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Excerpt from "Practice Perspectives" (February 2011)
Below is an excerpt from a recent "Practice Perspectives" article. NASW Members can view the full .pdf article by clicking here, or by visiting the National NASW website here. Not a member? Join NASW

Domestic Violence and Women of Color: Complex Dynamics

Rita A. Webb, MSW
NASW-DC Senior Practice Associate


Violence and abuse have profound costs for all communities. Yet, for communities of color, the preponderance of violence can be linked to a host of outcomes that have both immediate and long term implications. Though domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV), is not limited to any one socioeconomic, ethnic, racial, or religious group, the burden of exposure for racial minorities to domestic violence is reported to be significantly high. The findings indicate that minority women experience higher rates of domestic violence then their white counterparts. In order to address the prevention of domestic violence in communities of color, federal, state and county agencies continue to work cooperatively in support of research, community capacity building projects, reports and initiatives that increase understanding, and to identify possible ways to approach the needs of individuals in a culturally responsive way. For social workers and others who provide services to women of color who are survivors of domestic violence, consideration needs to be given to how the women characterize help and the social and cultural context in which they have experienced violence.

Despite the increase in education, legal intervention, medical and community awareness, and the dissemination of more accurate information on the extent of domestic violence, it is difficult to determine overall incidence due to under-reporting. For women of color, under-reporting is a greater concern because they are statistically overrepresented as victims and survivors of domestic violence. Even between racial and ethnic groups of African Americans, Hispanics, American Indians/Alaskan Americans, Asians and Pacific Islander women, there is considerable variation in the rates of domestic violence. Surveys indicate that key components of these findings are the respondents’ willingness to disclose domestic violence and the role of social, demographic, and environmental factors (USDOJ, OJP, 2000).

Risk Factors for Women of Color

Recent studies indicate that variables often found in communities of color, such as socio-economic status, cultural background, and age, may influence the impact of domestic violence. Minority women experience domestic violence at disproportionately high rates. This is evident from data gathered by the Women of Color Network, a national advocacy initiative responding to violence against women and families of color. According to the (Women of Color Network, 2006).

  • African American women experience domestic violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white women, yet they are less likely to use social services and battered women’s programs or seek medical attention for injuries resulting from domestic violence. They also experience higher rates of domestic violence than their white counterparts.

  • American Indian and Alaska American women experience higher rates of domestic violence than women from other minority groups.

  • In a survey conducted by the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, 41% to 60% of Asian & Pacific Islander respondents reported experiencing physical and sexual violence during their lifetime.

  • Hispanic/Latina women were more likely the non-Hispanic women to report they had been raped by a current or former intimate partner at some point their lives. It should be noted, that there were differences among sub-groups of Hispanic/Latina’s within this study.(National Violence Against Women Survey)

There has been increased focus on the link between domestic violence and the HIV & AIDs global pandemic. Though African Americans and Latina women comprise only 25% of the U.S. population, they account for 81% who are HIV positive. According to the Centers of Disease Control, CDC, AIDS diagnoses among Asian and Pacific Islanders has increased steadily (Women of Color United, 2008)...

End of Excerpt - READ THE FULL ARTICLE  (.PDF) 

Full article includes...

  • Cultural Contexts Associated with Domestic Violence
  • The Role of Social Work in Addressing Domestic Violence for Women of Color
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