Sunday, October 25, 2009

More South Asian immigrant domestic violence

Some time ago, I became upset as one of the local Nepali-Burmese was mistreating his pregnant girlfriend, terrorizing her, slapping her around and stealing her money, and I vented on this blog. In response, an ignorant bonehead commented that the real problem was not that the (very small) local Nepali-Burmese community consists of a bunch of low-life troublemakers, but that I am not sufficiently sensitive to accept her world-view. Well, I've since drifted away from the local Nepali-Burmese community, a situation that has improved my life (and the only comment I received on it from other refugees are snickers and "Ha. Ha. We told you those people were no good, didn't we?"'s) I can also truthfully say that I have done everything I think I can to assist that woman and at this point it's her problem and she's got to decide what she wants out of her life and how she wishes to live it.

This experience got me directly involved with the folks at Equinox, the local organization that handles domestic violence issues in Albany. I am, by background and inclination, a rescuer. I have no problem, for instance, with grabbing a suicidal or mentally ill person and throwing them on the ground so that one may then restrain them and prevent them from further harming themself. In fact, I can think of twice when I have done so. Not to mention jumping into fights to pull people apart (hint, let them tire themselves a bit by pounding on each other first), but the fact is the "rescuer" approach does not work in these cases.

One thing I liked about Equinox is that their literature did not say "We save battered women." What it said, more or less, was "if you are ready to try to change your own life we will help you do so." This is the same approach they take with their drug addiction programs and actually there are a lot of parallels between being addicted to drugs and being in an unhealthy relationship.

There were many good things about Equinox that I saw. On the other hand, one weakness in the program is that they are not used to dealing with people from other cultures, and although they tried to do so, they weren't quite sure how to do so competently. (In part, because as a friend told me, the bulk of these "save the world" organizations are staffed in large part by young twenty-somethings who mean well but don't really have much life experience.) For instance, one person tried to start a conversation with a refugee on an extremely important matter by just talking without checking to see if anything was actually being understood. If you talk to most refugees, what they will do is nod their head and smile, whether they understand or not. And, no surprise, this is exactly what happened until I jumped in and said, "Hey, this isn't working. She understands nothing you say."

So if you deal with one of these organizations bring your own translator and expect to handle a lot of the details yourself.

But, switching gears, I read the other day on the skeptics list that domestic violence in Bangladesh, a South Asian Muslim country, ranks number two in frequency among all the nations of the world.

Therefore I started doing some cursory research on the subject. There is indeed a problem with domestic violence among South Asian immigrants.

First, we have this report from the BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8286744.stm

Apparently in the United Kingdom, an increasing number of complaints about domestic violence are coming from men of South Asian descent who are being abused by their wives. In a previous post, I noted that an academic journal reported that one distinctive feature among South Asian violence was a tendency for it to become a family affair with the abuser's siblings and other relatives joining in to heap further abuse upon the victimized party. That does indeed seem to be the case here.

And to think, not that long ago some of these Nepali-Burmese folks were suggesting to me that I marry their relatives in Thailand. (I'm sorry, I have a firm policy of no-marriage on the first date. It only leads to a lack of respect later in the relationship.) And I've received hits on this blog with google key words such as "Nepali Burmese wives" and so on --my advice, don't do it. Even if you wish a mail-order wife there are probably nicer places to find one.

Note the BBC article includes links to domestic violence assistance organizations for both men and women in the U.K.

Which brings me back to the issue of Bangladeshi domestic violence.

According to a 2004 report from the Guttmacher institute, see http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3019004.html domestic violence is, in fact, the norm in marriages in rural Bangladesh. (67% being a majority.) You may, if you'd like download the entire 10 page report for free by following the link.

The following is a summary from the organization's web site.

"CONTEXT: Although the pervasiveness of domestic violence against women in Bangladesh is well documented, specific risk factors, particularly those that can be affected by policies and programs, are not well understood.

METHODS: In 2001-2002, surveys, in-depth interviews and small group discussions were conducted with married women from six Bangladeshi villages to examine the types and severity of domestic violence, and to explore the pathways through which women's social and economic circumstances may influence their vulnerability to violence in marriage. Women's odds of experiencing domestic violence in the past year were assessed by logistic regression analysis.

RESULTS: Of about 1,200 women surveyed, 67% had ever experienced domestic violence, and 35% had done so in the past year. According to the qualitative findings, participants expected women with more education and income to be less vulnerable to domestic violence; they also believed (or hoped) that having a dowry or a registered marriage could strengthen a women's position in her marriage. Yet, of these potential factors, only education was associated with significantly reduced odds of violence; meanwhile, the odds were increased for women who had a dowry agreement or had personal earnings that contributed more than nominally to the marital household. Women strongly supported educating their daughters, but pressures remain to marry them early, in part to avoid high dowry costs.

CONCLUSIONS: In rural Bangladesh, women's social and economic circumstances may influence their risk of domestic violence in complex and contradictory ways. Findings also suggest a disconnect between women's emerging expectations and their current realities.

International Family Planning Perspectives, 2004, 30(4):190-199"

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