Over the past two decades domestic violence research has come of age. As evidenced by the well-funded Minneapolis experiment and its replications, much of the energy in this arena has been directed at police operations and court processing options. Researchers have made significant progress in clarifying the issues surrounding the complex dynamics of mandatory arrest and treatment policies.
At the same time, insightful qualitative pieces have attempted to explain the perspectives of perpetrators and victims who live out these often misunderstood violent domestic relationships (e.g., Neil Websdale's 1997 research on rural women battering). Some works use a feminist approach that places events in the context of power, poverty, learned helplessness and gendered roles. However, the degree to which these “truths” are generalizable beyond our immediate cultural and social venues is best explained perhaps with a comparative investigation.
Dr. Bui's descriptions of the domestic violence experiences of her Vietnamese subjects are a fascinating look into the realities of cultural conflict, dysfunctional immigration, and adaptive politics. From the accounts that follow, the reader is able to see how the unique background of these women, their histories and ethnic values influence their expectations of the criminal justice system and, ultimately, their reactions to it. Hoan Bui has masterfully woven the tales of battered women and their families into a realistic look at the limits of the system. We are a diverse and multicultural nation, yet we seem to settle for homogenous policy responses that deny the very specific needs of individuals as they face their own personal crises and decision points. Most significantly, this work addresses questions about the universality of the immigrant experience, as well as the similarities in our responses to domestic violence across groups of women whose powerlessness seems to exponentially increase the hopelessness of their plight.
Marilyn McShane and Frank Williams