Like all women,immigrant women are at high risk for domestic violence, but due to theirimmigration status they face a more difficult time escaping abuse. Immigrantwomen often feel trapped in abusive relationships because of immigration laws,language barriers, social isolation, and lack of financial resources. Now daysthey have opened new and safe routes to immigration status for some immigrantwomen who are victims of domestic violence, abuse is still a significantproblem for immigrant women, as it isfor all women in the United States. Forty-eight percent of Latinas in one studyreported that their partner’s violence against them had increased since theyimmigrated to the United States. Married immigrant women experience higherlevels of physical and sexual abuse than unmarried immigrant women.
Abusersoften use their partner’s immigration status as a tool to control. In somesituations it is common for a batterer to exert control over his partner’simmigration status in order to force her to remain in the relationship.Immigrant women often suffer higher rates of battering than U.S.
citizensbecause they may come from cultures that accept domestic violence or because theyhave less access to legal and social services than U.S. citizens.
Additionallyimmigrant batteres and victims may believe that the penalties and protection ofthe U.S. legal system do not apply to them. Battered immigrant women whoattempt to flee may not have access to bilingual shelters, financialassistance, or food. It is also unlikely that they will have the assistance ofa certified interpreter at court, when reporting complaints to the police or a911 operator, or even in acquiring information about their rights and the legalsystem. Barriers/RiskFactors· Language barriers· Economic Dependence · Low level of education and income · Poor knowledge about services/location· Fear of spouse· Undocumented status· Lack of support systems· Perception of law Enforcement/ Legalsystem: Immigrant victims often have negative experiences with law enforcementin their country of origin or may distrust the U.S. legal system because ofmisinformation from abusers.
· Fear of Deportation: Abusers often threaten victims withdeportation if they complain about abuse, threaten to leave or threaten to callpolice for help· Cultural/Religious Issues: Because somereligions and cultures have strict guidelines for gender roles, victims mayfeel that they do not have the right to disobey, tell others about abuse orleave their abuser.Facts · 1 in 3 Latinas experience domesticviolence in their lifetime· 50% of Latinas who experience abusenever report it · 1 and 12 Latinas have experienceddomestic violence in the past 12 months· More recent immigrant Latinas may not beas familiar with laws, options and possibilities regarding their domesticviolence experience· 15.5 million kids live in homes wherethey witness domestic violence in the United States· Latinas Prefer to tell family members,female friends or neighbors about their intimate partner violence, while nonLatinas may be more likely to tell health care workers · In one study 35% of Latina survivorsreported an increased climate of fear due to the immigration enforcement environment· Latinas report seeking local sheltersless than women from other ethnic/racial groups this is especially true forimmigrant Latina survivors· An especially powerful strategy some menuse against Latinas and other undocumented non English speaking women is tothreaten them with taking their children away if she leaves him· Immigration status is a common andpowerful control mechanism partners use to force immigrant women to stay inabusive relationshipsDomesticviolence in Latina communities is not traditional in the Hispanic culture thereis a lot of roles that come to mind one of them is gender roles. According tofeminist theory, issues of power and gender are the ultimate origins ofdomestic violence. Violence is a part of a system of controls that serve tocreate and maintain male dominance and inbalance of power between husband and wife. The Latino familystructure tends to be socialized to follow a model dictating that men have thepower over them women.
The social construct of gender favor males and confersmore entitlement based on privileges to them. A common gender dynamic is themachismo male and the marianismo female which dictates gender roles in terms ofwhat it means to be a male or female in Latino culture. The term machismorefers to a set of beliefs about how Latino men should act and encompasses bothpositive and negative qualities.
The positive qualities consists of honor,pride, courage, responsibility, and obligation to the family. Some of the morenegative traits which could contribute to domestic violence are aggressiveness.On the other side marianismo refers to the set of beliefs about how a Latinawomen should act and include traits such as submissiveness, defence to othersand self sacrificing behaviors.
Women who have traits of a marianismo arethought to follow the Virgin Mary as a behavioral model. This ideologysocializes women to stop listening to their own needs, thoughts and desires andto nurture and care for others especially men often at their own expense.Latina women tend to fixate on the idea the idea of womanhood as the image ofVirgin Mary. Latinas are glorified by the marianista paradigm as strong, longsuffering women who have endured and kept La Cultura Latina and the familyintact. This model requires that women dispense care and pleasure but notreceive the same. That they live in the shadows of and be deferential to themen in their lives father, brother, son, husband and boyfriend. Perfection fora Latina is therefore seen as a submission.
Spirituality for many individuals spiritual/religious beliefs are a source of strength and it is advisable to explore theextent of a clients religious involvement historically as well as in thepresent. The majority of Latina womenbelong to the Christian faith however there are many faith affiliations amongLatino. Faith plays a critical role for many Latina women and provides a senseof identity education and childrearing. Women obtaining guidance from theirreligion on what it means to be a good women, wife, mother and daughter. Theterm fatalism relates to spirituality by providing a sense that one is not acomplete control of ones own destiny or of surrendering to fate. Thus theresponse in adverse situations is not to attempt to gain control but to submitto external forces such as God or destiny.
The perceptions of family supportduring and after the abusive relationships. Latinas believed that their family wassupportive of them except when it came to leaving the abusive relationship.Women went to their families first when they left the relationship however theywere encouraged to return to the relationship and not break up their family.The family tends to take his side because they feel that they abuse is ok andthat the family unit is more important. Also the family won’t approve of thewomen goes in the shelter to seek for help specially with children they thinkthat its not a good environment for children and that its better to work outthings with your abuser and be home.
Discussingculture and cultural identity is not always easy especially when discussing agroup as diverse as the Latino population. It is important tot understand thefamily values to Latinos. For the women their gender roles are aligned withtraditional female roles for good housekeepers, mother, and wife. Theyhighlight the role of marianismo or the idea that women are submissive, tend tothe children and cater to the men. The socialization of gender roles in Latinawomen tends to increase the marginalization, invisibility and surbordination forLatina women inside and outside the Latino community but also reveals thestrength of the women’s ability to bear the suffering without protest for thesake of their family.
Understanding the diversities that exist between andamong Latina, a domestic violence worker needs to be equipped with theknowledge and understanding to provide adequate services for Latina women incrisis. Workers must be able to empower the women while using her strengths andcultural framework to make educated decision about what is best for the Latinawomen. Workers should not assume the relational patterns or attitudes of aLatina women base on her ethnicity, but rather use cultural knowledge as aflexible frame work. Domestic violence workers can better serve Latina clientsthrough deeping their knowledge and understanding of other ethnicities andcultures to be able to create a transition plan that is culturally specific tothe individual. It is useful to explore different identities with the Latinawomen including what it means to be a women, a wife, a mother and a spiritual/religious followers as well as her roles in her family. This will help in thecreation of an individualized transition plan which fits her need to besuccessful at sustaining a violence free lifestyle.
Possible the most importantrecommendation from this study, however is that advocates should work with theLatina population to change the societal norms and conditions that continuallymarginalize and oppress the Latina population to change the societal norms andconditions that continually marginalize and oppress the Latino population andlead to high levels of risk for Latina victims of domestic violence.