinical encounter regardless of the race and ethnic background of the client.
• May not be accustomed to Western-oriented paradigms such as the helping relationship.

May have specific expectations such as the healthcare professional providing for their concrete needs. Need to provide concrete services such as providing advocacy and helping to navigate the system to build rapport and trust.

Be sensitive to how the victim perceives authority figures.
• May have experienced violence and atrocities in their homeland • May have come from oppressive countries - police authorities corrupt and abused their power.

Cultural belief systems about authority figures may impact how they relate to the healthcare professional.
• Traditional Asian culture focuses on social relationships based on hierarchy.

will view healthcare professional and other service providers as authority figures and desire them to be directive.

Explore with the victim

Whether she would prefer to have a clinician or therapist from her same ethnic background or from a different ethnic background. Some may perceive someone from outside their community as being able to better maintain confidentiality. Others may feel that only a person of their ethnic background can understand where she is coming from.

Explore with the victim how she feels about certain interventions.

For example, support groups

Feelings of guilt and fear of bringing dishonor and shame onto the family

Culture-Specific Issues

Cultural Barriers for African American Victims of Domestic Violence
Internal Barriers:  A misunderstanding about what defines domestic violence.

The stigma associated with domestic violence. African American women may believe it is their responsibility to maintain the family regardless the cost. Victims potentially desire to protect African American men and their image in society. Women may internalize common stereotypes about African American women and be reluctant to bring attention to her

African American Victims - External Barriers:

Women may not be aware of services that are available or how to use them. Those who are in positions to help may believe in the false racial stereotype that violence among African Americans is normal and inevitable. Support services are often in short supply in African American communities. Victims may feel unwelcome or misunderstood in shelters outside of their immediate community. It is common for women to seek temporary shelter within extended family networks in African American communities. Lack of economic self-sufficiency makes it difficult for victims to leave violent situations. Mistrust of the legal system and health care providers due to past experiences of racism. Media messages from African American leaders stating the importance in supporting the African American male and not expose him to any more

Cultural Barriers for Asian Victims of Domestic Violence
Internal Barriers:
• A misunderstanding about what defines domestic violence. • The stigma associated with domestic violence. • Reluctance to discuss family violence for fear of bringing shame on the family and ostracism from the community. • Victims desire to preserve the family and marriage at all costs. • Victims fear the batterer.

Asian Victims - External Barriers:

Language and cultural differences isolate the victim. Consequently, the victims are unaware of their basic civil and legal rights. Recent immigrants may not be familiar with the way things work in their new environment. (i.e. social service systems, school and medical systems, transportation, etc.) Families may have suffered fragmentation and loss as a result of war and refugee experiences. This may make it difficult for a refugee woman to leave her abuser, as he may be the only surviving relative she has left. Challenges to traditional male-female roles. The lack of linguistically and culturally appropriate resources within communities may make the victims feel isolated. There is a lack of interpretation services in courts,

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Asian Victims - External Barriers (continued):

There is a lack of supporting resources accessible to Asian women Lack of economic self-sufficiency makes it difficult for victims to leave violent situations. Immigration issues (including legal status, benefit denials, legal resources, etc.) make it difficult for Asian women to seek help.

Cultural Barriers for Latina Victims of Domestic Violence
Internal Barriers:

A misunderstanding about what defines domestic violence. The stigma associated with domestic violence. The victim's desire to preserve the family leads to tolerance of abuse. The value of familismo which emphasizes family unity and devotion to family is a central cultural value. Victims fear the batterer.

Latina Victims - External Barriers:

Language barriers and cultural differences isolate the victim. Victims believe interactions with health care providers are marred by racial and ethnic prejudice. Recent immigrants may lack the support of extended families and feel socially isolated. Victims are unaware of law enforcement services, legal rights, and the availability of social resources. Language barriers make it difficult to trust the provider. Interpreters create a distance between the patient and provider that interferes in developing trust.

Latina Victims - External Barriers (continued):

Traditional male-female roles make it difficult for victims to identify abuse. Fear that entering the “system” puts them at risk for deportation, when in fact current immigration laws protect abused wives. Lack of economic self-sufficiency makes it difficult for victims to leave violent situations. Immigration issues (including legal status, benefit denials, and legal resources) make it difficult for women to seek help.

Conclusion – Summary
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Cultural values can act as barriers to seeking help. Cultural values can also be viewed as cultural strengths,
• can be harnessed as coping strategies.
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For example, African Americans may have strong religious beliefs, which emphasize faith and prayer. Hispanics and Asian Americans have strong familial ties, and they may have immediate and extended family social support systems to help them through the crisis.

IMPERATIVE:  establish relationships with colleagues from various disciplines and backgrounds who have expertise and knowledge about the cultural background of a particular victim.  These colleagues can be viewed as cultural consultants who can advise the healthcare professional.

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