South Asian women and domestic violence : incidence and informal and formal help-seeking



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This study aimed to document the extent of domestic violence among a community sample of women of South Asian origin in the United States, and to investigate sociocultural factors associated with domestic violence in this population. It also investigated the extent of informal and formal help-seeking among women of South Asian origin who are victims of domestic violence and sociocultural factors associated with their help-seeking. The sociocultural factors of isolation (measured by ties with family, friends, and social and cultural groups, as well as ties with spouse/partner), perceived social support, acculturation, and patriarchy were used to predict abuse and help-seeking. Both paper and Web surveys were used to collect data from a cross section of South Asian women residing in the United States of America. In total, 215 cases were included in the multivariate analyses. Most women in the sample were highly educated. Based on the Conflict Tactics Scale -2, results indicated that 38% of the sample experienced psychological abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or injury from abuse in the past year. Psychological abuse was by far the most prevalent form of abuse (52%), but 48% of the women who were abused experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, or injury. Isolation, as measured by ties with spouse/partner, and perceived social support predicted both abuse and help-seeking. Isolation, as measured by ties with family, friends, and social and cultural groups, also predicted help-seeking. Of the women who reported seeking help, the use of informal help sources (e.g., family, friends) was more prevalent than the use of formal resources (e.g., doctors, counselors, battered women’s shelters). The study contributes to the research by providing empirical data on the extent of abuse and help-seeking behaviors of women of South Asian origin in the United States. Among the study’s practice and policy implications for preventing domestic violence is a need to reach out to South Asian women in the community to insure that they are not isolated and know that support is available. The study also suggests that outreach to men is necessary in order to improve relationships with their spouses/partners that may lead to reduced abuse. The information will contribute to designing culturally appropriate interventions to prevent domestic violence and help South Asian women victimized by domestic violence.