Family Violence in Asian Communities, Combining Research and Community Development

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study aimed to begin to fill gaps in research on family violence in Asian communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, and increase understanding of what can be done to prevent its occurrence and reduce its impacts on families, relatives and friends. The study employed interviews with migrants from China, South Asia and South East Asia who used family violence services, key informant interviews with practitioners working in the family violence field, and focus groups with service users, practitioners and trainees. The study found the triggers for family violence within these New Zealand Asian communities related to difficulties in adjusting to living in a new country, in particular, finding suitable employment and experiencing financial hardship. Men's dominance in some Asian families was an issue, especially when men saw control over their wives as a last resort to protect their cultural values and traditions. The racism and discrimination some women experienced in this study, when they attempted to find paid jobs or solve their financial dependency issues, put women at extreme risk of abuse and violence. The barriers to preventing or dealing with family violence related to perceptions in the Asian communities researched that family violence is a private matter, and to the women's desire to keep the marriage/relationship intact and limited responsiveness.

BACKGROUND

While there is some research on family violence in Pacific, Maori and Pakeha communities, there is limited research conducted on family violence in Asian communities within the cultural context of New Zealand. Little is known about the factors that trigger family violence in Asian communities in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the consequences of violent behaviours at home, particularly the impacts on people. More importantly, how can a strengths-based approach be utilised to prevent the occurrence of family violence in Asian communities and reduce its horrific impacts on families, relatives and friends in New Zealand?

For the purpose of this report, the term "family violence" is adopted over other commonly used terms, like "domestic violence" or "intimate partner violence", for two reasons. First, in the context of this study, the family is considered to be the basic unit of analysis and, when the term "domestic violence" is used, the abused woman tends to be the unit of analysis (Kurz 1989). The "family" is a system of social relations with unique properties that make it a particularly fertile ground for violence (Gelles 1993), and the triggers for spouse abuse lie in the structure of the contemporary family (Kurz 1989). Second, the notion of "family violence" has greater salience or "buy in" with Asian communities, where the family is seen as the fundamental unit of society and source of strength, and a family member's problems are often considered a threat to the balanced or harmonised relationships of the family unit. The primary focus of this study is "spouse/partner abuse" (physical, sexual and psychological violence among adult partners).

For the purpose of this report, the term "Asian peoples" is used to represent the diversity and plurality within the Asian communities. More specifically, this project focuses on South Asians and Chinese. "South Asians" refers to people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and to Indian Fijians. "Chinese" covers individuals from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South-east Asian region including Malaysia and Singapore. Within the Asian population, the immigrant communities are the focal point of the present investigation. The reason for choosing the South Asian peoples and Chinese immigrants to study is that they are the two largest population groups under the umbrella term "Asian" in New Zealand. Also, 70% of Chinese and 59% of Indians are recent immigrants (people born overseas who have arrived in New Zealand in the last 10 years) and two-thirds of the Asian population live in the Auckland urban area (Statistics New Zealand 2002), where this research was carried out. …