Meeting the Needs of Immigrant and Refugee Victims of Intimate Partner Violence, by Providing Comprehensive, Confidential and Holistic Services
The Family Violence Prevention Fund conducted a literature review and key informant interviews to identify and highlight program models for addressing intimate partner violence in immigrant and refugee communities.
Project staff produced two reports:
- Literature on Intimate Partner Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities: Review and Recommendations summarizes more than 500 relevant studies.
- Intimate Partner Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities: Challenges, Promising Practices and Recommendations provides specific recommendations for funders, service providers and advocates.
As reported in the literature review and recommendations report:
- Intimate partner violence is probably less prevalent among immigrant and refugee populations than among other groups but where it occurs, it may be more difficult for victims to obtain help.
- Cultural values and practices are a significant influence on various aspects of intimate partner violence.
- Comprehensive, confidential and holistic services are necessary to meet both the acute and ongoing needs of immigrant and refugee victims of intimate partner violence.
- Funders should support programs that build trust between victims and service providers.
- Funders should support leadership development programs to engage victims who wish to apply new skills to assist others.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a $95,804 grant to support this solicited project from November 2007 through August 2008.
Immigrant and refugee women experience intimate partner violence in ways that are both similar and dissimilar to the experiences of women born in the United States. Systemic and community barriers often make it harder for these women to flee violence, and they often lack access to services specifically designed to address domestic and sexual violence.
Little research has focused specifically on violence against immigrant and refugee women or identified promising practices and interventions, according to project staff. The available studies, which are mostly descriptive rather than statistical in nature, often aggregate people in broad categories, regardless of ethnicity, place of birth, immigration status or acculturation level, and may be weakened by other methodological limitations as well.
With this project, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, which works to end violence against women and children around the world, sought to highlight and supplement existing research.
RWJF's Vulnerable Populations team is working in immigrant and refugee communities with its program, Caring Across Communities: Addressing Mental Health Needs of Diverse Children and Youth. The program seeks to establish school-connected mental health services for students, with emphasis on overcoming cultural and language barriers of children in immigrant and refugee families.
RWJF also funds Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships, a national effort to develop and implement effective strategies to prevent relationship violence among youth.
A Grant Results report provides information on a Prevention Institute project that produced two reports highlighting promising programs and approaches to preventing youth and intimate partner violence—with an emphasis on initiatives directed at vulnerable groups, including women and girls and low-income communities.
The Family Violence Prevention Fund worked to identify and highlight program models for addressing intimate partner violence in immigrant and refugee communities and to provide funding recommendations to RWJF. Project staff subcontracted with Sujata Warrier, Ph.D., director of the State of New York Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, and Mieko Yoshihama, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.
The project team:
- Conducted a literature review on the intimate partner violence experienced by immigrant and refugee women who now reside in the United States.
- Conducted key informant interviews in which staff from nine immigrant and refugee organizations across the country were asked about their intervention and violence prevention strategies. Among the participating organizations:
- Asian Women's Shelter, San Francisco.
- Casa De Esperanza, St. Paul, Minn.
- License to Freedom, El Cajon, Calif.
- The Arab-American Family Support Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
- The MUNA Legal Clinic Program of the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Des Moines, Iowa.
- Refugee Family Violence Prevention Project/Refugee Family Services, Stone Mountain, Ga.
- Manavi, New Brunswick, N.J.
- Held a one-day meeting at RWJF in March 2008 with interview participants, RWJF program staff and project staff. The purpose of the meeting was to identify promising practices, model programs and funding recommendations.
A project report synthesizing the findings from the literature review, key informant interviews and the meeting discussions.
The project team produced two reports for RWJF (see Bibliography for details):
- Literature on Intimate Partner Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities: Review and Recommendations. This report summarizes more than 500 relevant publications, creating a resource for providers, researchers and institutions.
- Intimate Partner Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities: Challenges, Promising Practices and Recommendations. This report includes case studies and specific recommendations for funders, service providers and advocates.
Based on the literature review, project staff reported that:
- Intimate partner violence is probably less prevalent among immigrant and refugee populations than among other groups, but several factors make it more difficult for victims in these populations to seek or obtain help, including:
- Lack of socioculturally competent programs.
- Immigration status, which abusive partners can use as a threat.
- Language barriers and a lack of familiarity with the United States social system.
- Unwillingness to report violence to authorities for fear of discrimination, insensitivity or hostile treatment.
- Pressure to maintain a positive image of their communities.
- Homicides linked to intimate partner violence are higher among immigrant and refugee communities, perhaps due to an inadequate response by existing systems and institutions.
- Cultural values and practices are a significant influence on various aspects of intimate partner violence in immigrant and refugee communities. For example, some women come from cultural backgrounds where men have near-absolute authority, and cannot imagine someone intervening on their behalf. Similarly, some types of arranged marriages involve uneven social and economic resources that make foreign-born women especially vulnerable to their partners' control.
In identifying the challenges to addressing intimate partner violence in immigrant and refugee communities, the informant interviews confirmed many of the findings in the literature review. Among the challenges identified:
- Language barriers in service providers.
- Lack of familiarity among immigrants and refugees about their legal rights and the system designed to protect them.
- Fear of the authorities and deportation.
- Social and economic isolation.
- Lack of community awareness about intimate partner violence.
- Lack of cultural competency within the police department, the court system, health care providers and even the domestic violence system.
- A political landscape characterized by anti-immigrant sentiment, which tends to make the community more guarded in dealing with the outside world.
Intimate Partner Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities: Challenges, Promising Practices and Recommendations includes these recommendations:
- Comprehensive, confidential and holistic services are necessary to meet the acute, ongoing needs of immigrant and refugee victims of intimate partner violence. Among the services that should be available:
- Immediate and ongoing safety planning.
- Temporary shelter.
- Education on justice system options to help end and prevent violence.
- Legal assistance.
- Supportive advocacy to build additional life skills and negotiate systems.
- Support in meeting needs for housing, food, economic resources, language skills and mental health counseling.
- Services should be provided by highly trained, community-based advocates. Effective advocates understand intimate partner violence, reflect the cultural experiences of its victims and seek to empower their clients to make informed decisions. Advocates should also have knowledge of the legal framework that governs issues affecting immigrants and refugees.
- Language interpretation and translation services should be expanded dramatically so that immigrant and refugee victims of intimate partner violence have access to needed services.
- Funders should support programs that build trust between victims and service providers. This may include funding programs that do not make domestic violence the centerpiece of their agenda. Cultural competence among service agencies and their staffs is also a component to building trust.
- Funders should support leadership development programs to engage victims who wish to apply new skills to helping others. These programs can increase the assistance available to other victims of intimate partner violence and foster the development of new community leaders.
- Additional funding is needed to enhance the capacity of existing programs and to create new community-based programs.
- Existing service providers, including agencies that already provide services to immigrants and refugees, should be trained about intimate partner violence and encouraged to develop prevention activities.
- Agencies that work with refugees require additional training to develop innovative approaches that address gender roles, and the attitudes and behavior of individual service providers.
- New programs should be experienced in the communities they serve and be able to collaborate with existing programs to design safe, culturally appropriate services.
- Increase the emphasis on prevention, community engagement and changing social norms. Activities designed to prevent intimate partner violence in immigrant and refugee communities should include:
- Increasing community awareness and attracting new community leaders.
- Policy analysis and input to increase the understanding of policy-makers and incorporate the voices of the victims of violence before policy changes are implemented.
- Raising awareness among men who control refugee social structures and engaging them in safe, culturally appropriate leadership activities.
- Enhance program evaluation techniques and research.
- Community-based programs need support to develop evaluation systems that measure the quality and impact of services, protect client confidentiality and promote trust.
- Research projects are needed to provide more information about the incidence of intimate partner violence in specific communities and to identify effective responses that enhance victim safety and empowerment.
AFTER THE GRANT
The Family Violence Prevention Fund continues its work on intimate partner violence among immigrant and refugee populations through its Immigrant Women's Rights Project and the service of its director as co-chair of the National Network to End Violence Against Immigrant Women. Staff plans to present findings from this project at the network's biannual conference to be held in late 2009 or early 2010.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Identifying and highlighting innovative program models for addressing intimate partner violence in immigrant and refugee communities
Family Violence Prevention Fund (San Francisco, CA)
Dates: November 2007 to September 2008
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
Novick S, Runner MW and Yoshihama M. Intimate Partner Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities: Challenges, Promising Practices and Recommendations. San Francisco: Family Violence Prevention Fund, 2009. Available online.
Yoshihama M. Literature on Intimate Partner Violence in Immigrant and Refugee Communities: Review and Recommendations. San Francisco: Family Violence Prevention Fund, 2008.
Report prepared by: Barbara Matacera Barr
Reviewed by: Karyn Feiden
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Wendy L. Yallowitz