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Effect of culture on family violence in the Chinese Community: Research Findings & Cultural Considerations March 23, 2011 Knowledge Sharing Forum, Lethbridge , Alberta Anna Cheung, MSW, RSW, CSW Project coordinator Chinese Community Response to Family Violence Phyllis Luk , MSW, RSW

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slide1

Effect of culture on family violence in the Chinese Community: Research Findings & Cultural Considerations

March 23, 2011

Knowledge Sharing Forum, Lethbridge, Alberta

Anna Cheung, MSW, RSW, CSW

Project coordinator

Chinese Community Response to Family Violence

Phyllis Luk, MSW, RSW

Research coordinator

Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary

Daniel Lai, PhD, RSW

Professor & Associate Dean (Research & Partnerships)

Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary

introduction
Introduction
  • Family violence is always a hidden issue regardless of culture or ethnicity.

This renders the use of programs and services in aid difficult.

  • Many studies have confirmed that culture has a great impact on victims’ help-seeking behaviour and acknowledge the limitations of reaching out to ethnic groups in order to offer timely help.
rationale
Rationale
  • Scarcity of research addressing family violence in Chinese Canadian families.
  • Examine the pathway of adult Chinese women’s experience in family violence and help seeking.
  • How cultural beliefs and values influence victims of family violence in making decisions to seek help or not to seek help, or when and how to seek help.
  • Focus on adult victims’ experience in the process of seeking help, and appraisal of the help received based on their cultural perception.
  • Special focus and emphasis on the role of culture in the process of the abusive relationship.
method
Method
  • Qualitative ethnographic research design
  • Participants: 10 adult women from the Chinese population who were18 years and older, residing in Calgary, and reported family violence or abuse in Canada.
  • Interviews were conducted in 2009
  • Face-to-face interview that lasted for 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Interviewers were fluent in either Mandarin or Cantonese.
  • The key focus of the interview was the pathway and experience of the participants in domestic violence situations and the impact of culture on their circumstances and decision about taking action to end abuse/violence.
demographics summary
Demographics summary
  • Qualitative interviews: 10 female
  • Place of origin: China - 8, Vietnam – 2 (of Chinese descent)
  • Age: 20-39 age group – 3
  • 40-59 age group – 2
  • 60-79 age group – 3
  • 80 and over – 2
  • Marital status: separate/divorced – 9
  • Remarried – 1
  • Education: Elementary – 2
  • Junior high – 3
  • High school – 1
  • College/University – 4
  • Religion: Buddhism – 3
  • Christian – 3
  • None – 1
  • Unknown – 3
slide7

Occupation: Laborer – 3

  • Professional – 1
  • Clerical – 1
  • Stay at home – 1
  • Unknown – 4
  • Length staying in Canada: 0-5 years – 1
  • 6-10years – 3
  • 11-15 years – 1
  • 16-20 years – 5
  • Abuser: Husband – 4
  • Husband & brother in law - 1
  • Son in law – 1
  • Daughter in law – 2
  • Daughter – 2
  • Type of abuse: Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Restriction of freedom and food
  • Being evicted from home
research questions
Research Questions
  • How does culture impact female victims of family violence and abuse in the Chinese community on problem recognition and defining abusive relationships and situations?
  • How does culture and ethnic minority status influence female victims of family violence and abuse in help seeking decisions?
  • What is the decision making process under the parameter of culture of selection of help provider?
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1. How does culture impact female victims of family violence and abuse in the Chinese community on problem recognition and defining abusive relationships and situations?

how and when did you recognize you were involved in a family violence situation
How and when did you recognize you were involved in a family violence situation?
  • Some victims of family violence did not recognize or think that they had been in an abusive situation, some even blamed themselves for what had happened to them.

P2: I was stupid that time; I felt that it was my fault to make others unhappy. When people told me that this is family violence, I didn’t notice that; I always thought that it was my fault and that I had made him unhappy .

P3: I didn’t tell anyone…. I thought it was my fault, and I didn't dare to tell anyone.

how long has this pattern lasted for
How long has this pattern lasted for?
  • When family violence occurs, it does not usually involve only one or two isolated incidents. For the majority of participants, the pattern lasted for years before they told somebody or sought help.

P2: I have suffered in that kind of marriage for almost three years… The family violence lasted for three years.

P7: I asked for divorce after three years, because I couldn’t bear with it anymore.

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In some cases, victims did not have friends, knowledge or information as they were new to the country, and they did not know where to turn to.

P1: I just came for 10 days, I had no where to go, and I didn’t know the way. I learned Russian in China, not English, there’s nowhere to confide.

P4: I don’t know any English, I know nothing, and what should I do if I am on my own… I have no friends and know very little about here (Canada).

slide13

In most cases, when the victims sought help as the situation got worse, they were told that they had been involved in family violence situation. For others, they began to realize it when they looked back to what had happened after they had left the situation.

P3: Later Mr. K told me, you know, this is family violence… I begin to realize it after I have moved out.

P4: When I went to Women Centre, they said Canadian husbands were not allowed to beat women, they couldn’t do this.

slide14

Although family violence/abuse is a serious problem, Chinese people do not even want to talk about it; not to say to seek help. They would rather bear with the abuse and keep the disgraceful affair within the family than to lose face. It is generally said, “don’t wash your dirty linen in public.”

P3: I will not speak out as long as I am not hurt all over, I prefer to bear with it, you know, as a senior, as a mother, we all prefer to tolerate with our children (maternal love).

how does your culture and or immigrant experience affect your experience
How does your culture and/or immigrant experience affect your experience?
  • One of the major impacts that culture/immigrant experience has on victims of family violence is that they tend to bear with the abuse and do not want to disclose it.

P6: People in Western countries think that when a woman’s husband cheats on her, she should leave him and become independent. But in the Chinese tradition, women should bear with it and forgive their husband.

  • P8: I have never thought about resisting him or even asking for help. I have never thought about leaving him. My child is still young, and if I argue with my husband all the time, the family environment would not be peaceful anymore. And I don’t know what to do, so I just take in whatsoever the circumstance is.
slide16

Another factor is the conflicting ideas on marriage and divorce.

P6: I don’t want to get divorced. I married him, so I belong to him for my whole life, whole-heartedly.

P8: My mother thought that I should tolerate him instead of arguing with him for the sake of my child. Even when I got divorced, she felt that it was my fault. My sister thought that I didn’t do anything wrong, but she asked me to bear with it as well, because she thought my daughter was still young. She said: you should wait until your daughter grows up, then you can file for divorce.

slide17

Being new to the country also creates barriers and difficulties for victims to seek help

P3: I knew nothing about human rights before. We didn’t even know that there is something called human rights.

P4: I don’t even know how to take the C-train, I don’t know how to put the money in. I don’t know how to go to the bank. I know nothing about the policies in Canada.

slide18

As immigrants in Canada, another layer of cultural and circumstantial challenges will be added. Being an immigrant could affect the support that they receive. One participant said:

P2: If I got divorced in China, although I wouldn’t get help from the government, I would have support from my parents, brothers, relatives, or friends. If I were in China, I could tell my relatives or friends about my current situation, and they would be very likely to talk to my husband (ex).

P6: I would go back to my mother’s home. When I come back to my mom, I have a family, and I can live on my own.

slide19

2. How does culture and ethnic minority status influence female victims of family violence and abuse in help seeking decisions?

what would you do if family violence had happened to you in your country of origin
What would you do if family violence had happened to you in your country of origin?

Would there be any difference between how you handled this situation in your country of origin and in Calgary/Canada?

Cultural factors do play an important role in the way the situation would be handled differently.

P2: In China, people would just suggest that you bear with it instead of getting divorced. If I had told my relatives about my situation, they would also suggest that I just bear with it. Do not wash your dirty linen in public. For these small things people should not bother the government. It’s related to the cultural backgrounds. Here people think that when you suffer from abuse, you should leave him, people here emphasize on human rights.

P7: In Vietnam, divorce is a big issue, just like in China; divorce is not a good thing, so some people don’t want to see you.

slide21

Another factor that contributes to the difference is the role that the government plays. There is no service available, or the government is indifferent.

P2: In China, no one will take care of these things. Men beat women or parents beat children, and when it happens no one cares. In China, there’s no way to take care of these small things. The police have to catch thieves, how can they take care of these small matters, no one would care. Because they think this sort of acts are part of family matters.

slide22

P4: In Canada, few people share rich resources. They value life and people, which I think that other countries just cannot do it in the same way. Canadians do a good job in protecting lives. There’s the concept of family violence in China now, but no specific law about it. But probably when wives are beaten into paralysis, then their husbands would be charged.

what made you pull back initially from doing something to make things right get life easier
What made you pull back initially from doing something to make things right/get life easier?

Culture is one key factor that initially restrains them from taking action to end the abuse.

  • Traditional Chinese culture, the reluctance to expose family shame or disgrace that leads to the fear of others’ belittlement, is found to be the main reason that victims of family violence do not take action to stop the abusive relationship.

P1: Because I inherited a value, for my generation, there’s an old saying that mother should be proud of her son. I feel very ashamed to tell people about my family problem. The old saying is: do not wash your dirty linen in public; it would make others look down on me if they know this happen in my family.

slide24

Many participants commented that they wanted to keep the relationship; they don’t want the relationship become broken.

P3: Older people, especially mothers, are always willing to tolerate with their children. Many seniors told me that they’re your own children, how could you do that (reporting the abuse).

P4: I want to keep the relationship.

slide25

For others, they were afraid because they did not know what the outcome would be and feared that they would not be able to lead an independent life when their relationship became broken.

P2: I don’t know what will happen. And if I speak out, I am not sure how to tell them, what will happen then, and I don’t know the agency.

P6: Friends asked me to leave, but I wouldn’t leave. Because I didn’t have the ability, I was so stressed out and I had no way to afford living by myself.

slide26

3. What is the decision making process under the parameter of culture of selection of help provider?

what made you decide to get help do something
What made you decide to get help/do something?
  • Desperation is one of the main factors that motivated the victims of family violence to get help or do something. In many cases, the victims came to the point where their lives were being threatened.

P1: My daughter said: Mom, we should escape, we have no other choice except to escape.

P2: I felt that I was almost dead after he beat me, I used the ground line to call the police, but he tore away all the phone cords. Then I used my cell phone to call 911, he took it away, but the phone was still on and maybe the police heard it, so the police and the ambulance all came.

slide28

Other reasons include advice from friends and coworkers, and visible wounds that made the victims unable to bear the situation or keep the relationship any longer.

P8: I am disappointed with my marriage. I am not that old, so why should I live with him for my whole life? I could survive by myself anyways. I know English, so why should I imprison myself?

P6: I showed my wounds to my friends at my work place. He beat me so badly, and if I bear with it, it would get even worse.

slide29
Where or who did you first seek help? Was there a reason you choose to seek help from this person or organization?

They approach for help could be just random simply because of the rescuer was at proximity.

  • In one case, the victim ran to her neighbour for help, and they called the police for her.

P6: He beat me to the ground and he didn’t stop. He kept beating me until he had used up all his energy. Then I went outside for a breath. He chased after me, I scared, I then knocked my neighbour’s door. The westerner next door saw my injuries, so he helped me call the police.

slide30

Victims of family violence would seek help from community services or organizations because they had a prior established relationship/trust, or they were referred to them by their friends or acquaintances.

P3: Sometimes ago, when I went to CCECA for other things, Mr. K gave me his business card, I didn’t know anything about Canada, so Mr. K told me if I have any problem I could go to him. So I called Mr. K for help.

P7: My friend introduced me, he said the Chinese community will help people, but he didn’t know how would they help, so I go there for help.

what were the cultural considerations when you decided to seek help
What were the cultural considerations when you decided to seek help?
  • With the Chinese culture, marriage is for life to women, and they worry about what would happen to their spouse as a result of seeking help. Others feel ashamed that they have to take that step. As well, self perception toward one’s ability also affects a woman’s decision to seek help.

P4: Because I think it is a life choice for a woman to marry a man. She wouldn’t want to get divorced, right? Generally she doesn’t want to have a divorce unless she has an affair outside. For Chinese woman, it is a whole life’s choice when she chooses a man, and a divorce is no good to her, because she has to learn to live independently, and in that period it would be hard. Not every woman would be brave enough to be independent, some women can’t walk out from the shock.

who did you confide in about your situation or experience
Who did you confide in, about your situation or experience?
  • Friends, coworkers, family members or relatives are the groups of people whom victims of family violence would confide in about their situation. For friends, they are usually the ones they know in their place of origin.

P4: I worked with two women in the restaurant, and they all helped me. They said you shouldn’t be like this, and they told me they would help me.

P8: All my good friends knew about it because I told them. I also told some of my classmates. I didn’t mind telling them, because I thought I didn’t do anything wrong. But for those that I was not very familiar with, I didn’t want to tell them. I told my family, I told my sister first. And I told my mom, but she always told me to bear with it.

discussion findings
Discussion - findings

From the illustration of the pathway to seeking help, culture plays an important role in the Chinese women’s help seeking journey.

Women have an imbedded cultural value of keeping the integrity of the family:

  • Tolerate the husband
  • Women see their status in the family as in a submissive role where the husband is of supreme position.
  • Bear the family situation for the sake of the children
slide34

Do not bring shame and disgrace to the family

  • Do not let others look down upon the family
  • Patriarchal values has tremendous impact on the Chinese mother who passes down her value of endurance and being submissive to her daughter in spite of intolerable familial violence.
slide35

The undisputable submission of women to men deceived some woman victims of family violence in a way that they did not recognize or think that they had been in abusive relationship. Some even taking the blame as they thought they caused the trouble that led to displeasing their husband.

Women also expressed their fear about breaking up with their husband, as they worry about their ability to lead an independent life, with language issues, employability and unfamiliarity with the Canadian system.

slide36

Culturally appropriate support and education to the Chinese women are a fundamental way to break the circle of family violence.

Education for the Chinese community –

includes not only for empowering the women themselves but also informing their immediate social circle and the men.

Culturally sensitive and appropriate materials would enhance receptivity of the Chinese community.

slide37

At the point of seeking help, most participants revealed that they were desperate or in a life or death situation.

The person they go to for help could be:

  • Trusted person - Service provider with a pre-established relationship
  • Police
  • Random help – people at proximity (e.g. neighbour)
slide38

Service providers in the Chinese community played an important supporting role as respondents revealed that their prior knowledge and contacts with the providers help them better link with the service when they are in need.

Promotion of services established a bridge between service providers and the community.

slide39

Respondents are appreciative of the service they received from the providers, but they like to have service providers who speak their language and have information written in Chinese so that they can read it.

Linguistically and culturally appropriate services are particularly important during the moments where the victims are distressed.