Exploring battered Mexican-origin women's help-seeking within their socio-cultural contexts
MetadataShow full item record
Women’s responses to abuse reflect their particular socio-cultural contexts, available resources, and perceived options. In the present study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 75 battered women of Mexican-origin. The study aimed first, to document how these women act to survive abuse, and second, to explore whether socio-cultural variables were associated with help-seeking. Help-seeking was defined as use of formal (i.e., shelter) and informal (i.e., family) sources, as well as the personal strategies (i.e., lock one’s self in a room) that women use to survive abuse. Socio-cultural variables included two cultural variables: machismo (belief in traditional gender roles, male dominance, and female passivity) and familismo (valuing family obligation, cohesion, and reciprocity), and four socio-structural variables: income, education, English proficiency, and immigrant status. Results indicated that, consistent with a survivor theory perspective, participants sought help more than once from several formal and informal help sources; some (i.e., shelter and family) were perceived as more effective than others (i.e., lawyer and partner’s family). Findings further demonstrated that participants engaged in several personal strategies to survive abuse; some (i.e., maintaining a relationship with God) were rated more effective than others (i.e., placating the batterer). Analyses showed women with higher levels of familismo sought informal help more frequently than those with lower levels. Results also indicated that women with only grade school education, no English language skills, and undocumented status sought formal help less frequently than women who were not constrained by these barriers. Contrary to expected results, income and machismo were not found to be related to formal or informal help-seeking. Participants’ responses to four open-ended questions provide context to empirical findings; responses suggest why particular help sources and strategies were or were not effective and provide suggestions for improving services for this population. This study provides socio-culturally relevant information for professionals designing interventions for battered women of Mexican-origin. Findings illuminate battered Mexican-origin women’s strengths, as well as barriers that impede their efforts to survive abuse. The study contributes to existing research because it focused on a specific subset of battered Latinas; gathered information on the frequency and perceived effectiveness of participants’ use of a wide array of help sources and strategies; included a large sample and empirical analyses; and tested whether sociocultural variables related to participants’ help-seeking.