Lighting the way to a better future a domestic violence prevention program for churches

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Lighting the way to a better future

A domestic violence prevention program for churches
A Guide for Community Domestic Violence Team Members

Natalie Ames

Assistant Professor/Project Coordinator

Department of Social Work

North Carolina State University
Tina U. Hancock


Department of Social Work

North Carolina State University
Andrew O. Behnke

Assistant Professor

Department of Family & Consumer Sciences

North Carolina State University
Malissa Streett

Project Assistant
Dawn Iglesias

Project Assistant
Sara L. Vera

Student Assistant
Spanish translation

Laura B. Price


Funding for this project provided by

Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation


North Carolina State University Faculty Research and Professional Development Fund
November 2008



The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation was established in 1936 as a memorial to the youngest son of the founder of R.J.. Reynolds Tobacco Company. In that year the brother and two sisters of Z. Smith Reynolds, R.J. Reynolds, Jr., Mary Reynolds Babcock, and Nancy Susan Reynolds Bagley, provided that their inheritance from his estate would go to the establishment of a trust for the benefit of the people of North Carolina. One of the initial trustees of the Foundation was Z. Smith Reynolds' uncle, William Neal Reynolds, who at his death in 1951 created a trust that now provides a portion of the Foundation's annual income.
In its history, the Foundation, as the beneficiary of the income from the Zachary Smith Reynolds Trust and the W.N. Reynolds Trust, has now made grants totaling more than $423 million to recipients in all of North Carolina's l00 counties. The Foundation currently gives special attention to certain focus areas: community economic development; the environment; democracy and civic engagement; pre-collegiate education; and social justice and equity.
ln 1986 the Foundation, as a part of its fiftieth anniversary observance, established the Nancy Susan Reynolds Awards to recognize people who have made a difference in leadership in their communities and have gone largely unrecognized. Also, in May of 1989 the Foundation's Board of Trustees established a sabbatical program to reward individual leaders in nonprofit organizations who have made exceptional commitments of time, talent, and energy to their positions.

May 2008

May 2008

Table of Contents
Introduction 1

Part 1: Project overview 1

Profile of Hispanics/Latinos in NC 1

Project Rationale 1

Human service providers and the Hispanic/Latino population 2

Immigration law 3

Churches as a resource for domestic violence 3

The role of county domestic violence teams 4

County domestic violence team role expectations 4

Project staff role/expectations 4

Part 2: Domestic violence and Hispanic families 5

An overview of domestic violence 5

Definitions of domestic violence 6

Effects of domestic violence on women and children 7

Domestic violence and alcohol and other drugs 8

Intervention with substance-abusing batterers 8

Hispanic cultural values and domestic violence 9

Extended family 10

Part 3: Working with Hispanic/Latino Pastors: Cultural considerations 12

Part 4: Issues you may confront with pastors 15

Conservative religious and cultural beliefs about gender roles 15

The importance of maintaining the family unit 15

Pastors’ personal experience with abuse 16

Part 5: Planning your training 17

Suggestions for finding pastors 17

Determining participants’ preferences 17

Requesting manuals for your training sessions 17

Developing your team 18

Assessing individual team members’ strengths 18

Assessing team strengths 20

Preliminary planning 22

Developing a training workshop plan 23

Part 6: Educational resources for church-sponsored programs 24

Managing anger 25

El Manejo de la Ira (Managing Anger) 28

General parenting guidelines 32

Instrucciones Generales Para Los Padres (General parenting guidelines) 34

Parental Communication 36

La Comunicación Entre Los Padres (Parental Communication) 39

Parent/Child Communication 42

La Communicación Entre Padres e Hijos (Parent/Child Communication) 49

Stress Management for Parents 56

Manejando el Estrés (Stress Management for Parents) 60

References 65

Lighting the way to a better future

A domestic violence prevention program for churches

This guide is designed to prepare community partners to implement a program created for Hispanic/Latino pastors. The program’s goal is to give these church leaders the background and preparation they need in order to offer variety of domestic violence prevention and intervention activities in their churches and communities.
The term lay minister, as used in this guide, refers to pastors who do not have formal seminary training. They may be the only pastor of a small church or, in larger churches, they may assist the formally trained pastor with planning and leading church-sponsored activities.

Part 1

Project overview
A profile of Hispanics/Latinos in North Carolina

North Carolina has one of the fastest growing Hispanic/Latino populations in the United States. In 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that approximately 6.7% of North Carolina residents were of Hispanic/Latino origin. Between 1990 and 2007, thirty-four North Carolina counties had increases in their Hispanic/Latino populations that exceeded 1000 percent. Nearly two-thirds of these individuals are foreign-born. The majority of Hispanic/Latino immigrants in the Southeast have been in the U.S. five to seven years or less, and are young with little formal education. Many are low-skilled, undocumented, and employed in low wage work that often involves exhausting, dirty, and/or dangerous physical labor.

This population is very diverse, originating from many different countries, but they share important commonalities. These include connection with the Spanish language, strong family relationships, and a strong family orientation. The current wave of Hispanic/Latino immigration has brought many benefits to North Carolina including significant economic contributions. It has also brought challenges to public and social service providers. Over 27% of North Carolina’s Hispanics/Latinos live in poverty compared to 25% of African Americans and 8.5% of non-Hispanic whites. The high Hispanic/Latino poverty rate is significant because research indicates that people whose income falls below the poverty line have poorer physical and mental health, poorer nutrition, and are at higher risk for substance abuse and domestic violence than the population as a whole.
Project rationale

There is a lack of culturally competent and accessible domestic violence services in North Carolina, especially in the rural areas where many Hispanic/Latino immigrants live. Even where such services exist, Hispanic/Latina immigrant women are reluctant to seek assistance. One significant reason for this is that intensified immigration enforcement has increased fears about deportation. As a result, churches may be one of the few places where immigrant families feel safe seeking help with domestic violence.

This project targets church leaders who are part of the Hispanic/Latino community because they understand the community's cultural values and are more likely than "outsiders" to be trusted. They represent an untapped resource for preventing and stopping domestic violence, protecting women, and helping men become more effective family leaders. However, while these church leaders may be in a position to assist families experiencing domestic violence, research indicates they may not have the knowledge, attitudes or skills to do so constructively and to protect the most vulnerable members of these families.
The goal of Lighting the Way to a Better Future (Iluminado el Camino para un Futuro Mejor) is to provide Hispanic/Latino pastors with tools that will help them to protect women from domestic violence and help men become constructive family leaders. The project is based on existing research and practice evidence. It uses best practice strategies for working with Hispanic/Latino communities. These include cultural empowerment strategies for motivating communities such as involving local bilingual/bicultural professionals and paraprofessionals and providing support to groups and individuals. This project uses an intervention model based on Hispanic/Latino values of family, respect, loyalty, and cooperation and is designed to provide community-based interventions that build upon the strengths of the Hispanic/Latino family. We believe it has the potential to reach an at-risk population that does not currently seek or have access to domestic violence services.

Human services providers and the Hispanic/Latino population

Many local social services agencies are struggling to meet the need for bilingual services such as parenting classes, substance abuse treatment, and domestic violence intervention. These problems are especially acute in rural areas where there may be few existing human services agencies and resources. Hispanic/Latino families who experience domestic violence are unlikely to seek help voluntarily from existing community agencies because of language barriers and lack of trust in those agencies.

An additional challenge facing human services agencies is that federal laws restrict some programs and services to undocumented people. They are not eligible for programs such as Medicaid, Work First, North Carolina Health Choice (the State Children’s Health Insurance Program), unemployment insurance, and the Women Infants and Children program. If human services professionals have no contact with undocumented families, it increases the likelihood that domestic violence will go undetected. When Hispanic/Latino families do become clients of county Departments of Human Services, it is usually involuntarily through Child Protective Services or referrals made by local court systems. The majority of agencies do not have enough bilingual staff members available to work with Spanish-speaking clients who are mandated to receive services, and in many counties such services are non-existent.
Immigration law and the Hispanic/Latino community

A 2003 study by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine found that nearly two-thirds of all Hispanics/Latinos in the state were foreign-born. Of those, 58.3% were not citizens. Among families with undocumented members, there is a great deal of fear, distrust, and uncertainty toward law enforcement, social services, and government officials. This fear is based on both founded and unfounded conclusions about law enforcement officials’ obligations and authority to act when individuals are undocumented.

The implementation of the 287(g) program of the Immigration and Nationality Act in North Carolina has heightened fears in the immigrant community. Illegal status is a federal crime, and as such, does not fall within the jurisdiction of state and local law enforcement. However, the 287(g) program authorizes local officers, whose law enforcement agencies participate, to check the immigration status of community members and turn them over to Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE) to be deported. Prior to 287(g), state and local law enforcement agencies could not stop a person based solely on doubt or suspicion regarding that individual’s legal status. Now they can, and the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association has received funds to implement the 287(g) program. As of fall, 2008, the following eight North Carolina counties were participating in the 287(g) Program: Alamance, Cabarrus, Cumberland, Durham, Gaston, Henderson, Mecklenburg, and Wake.
While the purpose of the 287(g) Program is to enforce greater homeland security measures, it has the potential to be very destructive to the security of the Hispanic/Latino community. Many rumors surround the activities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the implementation of the 287(g) Program. One result of the widely publicized activities of ICE officials, and the manner in which they carry out their duties, has been to increase fear of the very community service personnel who are supposed to represent safety and security: law enforcement, social services providers, emergency responders, and hospital personnel. The danger is that people who fear the authorities will not seek the assistance in emergency and crisis situations, or when they are witnesses to or victims of a crime, including the crime of domestic violence.
Churches as a resource for domestic violence prevention and intervention

Hispanics/Latinos are traditionally Catholic. However, evangelical, theologically conservative Protestant churches are attracting increasing numbers of Hispanic/Latino immigrants in the rural Southeast. In 2002 (the most recent year for which this statistic is available), the North Carolina Council of Churches, estimated there were approximately 200 Spanish-speaking churches throughout the state. These congregations provide more than spiritual support for members. They are gathering places where people can share their mutual values of family unity, hard work, and religious faith along with their experiences, struggles, and dreams of a better future.

Most rural Hispanic/Latino churches do not have full time staff. Their pastors often have no formal seminary training. However, these church leaders or lay ministers are respected and trusted members of their communities. Engaging them in domestic violence prevention and intervention activities has the potential to avert problems that may result if domestic violence escalates to a level that brings families to the attention of the law enforcement and judicial systems. Hispanic/Latino pastors who are educated about domestic violence prevention and intervention, and who have the support of community partners, could be a tremendous resource for families in their congregations and communities who are experiencing domestic violence and who may have no other viable source of help.
The role of county domestic violence teams

This project will serve as a critical resource to educate and mentor pastors who are willing to address the problems of domestic violence in their congregations and communities. Its success depends on the involvement of professionals and paraprofessionals who are willing to recruit, train and mentor Hispanic/Latino pastors. The project provides local teams of human services professionals with a tool to increase access to domestic violence services for Hispanic/Latino families who might not otherwise receive those services. Local teams will help Hispanic/Latino church leaders develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to address domestic violence prevention and intervention in their congregations and communities.

County domestic violence team role/expectations

  • Locate churches with Spanish-speaking congregations.

  • Contact local Hispanic/Latino pastors to assess their interest.

  • Plan and implement at least one pastor training session.

  • Provide pastors with team members’ contact information and areas of expertise for post-training support and consultation.

  • Serve as a resource to pastors (e.g., to answer their questions, direct them to community resources)

  • Provide project staff at NC State with dates of your training(s) and pastors’ contact information (send to

Project staff role/expectations

  • Train local domestic violence teams to work with pastors.

  • Provide pastor training manuals for scheduled trainings.

  • Answer local team members’ questions about planning and implementing pastor training sessions.

  • Conduct follow-up evaluation of pastors’ use of materials.

Part 2

Domestic violence and Hispanic families

The purpose of this section is to provide reference material on domestic violence, an overview of its impact on families, and information about cultural values that may influence Hispanic/Latino pastors and their congregations and communities.

An overview of domestic violence

Domestic violence, both verbal and physical, affects one in four women and one in thirteen men. Victims often experience isolation, fear, shame, and lack of awareness. These issues are intensified for Hispanic/Latino women. Inability to speak English can increase their isolation. Fear of deportation or loss of their children, as well as the cultural values of family and privacy, can impede their willingness to reach out for help. Because of cultural and language barriers, they may have little awareness of services and agencies that could help them.

Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in the United States as the statistics below indicate:

  • Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually.

  • Intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crimes against women in 2001.

  • In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. In recent years, intimate partners killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.

  • North Carolina domestic violence homicide statistics are among the highest in the nation. In 2000, a total of 81 North Carolinians died from domestic abuse. Nearly 15 percent of these cases were among Hispanic/Latino couples.

  • Recent research suggests that abuse rates among Hispanic/Latino families in rural areas in the south may be significantly higher than the national average and that domestic violence is a serious health problem for this population.

  • One study of pregnant women found that Hispanics/Latinas were the most likely of any ethnic group to report physical abuse (12.6 percent Latina vs. 5.2 percent Caucasian) in the past 12 months. Other studies report a prevalence of domestic violence as high as 50% -70% among Hispanic/Latina immigrants.

  • Access to firearms greatly increases the risk of intimate partner violence. Research suggests that abusers who possess guns tend to inflict the most severe abuse on their partners.

  • Nearly half of all violent crimes committed against family members are crimes against spouses.

  • Research indicates that 84% of spouse abuse victims are females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse at are female.

  • Wives are more likely than husbands to be killed by their spouses; wives were about half of all spouses in the population in 2002, but made up 81% of all persons killed by their spouses.

  • 48% of Latinas in one study reported that their partner's violence against them had increased since they immigrated to the United States.

  • Slightly more than half of female domestic violence victims live in households with children under age 12. It is estimated that between 3.3 million and 10 million children witness domestic violence annually.

  • Fifty-six percent of women who experience any partner violence are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. Twenty-nine percent of all women who attempt suicide are battered; 37% of battered women have symptoms of depression, 46% have symptoms of anxiety disorder, and 45% experience post-traumatic stress disorder.

Definitions of domestic violence

Domestic violence includes physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation, and threats of violence. The relationships that most state domestic violence laws define as necessary for a charge of domestic assault or abuse include spouse or former spouse, persons who currently live together or who have lived together within the previous year, or persons who share a common child.

Definitions of criminal violence include physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.
Violence by a man against his wife or intimate partner is often a way for a man to control "his woman.” Although domestic violence can occur between gay and lesbian couples, and by women against their male partners, by far the most common form is male violence against women. Types of violence include:

  • Common couple violence (CCV) which is not connected to general control behavior, but arises in a single argument where one or both partners physically lash out at the other.

  • Intimate terrorism (IT) which can also involve emotional and psychological abuse. It is one element in a general pattern of control by one partner over the other. It is more common than common couple violence, more likely to escalate over time, not as likely to be mutual, and more likely to involve serious injury.

  • Violent resistance (VR), which is sometimes interpreted as "self-defense," is usually violence perpetrated by women against their abusive partners.

  • Mutual violent control (MVC) which is a rare type of intimate partner violence that occurs when both partners use violence to battle for control.

  • Situational couple violence which arises out of conflicts that escalate to arguments and then to violence. It is not connected to a general pattern of control. Although it occurs less frequently in relationships, and is less serious than intimate terrorism, it can be frequent and quite serious, even life-threatening.

Although domestic violence is sometimes explained as the result of the abuser losing control, many batterers do exhibit control over the nature and extent of their physical violence. They may direct their assaults to parts of their partners' bodies that are covered by clothing so that any injuries will not be seen by others. Conversely, some batterers purposefully target their partners' faces to compel isolation or to disfigure them so that "no one else will want them." Batterers can often describe their personal limits for physical abuse. They may explain that while they have slapped their partners with an open hand, they would never punch them with their fists. Others admit to hitting and punching but report that they would never use a weapon.

Domestic violence often gets worse over time. One explanation for this is that increasing the intensity of the abuse is an effective way for batterers to maintain control over their partners and prevent them from leaving. The violence may also escalate because most batterers experience few, if any, negative consequences for their abusive behavior. Social tolerance of domestic violence thus not only contributes to its existence, but may also influence its progression and batterers' definitions of the acceptable limits of their abuse.

Effects of domestic violence on women and children

Battered women suffer physical and mental effects from domestic violence. Battering causes more injuries to women than auto accidents, rapes, or muggings. It also threatens their financial wellbeing. They may miss work to appear in court or because of illnesses or injuries that result from the violence. They may have to move many times to avoid violence. Many battered women forgo financial security during divorce proceedings to avoid further abuse.

Battered women often lose social support. Their abusers isolate them from family and friends. Women who are being abused may isolate themselves from support persons to avoid the embarrassment that would result from discovery. Some battered women are abandoned by their churches when they separate from their abusers because some religious doctrines prohibit separation or divorce regardless of the severity of abuse.
When mothers are abused by their partners, the children are also affected. Children who witness domestic violence may feel confusion, stress, fear, and shame. They may think that they caused the problem or feel guilty for not protecting their mothers. They may themselves be abused or neglected while the mother attempts to deal with the trauma. Children in homes where domestic violence occurs are at risk for being physically abused or seriously neglected.
One-third of all children who see their mothers beaten develop emotional problems. They may cry excessively, be withdrawn or shy, have difficulty making friends or develop a fear of adults. Other consequences for children include excessive absences from school, depression, suicidal behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, running away, committing criminal acts as juveniles and adults, and using violence to solve problems at school and home. The stress resulting from living with domestic violence can show up as difficulty in sleeping, bedwetting, over-achieving, behavior problems, withdrawing, stomach aches, headaches and/or diarrhea.

Domestic violence can carry over from one generation to the next. Boys who witness their fathers abuse their mothers are more likely to inflict severe violence as adults. Girls who witness their mothers being abused are more likely to tolerate abuse as adults than who girls did not grow up under these circumstances.

Domestic violence and alcohol and other drugs

There is little evidence for the widely-held belief that abusing alcohol causes domestic violence. Although research indicates that men who drink heavily do commit more assaults that result in serious physical injury, the majority of abusive men are not heavy drinkers and the majority of men who are heavy drinkers do not abuse their partners. Even for batterers who drink, there is little evidence to suggest that drinking causes abusive behavior. In 76% of physically abusive incidents, there is no alcohol involved, and there is no evidence to suggest that alcohol use or dependence is linked to the other non-violent behaviors that are part of the pattern of domestic violence. It is true, however, that when cultural norms and expectations about male behavior after drinking include boisterous or aggressive behaviors, individual men are more likely to engage in such behaviors when under the influence of alcohol than when sober.

There is a pervasive belief that alcohol lowers inhibitions and a historical tradition of holding people who commit crimes while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs less accountable than those who commit crimes in a sober state. Historically, society has not held batterers accountable for their abusive behavior. They are held even less accountable for battering perpetrated when they are under the influence of alcohol. The alcohol provides a ready and socially acceptable excuse for their violence.

Evolving from the belief that abusing alcohol or other drugs causes domestic violence is the belief that treating the chemical dependency will stop the violence. However, research indicates that when batterers are in treatment, the abuse continues and often escalates during recovery, creating more danger to the victim than existed prior to treatment. In the cases in which battered women report that the level of physical abuse decreases, they often report a corresponding increase in threats, manipulation and isolation.

As noted earlier, domestic violence is often explained as a loss of control by the batterer. However, even when alcohol or other drugs are involved, the experiences of battered women contradict this view. Battered women report that even when their partners appear uncontrollably drunk during a physical assault, they routinely exhibit the ability to sober up remarkably quickly if there is an outside interruption, such as police intervention.

Interventions with substance-abusing batterers

If batterers use alcohol or other drugs, these problems should be addressed separately and concurrently. This is critical not only to maximize the victim’s safety, but also to prevent the battering from precipitating relapse or otherwise interfering with the recovery process. True recovery requires much more than abstinence. It includes adopting a lifestyle that enhances emotional and spiritual health, a goal that cannot be achieved if the battering continues.

Self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous promote and support emotional and spiritual health and have helped many alcoholics get sober. These programs, however, were not designed to address battering and are not sufficient, by themselves, to motivate batterers to stop their abuse. It is critical that any treatment plan for chemically dependent men who batter include attendance at programs designed specifically to address the attitudes and beliefs that encourage their abusive behavior.

When abusive men enter substance abuse treatment programs, their partners are often directed into self-help programs such as Al-Anon or co-dependency groups. However, these resources were not designed to meet the needs of victims of domestic violence and often inadvertently cause harm to battered women. The goals of these groups typically include helping alcoholics’ family members to focus on their own needs, practice emotional detachment from the substance abusers, and identify and stop protecting their partners from the harmful consequences of addiction. Group members are encouraged to define their personal boundaries, set limits on their partners' behaviors, and stop protecting their partners from the harmful consequences of addiction. While these strategies and goals may be very useful for women whose partners are not abusive, for battered women such changes will likely result in an escalation of abuse, including physical violence.

Battered women are often very sensitive to their partners' moods as a way to assess their level of danger. They focus on their partners' needs and cover up for them as part of their survival strategy. These behaviors are not dysfunctional but are life-saving skills that protect them and their children from further harm. When battered women are encouraged to stop these behaviors through self-focusing and detachment, they are being asked to stop doing the things that may be keeping them and their children most safe.

Hispanic cultural values and domestic violence

There are several potential sources of problems for families who immigrate to the United States. When families come to the U.S., they leave behind the support of extended family. In a culture that values family above all, this loss can be very stressful. Once in the United States, families must adjust to a new culture with different values and expectations and different definitions of appropriate gender roles. Additionally, trying to meet their families’ survival needs may result in a shift in gender roles if both mother and father must work to support the family. Adapting to life in the U.S. can also change the roles and relationships between parents and children.

Traditional, idealized Hispanic cultural expectations of appropriate male and female behavior are often referred to as machismo and marianismo. Machismo is defined as being dominant, virile, and independent whereas marianismo emphasizes being submissive, chaste, and dependent. For men, the cultural emphasis on machismo can translate into a positive outcome where the man serves as provider and sacrifices for the family or a negative one that emphasizes dominance and control. The positive side of this gender expectation is that it encourages men to work hard to provide for and protect their families.
Some research shows that the negative interpretations of machismo are less common than the stereotype would indicate. This research argues that Hispanic fathers are much more nurturing and egalitarian than one might expect, perhaps due to the traditional emphasis on familial obligations. Unfortunately, the other side of these traditional behaviors is that Hispanic men are often seen as cold and domineering because of the cultural emphasis on their economic role in the family rather than on caretaking.

Some research has shown that when Hispanic/Latino men face difficulties finding employment and cannot live up to their expected role in the family, they have increased self-doubt which they express by withdrawing from the family unit. Some research indicates that when Latino men cannot define themselves in a positive, productive way in society, they will define themselves in more negative, possibly stereotypical ways (for example, drinking, aggression, etc.). Additionally, they may feel justified in engaging in destructive behaviors such as infidelity or substance abuse as long as they are fulfilling their cultural obligations to provide for their family economically.

The primary role that Hispanic tradition emphasizes for women is that of mother rather than wife. The concept of familismo emphasizes family relationships and childbearing as central to family life and the feminine gender role. This leads women to define themselves through their family and children instead of independently or as part of a couple. The role of martyr is also idealized, with women expected to be submissive and sacrifice themselves for their families. Women may see themselves mothers first and place a lower priority on their relationships with their husbands.

The traditional emphasis on the wife’s quiet submission and the husband’s dominance and
independence may make it difficult for Hispanic women to communicate directly and assertively with their husbands. Although Hispanic couples immigrating to the United States may acculturate away from traditional behaviors, it is important to recognize that these cultural expectations can be important. Furthermore, the definition of a “good” relationship can vary dramatically across culture, country of origin, and level of acculturation. For example, some couples who are less acculturated may not view egalitarianism as an important part of a healthy relationship. It is also necessary to remember that different members of a couple may acculturate at different rates, particularly with regard to these traditional gender roles. For example, men often tend to acculturate more quickly than their wives if they arrive in the United States before the rest of the family and have more exposure to mainstream culture through the workplace. However, shifting gender roles may have more impact on Hispanic women than on men because of the significant differences between traditional cultural expectations for their behavior and mainstream cultural values.

Extended Family
The cultural value of familismo includes a strong emphasis on family obligation, the value of children and community, and the importance of past and future generations. The involvement of extended family gives couples an extensive social support network that can assist them in times of emotional or economic difficulty. The stresses recent immigrants experience may be heightened by separation from their extended families and the loss of that valuable support network. However, this support network need not come exclusively from blood relatives. If the process of migration and immigration leaves couples isolated from extended family, they may establish support networks with others in the community. Compadres and godparents may be viewed as part of the family, and their influence on the couple’s relationship can be just as important as that of blood relatives.
A stereotype does exist that conservative gender roles can lead to increased domestic violence in the Hispanic community. In fact, traditional Hispanic gender roles can be both oppressive and protective when it comes to domestic violence. The view of men as the dominant decision-makers can also encourage controlling behaviors. However, although these more dangerous facets of traditional gender roles can encourage domestic violence, Hispanic men who embrace the positive side of machismo might be less likely to be violent. These values instruct men to protect their families, including their wives, which is incompatible with domestic violence.
The woman’s role as sacrificing and subservient can lead to greater tolerance of domestic violence, as can the strong commitment to the family and the institution of marriage. Lastly, because of their role in the home, Hispanic women are often economically dependent on men, making it more difficult to leave the relationship. When Hispanic/Latina women are subjected to domestic violence, they face some specific challenges that include:

  • Isolation. It is a common tactic for abusers to isolate their victims, but in the Hispanic community, the victim’s isolation may be intensified by a language barrier. In addition, recent immigrants may be far from a family network that could help support them.

  • Fear. Another common tactic of abusers is the use of threats to keep the victim from getting help. Among families of immigrants, abusers may use the threat of deportation. For the victim, this could mean separation from the victim’s children.

  • Shame. Hispanic culture places great value in maintaining family integrity. While this is a positive cultural value, it can mean that the victim of domestic violence will remain in the family at great cost. In some cases, it could be at the cost of the victim’s very life.

  • Lack of awareness. Hispanic victims, even more than other groups, tend to be unaware that resources exist to help them escape and rebuild their lives. They may be unaware, for example, of information and assistance is available in Spanish as well as English.

Part 3

Working with Hispanic/Latino pastors: Cultural considerations

As noted in the previous section, there are significant differences between mainstream American and Hispanic/Latino cultural values. What is important for the purpose of this project is to understand and build on the cultural strengths and values that support the goal of reducing domestic violence in the Hispanic/Latino community. These include the importance of family, the primary role of the husband/father as head of household and family leader, and the value attributed to the wife/mother as the family caretaker. In this section, we offer some information that may help you overcome cultural barriers, build on cultural strengths, and establish productive relationships with the pastors in your community.

It is important to understand that there are both commonalities and differences among Hispanic/Latino individuals and communities. Although the majority of Hispanics/Latinos in North Carolina are from Mexico, this population includes individuals from other countries in Central and South America as well as Cuba and Puerto Rico. Some of the differences within this population include:

  • Language (e.g., dialect, fluency in native language, fluency in English)

  • Acculturation (e.g., degree to which individuals have assimilated to the new culture or maintained traditional values and behaviors)

  • Generational status (e.g., the first generation is more likely to hold to traditional ways than subsequent generations)

  • Socio-economic status (e.g., education, financial resources, occupation, place of residence)

  • Life history (e.g., experiences in the native country and the U.S.; migration experience)

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