A Communicative Perspective on
Assisting Battered Asian Indian
Much has been said and written about the need to include constituents' voices in designing and implementing services and programs for victims of domestic violence. To ensure effective service provision, policy making, and planning, it is important to obtain input from the target population during decision-making processes (Flyvbjerg 2001).1 Constituents' voices, however, can only be heard or taken into account when planners, policy makers, and service providers are able to correctly interpret their language use and communication patterns. In this essay, I argue that both understanding and taking into account ethnocultural communication differences is essential for effective policy making and planning.
Ethnocultural communication refers to communicative differences that arise from membership in a specific ethnic group. More specifically, ethnocultural communication refers to communication patterns and language usage influenced by and rooted in cultural norms. The issue of ethnocultural language and communication is critical, because it is not just the inability to speak English that is a barrier for battered South Asian immigrant women, but also when it is spoken, how this English is spoken. In fact, language may pose a more daunting hurdle for immigrant survivors who speak English, as service providers may assume that they understand what is being said, which they might literally but not contextually.
With regard to language and battered immigrant women, the majority of studies have focused on immigrant survivors' inability to speak English as the main obstacle to their seeking or receiving information and services (Dutton, Orloff, and Hass 2000; Kim 2002; Orloff 2001; Preisser 1999). The fact that a large number of immigrant women from India have the ability to converse in English, and yet they remain either unaware of existing domestic violence related services or unable to utilize them effectively (Domestic Violence Research Project 2001; Preisser 1999; Warrier 2000a) indicates that there may be factors other than language fluency involved in this problem. Since the majority of Asian Indians speak English, their