A number of studies and surveys have been implemented recently related to the phenomenon of Hispanic immigration into the southern United States. Among the issues being studied is Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV. What follows are some of the findings of two studies conducted in North Carolina, and some observations based on other sources of information.
Most of the data reviewed indicates common causes and effects of IPV; in other words, when IPV is present, one or more conditions are present as well. Those are alcohol and substance abuse, low income status, cohabitating outside of marriage, and cultural or educational disparity between partners. Another notable risk factor is whether or not the victim of IPV experienced some form of abuse as a child. (Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, (2000), Patricia Tjaden and Nancy Thoennes)
Surveys can be misleading. When comparing two or more surveys on the same subject, the results are often in conflict. This is due mostly to the sample size, the syntax of the questions, and the context in which the person was interviewed. For example, if a person is questioned in the presence of an intimate partner, he or she might not be completely honest because of fear of retribution. Another limitation to both of the surveys is that a large group of the respondents were interviewed orally in Spanish; this was done because of the language constraints, but a variety of factors can creep into the objective quality of the survey. Was the respondent comfortable with the questioner? Was the questioner a native Spanish speaker, thereby eliminating a chance of miscommunication? These questions aren't necessarily addressed in the articles. Both of the North Carolina surveys were fairly small in size, which can also make the results less accurate. (Knowledge and Attitudes About Intimate Partner Violence Among Immigrant Latinos in Rural North Carolina. (2007) Moracco, Hilton, Hodges, and Frasier: Intimate Partner Violence Among Latinas in Eastern North Carolina, (2005), Denham, et al)
With that in mind, let's examine and compare the results of these two surveys. In one survey (Knowledge and Attitudes, (2007) Moracco, et al) they used a convenience sample of one hundred, and were focused mostly upon attitudes and perceptions among Hispanic immigrants toward IPV. A majority of both men and women agreed on major factors of IPV- childhood experience and drug or alcohol abuse. There was a discrepancy in perceptions of partner dominance, where women disagreed and men agreed; it should be noted that just over half of the men agreed with these statements-while slightly less than half of the women agreed-that the man should decide who the woman could see or where she could go and it was divine will that a couple should remain together. On a scale of one to four, both sexes agreed that it was okay for the man to decide if his wife or girlfriend could work. (Knowledge, Moracco, et al, (2007)) The questions combined seem to reveal that both sexes perceive the male as slightly dominant in the couple.
The second article (Intimate Partner Violence, (2005), Denham, et al) examined data on the incidence of IPV compared with other subpopulations. The findings showed that IPV was similar among Hispanics as compared with other populations, but noted that over half of rural immigrant victims of IPV lack social support and networks. The article suggests that it would be beneficial to provide additional social services, such as bilingual interpreters and community outreach programs. However, other data compiled by the Center for Disease Control (Extent, Nature, and Consequences, (2000), Tjaden, Thoennes) indicates that a majority of IPV victims feel isolated and that filing a complaint would not do much good. Further, statistical data confirm a wide discrepancy between reports and convictions in all areas of intimate partner violence, lending this perception some accuracy.
An interesting phenomenon is that acculturated Hispanics have a higher incidence of IPV (Intimate Partner Violence (2005) Denham, et al) and it was attributed partly to greater awareness. However, one of the leading factors in IPV-drug and alcohol abuse-is also shown to rise significantly among acculturated Hispanics, especially males. This major factor, along with lower socioeconomic status and education, probably contributes to the increased occurrences. (Extent, Nature, and Consequences (2000) Tjaden, Thoennes)
In review, IPV in the immigrant Hispanic population is at least as common as it is with other subpopulations. This means that the social services provided for English speaking populations should be extended to the Hispanic population equitably. In addressing IPV, one should also consider and address the main root causes, which have been noted previously. An aggressive education program, along with widespread treatment programs for alcohol and substance abuse would make a dramatic impact on the incidence of IPV in the immigrant Hispanic population.
Finally, one cannot ignore the social isolation that an immigrant must experience, such as separation from family and friends, and a basic lack of communication with the community in general. The sense of isolation is comparable to a divorce or separation, which has a negative impact on the individuals involved. Many Hispanics experience a strong cultural shock as they make a transition from an extended family setting to a nuclear one. (Extent, Nature, and Consequences (2000) Tjaden, Thoennes) Community activities and networking will help to ease this transition.