Academic journal article Counseling and Values

Fundamentalist Protestant Christian Women: Recognizing Cultural and Gender Influences on Domestic Violence

Academic journal article Counseling and Values

Fundamentalist Protestant Christian Women: Recognizing Cultural and Gender Influences on Domestic Violence

Article excerpt

The authors use multicultural, family process and structure, and gender concepts to provide a framework for understanding the supports for and barriers to mental health that are experienced by abused fundamentalist Protestant Christian (FPC) women. For FPC women who are victims of domestic violence, gender, culture, and family process and structure may intersect to prohibit or facilitate healthy life choices. Suggestions for providing counseling services to this population are given.

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Female victims of domestic violence who espouse fundamentalist Protestant Christian (FPC) religious beliefs often have difficulty in locating counseling services that address their religious ideology as an important aspect of the healing process. Counselors who treat victims of domestic violence may see specific religious beliefs as unhelpful or irrelevant to treating the victim of domestic violence (Ferraro & Johnson, 1983; Kantor & Jasinski, 1998). In addition, religious leaders may justify, discount, or deny that domestic violence occurs in their parishes or congregations, further alienating women who are victims of violence in the home (Pagelow & Johnson, 1988). Although traditional ideology may interfere with the recognition and treatment of domestic violence in a variety of conservative religious communities, this article focuses on fundamentalist Protestant Christians to illustrate the complex interaction between culture, gender, and religious belief in counseling female victims of domestic violence. The needs of FPC women are more likely than other women's needs to fall into the gap that exists between the services that are available through mental health professionals and the intervention of their religious community (Gross & Stith, 1996). This gap between FPC women and treatment for domestic violence is also evident in the professional literature, which provides few guidelines for understanding the specific needs of FPC women.

Our goal in this article is to provide a framework, using the literature on multicultural and gender issues, for understanding the supports for and barriers to mental health that are experienced by FPC women in order to discern implications for counseling practice and research. This exploration begins with the recognition of religious groups as cultural groups. Cultural identity and upbringing are parts of an individual's view of the world (Sue & Sue, 2002). Inasmuch as fundamentalist Protestant Christians espouse a unique and distinct worldview different from the worldview of the majority of U.S. citizens, they can be defined as a cultural group. The FPC worldview necessarily has an impact on an individual's cognitions, including how he or she engages in meaning making and decision making (Sue & Sue, 2002).

Carter and McGoldrick (1999) suggested that the structure and process of families influenced and are influenced by cultural group norms. The authors conceptualized domestic violence in terms of the context of family structures and processes, which are embedded in cultural norms. This contextual approach has a variety of benefits, such as avoiding overpathologizing what may be adaptive behavior and alienating individuals from the mental health care system. Gender dynamics have also been related to family structure and process (Becvar & Becvar, 2000; Walsh, 1989), cultural norms (Hays, 1996; McGoldrick, Garcia-Preto, Hines, & Lee, 1989), and the perpetration of family violence (Levesque, 2001).

For FPC women who are victims of domestic violence, gender, family process and structure, and culture may intersect to prohibit or facilitate healthy life choices. Family violence and tolerance for family violence tend to be passed down through generations (McGoldrick, Broken Nose, & Potenza, 1999). This intergenerational transmission occurs through social learning within both the family and the larger cultural contexts that permit family violence. …

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