Battered women in shelters: a comparative analysis of the expectations and experiences of African American, Mexican American and non-Hispanic white women
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Abstract: This qualitative dissertation focuses on the perceptions of three groups of women living in two battered women’s shelters -- Mexican American, African American, and non-Hispanic White. Several research questions were addressed including the women’s perceptions and thoughts about living in a shelter, issues of self-labeling, women’s needs and expectations of battered women’s shelters, educating the public about domestic violence, alternatives to battered women’s shelters, and their knowledge of relevant policies. Responses were examined by ethnicity, presence of children, support from significant others, economic resources, and other factors. The purposive sample consists of 38 women (12 are Mexican American, 12 African American, and 14 Non-Hispanic White) who had resided in a battered women’s shelter for at least seven days, and were abused by an intimate male partner. Each woman participated in a semi-structured interview. Findings indicated that more women would identify with terms such as “survivor,” “victim,” or “abused” rather than “battered.” Mexican American and White women report that safety/security is their most important need, while more African American women said they needed sheltering (e.g., services and structure). As a whole, the women reported that shelter staff could better meet their needs by providing greater access to resources such as housing, employment, and transportation. However, this was more so for the African American and White women. The Mexican American women suggested that re-evaluating rules/chores of the shelter would be a way to better meet their needs. The majority of participants recommended educating others about domestic violence by utilizing media and advertisements. The most frequent alternative to battered women’s shelters suggested by each of the three groups was safe housing available in the women’s communities. Most of the women have received some form of public assistance; however, they lacked knowledge of policies such as the Family Violence Option, which may exempt victims from certain requirements to receive benefits. Implications for policy and practice include increased outreach and education to ethnic minority groups, and suggestions for future research are explored. As integral members of those working to end domestic violence, social workers can utilize the study findings to improve services to domestic violence victims.
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