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National Latina Network

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While the number of studies examining intimate partner violence (IPV) in Latin@ populations is growing, research on this issue continues to be limited in quality and breadth. We have compiled what we believe are the most current data on this topic and summarized it below.

Prevalence & Occurrence of IPV

National statistics about the experience of IPV among women in the United States and throughout represent estimates that may vary by different methods of data collection. The various strategies used by researchers to collect data (e.g., phone vs. in-person surveys), the specific questions asked (e.g., number of acts of physical violence vs. the context of the violence), and the social/community conditions where the study is conducted (e.g., new immigration laws) all impact the results of the study. For Latin@s, the language in which the study is conducted (including the use of variations in the Spanish language) can also affect the results. Below we present some of the most recent prevalence information published on Latin@ populations. It is important to remember, however, that these findings must be considered within the context of the issues outlined above and may be limited in their representations.
  • About 20-25% of Latinas will experience IPV during her lifetimee30 and 1 in 20 in the previous 12 months15.

  • This rate is approximately the same as for women from other racial/ethnic groups. In fact, a recent study found no significant difference across racial groups once socioeconomic status was taken into consideration4.

  • Reported rates of IPV were lower for Mexican immigrants (13.4%) than for persons of Mexican descent born in the United States (16.7%)1.
  • These differences are consistent with other studies examining physical and mental health outcomes31, school achievement29, and substance abuse18. This surprising strength of immigrant groups despite the social and economic challenges they often face, has been labeled the immigrant paradox33. There are also differences among Latin@s based on their country of origin and level of acculturation; more years in the U.S. predicts poorer health outcomes. The apparent protective nature of being an immigrant is the subject of several current studies29,31.
  • Immigrant women (including Latinas) who are married are more likely to experience IPV than unmarried women6.
  • A study that included 2,000 Latinas found 63.1% of women who identified being victimized in their lifetime (i.e., interpersonal victimization such as, stalking, physical assaults, weapon assaults, physical assaults in childhood, threats, sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, etc). reported having experienced more than one victimization, with an average of 2.56 victimizations5.
  • In a sample of over 300 pregnant Latinas, IPV during pregnancy was reported at 10% for physical abuse and 19% for emotional abuse14.
  • Research is beginning to document work related IPV among Latin@s. One study reported abusive strategies such as, on the job surveillance, on the job harrassment, and work disruption tactics. However, they also found strategies that were unique in a Latino sample, such as denying access to driver’s license, lying about childcare arrangements, and sending the partner to their country of origin temporarily13.

Help Seeking

Low rates of reporting and self-help seeking among Latinas experiencing IPV may create the illusion that IPV services are not needed by this population. However, understanding the specifics of help seeking behavior among Latinas can create a more cohesive picture.
  • Latinas reported seeking access to shelters less than women from other ethnic/racial groups; this is especially true for immigrant Latina survivors9.
  • Of the Latinas who experience abuse, about half of them never report the abuse to authorities.34.
  • Latinas prefer to tell family members7, female friends, or neighbors about IPV (i.e. utilize informal resources for help)27,28, while non-Latinas may be more likely to tell health care workers or clergy9,34.
  • Nearly half of Latinas in one study did not report abuse to authorities34, possibly due to a variety of reasons, including fear and lack of confidence in the police25, shame, guilt, loyalty and/or fear of partners8, fear of deportation21, and previous experience with childhood victimization28.
  • One of these studies found that about 4% of of participants had fled their countries of origin in search of protection and safety from IPV34.
  • Low-acculturated Latinas (both abused and non-abused) are less likely to seek and use formal social services than their more acculturated counterparts11,27.
  • Non-immigrant Latina survivors contact formal services for IPV resources more often than immigrant Latinas9.

Commentary

Latina survivors’ help-seeking behaviors are closely tied to their level of acculturation and other cultural factors.
  • More recent immigrant Latinas are usually unaware of the laws, options, and possibilities regarding their experience of abuse.
  • Latina survivors who have been in the United States for a longer period of time or were born in this country have had the opportunity to learn about resources and are more likely to use them. However, where they seek help varies from other ethnic/racial groups. Latina survivors are more likely to depend on family members and friends, rather than health care workers, clergy, and police.