Understanding South Asian Immigrant
Women's Experiences of Violence
Gurpreet was an educated girl from India whose parents instilled strong
traditional values in her around religion and appropriate behavior. At the
age of 19 Gurpreet was married to a scientist living abroad. Gurpreet faced
severe abuse in her marriage on a daily basis. Helpless in this abusive mar-
riage Gurpreet sought assistance from her parents and her parents-in-law.
While her parents were sympathetic to her situation, they refused to take
her in. Meanwhile her parents-in-law passively supported the abuse since
they felt it kept her “in-line.” Gurpreet could not leave the marriage and
live alone since single motherhood would lower her financial security and
her daughters' social respectability. Gurpreet had no choice but to resign
herself to a life of daily abuse. (Dasgupta and Warrier 1996:238–239)
The story above brings together many facets of abuse in the South Asian community. Domestic violence, while it is not unique to South Asians, takes on new and complex dimensions within the South Asian context. Due to various cultural factors, abuse and its effects in the South Asian community become complicated, and the problem continues to fester.
Ayyub (2000) defines domestic violence as a situation in which one partner uses various forms of abuse to systematically persecute the other. The threat of domestic violence to a community is apparent when we consider the evidence that untreated domestic abuse in the family can affect the structure and wellbeing of the entire home, and can be transmitted to future generations. Among the children in abusive families, the much-needed sense of safety and security in the growing years is also hampered.
In the South Asian community, the existence of this smoldering problem receives little or no public acknowledgement. Under the shroud of traditional practices and values, domestic violence continues to grow and women in the community continue to suffer. This chapter is an attempt to look at various cultural factors that cause, promote, and propagate physical, verbal, and emotional abuse in South