In This Article Domestic Violence Among Immigrants

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks
  • Data Sources
  • Resources and Tools
  • Journals
  • Prevalence and National Studies
  • Abused Immigrant Women and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
  • Best Practice and Cultural Competency
  • Immigrant Women from Other Parts of the World
  • Funding Agencies and Programs

Social Work Domestic Violence Among Immigrants
Neely Mahapatra, Noel Busch-Armendariz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 06 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0173


Domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV) is often referred to as wife abuse, spouse abuse, and wife battering. A broad definition may include any form of power and control—be it physical, sexual, verbal, mental, or economic—against a woman by her partner/spouse. It is a common occurrence across countries, traditions, cultures, and other groups, yet little is understood about the unique manifestations in different populations, including immigrant populations in the United States. Although national surveys, including the National Violence Against Women Survey and the National Crime Victimization Survey (using nationally representative samples), provide statistics on the extent of domestic violence in the United States, neither is country-specific as far as different immigrant populations go; furthermore, these surveys lump distinctive groups into broad racial categories. Additionally, the national surveys report a lower rate of intimate partner violence among the immigrant population, while studies conducted with specific immigrant groups indicate a higher rate of domestic violence against women. Also, community-based intervention programs, family support enhancement and culturally specific outreach programs and literature on this subject matter are limited. Furthermore, the existing literature is not all encompassing, for example, there are few or no research studies on some of the immigrant communities in the United States, including sexual minority communities. Therefore, there is a need to understand the sociocultural milieu in which domestic violence takes place in the immigrant population so that better prevention and intervention strategies can be designed. The following sections have been carefully chosen to introduce the topic of domestic violence predominantly among immigrant women, provide information about prevalence rates, their social networks and help-seeking behaviors, community resources, and immigration policy matters that will be helpful for practitioners and policy makers to address the plight of victims with unique set of challenges.

General Overviews

According to Menjívar and Salcido 2002, domestic violence, or violence against women, or intimate partner violence, has been broadly studied among immigrant women groups in the United States and more so with women in heterosexual relationships. Erez 2002 also explains that it is one of the most common forms of abuse experienced by immigrant women. Researchers have primarily focused on prevalence rates of intimate partner violence among immigrant women, prevalence of help-seeking, effectiveness of various help-seeking sources, sociocultural factors that contribute to subjugation of women, and immigration related issues to name a few. Some of the important contributions based on the experiences of domestic violence by various immigrant women’s groups in the United States include, for example, Raj and Silverman 2002, and Thapa-Oli, et al. 2009 with South Asian women (women from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Maldives) experiencing partner abuse. Interestingly, a good majority of the literature is focused on Asian immigrant women in the United States. Leung and Cheung 2008, and Lee 2007 have studied prevalence rates, help-seeking behaviors, and predictive factors of domestic violence among Chinese and Korean immigrant women. While others (Sullivan, et al. 2005; Crandall, et al. 2005) have provided insights into experiences of Russian speaking women and women from Africa (Ethiopia) especially highlighting the diverse forms of abuse endured by the women in these communities, utilization of domestic violence resources, and cultural barriers to help-seeking.

  • Crandall, M., K. Senturia, M. Sullivan, and S. Shiu-Thornton. 2005. “No way out”: Russian-Speaking women’s experiences with domestic violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 20.8: 941–958.

    DOI: 10.1177/0886260505277679E-mail Citation »

    This article explores the experience of domestic violence and utilization of domestic violence resources among Russian immigrant women.

  • Erez, E. 2002. Migration/immigration, domestic violence and the justice system. International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice 26.2: 277–299.

    DOI: 10.1080/01924036.2002.9678692E-mail Citation »

    Details experiences of immigrant women who have encountered intimate partner violence and examines the common and unique features of abuse suffered by immigrant women relative to nonimmigrant women.

  • Lee, E. 2007. Domestic violence and risk factors among Korean immigrant women in the United States. Journal of Family Violence 22.3: 141–149.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10896-007-9063-5E-mail Citation »

    Details domestic violence among Korean immigrant women, including type and frequency of violence and predictive factors of domestic violence experienced by Korean immigrant women.

  • Leung, P., and M. Cheung. 2008. A prevalence study on partner abuse in six Asian American ethnic groups in the USA. International Social Work 51.5: 635–649.

    DOI: 10.1177/0020872808093342E-mail Citation »

    Using survey research methodology, this research study collected data from 1,577 Asian Americans and explains the abuse prevalence rates and help-seeking behaviors among six groups including Vietnamese, Filipinos, Indians, Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese women.

  • Menjívar, C., and O. Salcido. 2002. Immigrant women and domestic violence: Common experiences in different countries. Gender and Society 16.6: 898–920.

    DOI: 10.1177/089124302237894E-mail Citation »

    In this article, the authors assess the limited resources on domestic violence among immigrant groups of women and explain important immigrant-specific factors that exacerbate the occurrence of domestic violence among immigrant communities.

  • Raj, A., and J. G. Silverman. 2002. Intimate partner violence against South Asian women residing in greater Boston. Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association 57:111–114.

    E-mail Citation »

    This study provides information on the prevalence of male-perpetrated intimate partner violence (IPV) against South Asian women (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, Bhutanese, Nepalese, Maldives Islanders) residing in Greater Boston besides forms of abuse, abuse-related injuries, and help-seeking behaviors of South Asian women experiencing abuse.

  • Sullivan, M., K. Senturia, T. Negash, S. Shiu-Thornton, and B. Giday. 2005. “For us it is like living in the dark”: Ethiopian women’s experiences with domestic violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 20.8: 922–940.

    DOI: 10.1177/0886260505277678E-mail Citation »

    The authors describe the experiences of domestic violence among Ethiopian refugees and immigrants in the United States. Findings indicate the occurrence of domestic violence within the context of acculturation, immigration, and social structure, necessitating language and culture-specific domestic violence support, advocacy, and education programs concerning US laws.

  • Thapa-Oli, S., H. N. Dulal, and Y. Baba. 2009. A preliminary study of intimate partner violence among Nepali women in the United States. Violence Against Women 15.2: 206–223.

    DOI: 10.1177/1077801208329389E-mail Citation »

    One of the initial studies with Nepali immigrants, the researchers here assess the prevalence of and vulnerabilities to IPV among forty-five Nepali immigrant women residing in the New York metropolitan area.

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