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Domestic Violence toward Asian Women

Info: 4920 words (20 pages) Dissertation
Published: 5th Nov 2021

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Tagged: Criminology

Based on research and statistics, it is known that domestic violence toward Asian women is pervasive. “Twelve percent of Asian and Pacific Islander women reported experiencing physical assault by an intimate partner at least once during their lifetime (Jaden & Tonnes, 2000)”. Unfortunately, documented reports of abuse most likely under-represent the number of abused women due to the secretive and victimizing nature of domestic violence.

Asian women may come from various cultural backgrounds, including Philippines, India, China, Korea, Thailand, and Japan to name few. Domestic violence is a devastating social ill that occurs much too frequently, particularly more so in cultures that emphasize the importance of upholding the family name.

This ideation may often lead to enmeshed families who emphasize positive family attributes while minimizing or even denying negative aspects of the family environment. Further, stigmatizing issues such as domestic violence are most likely minimized or overlooked by other family members. In result, it may also be true that Asian women are discouraged from relying on friends outside of the family for support and assistance.

Views of women in Asian countries may also contribute to the rate of domestic violence in Asian communities. Women have historically been looked upon as less valuable, able and intelligent in comparison to me. This view of women, although somewhat altered within most recent years, continues to be a global obstacle in the advancement of women. This view is particularly held strong in Asian communities, where it continues to be more widely accepted. Additionally, based on the views of the Asian population, women’s advocate programs may be scarce ornonexistent. In areas where programs do exist, it may be extremely disloyal to the family to report instances of abuse or any other negative occurrence within the family home.

Based on what is already known about victims of stranger violence, the effects of domestic violence appear to be dually devastating. An environment that is first assumed to be safe and comfortable is instead replaced by one that is tainted, ever threatening and without solace. Possibly the only support system the victim may have assumed to have is now stripped from her and replaced with fear and loneliness.

The effects of this type of isolation usually lead to decreased self-esteem and increased feelings of shame and guilt; which may cause a ripple effect in many other areas of the victim’s life. Due to abuse, she may feel she cannot achieve her educational and/or career goals. She may be isolated from family and friends due to the perpetrator’s fear that they may find out she is being abused. The victim may feel tremendous shame and guilt for staying in an abusive relationship and thus, subjecting her children to such a volatile environment. Lastly, and most critically, the abuse can lead to the victim’s severe harm and many times even death.

Literature Review

In order to best understand the nature of domestic violence, it is vital to mention that the population being addressed is not homogenous one. Rather, when describing abused women, this description includes women who are physically and/or mentally disabled; it includes women who can and cannot read; and it includes women who do and do not speak the language of the country they are living in.

It also includes women who come from any gamut of financially impoverished to very affluent backgrounds; and women who may be homemakers caring for young children to extremely successful career women. Additionally, although the focus of this piece of research relates to Asian women, it is valuable to note that women of all ethnicities are at risk of becoming victims of domestic violence (Yoshioka, 2001).

Domestic violence advocates have investigated abusers’ patterns so that victims and advocates can better comprehend abusers’ pathological behaviors. The cycle of violence is a portrayal of the cyclical behaviors of abusers. It is described as three main phases. The first phase describes how the abuser becomes increasingly angry, which may include antagonizing the victim, calling her names and demeaning her.

Avery large part of abuse is in the form of verbal and emotional attack. The abuser may tell the victim that she deserves the abuse and even state that she likes the abuse. He may tell her that no one else would want her. In the second phase, the abuser hurts his victim by inflicting physical and/or sexual acts toward her. Soon after violent episodes, the abuser will apologize for hurting his partner and may make promises he does not intend to keep, such as never hurting her again or promising to seek help. The abuser may also attempt to smooth over the situation by lavishing his partner with gifts. Unfortunately, the abuse does not stop there and instead, he will continue to repeat the cycle (Domestic Violence Awareness Project, 2005).

Knowing that the abuser’s behaviours are part of a maladaptive cycle is useful in informing victims of this cycle. In this way, they do not begin to internalize the abuse and do not learn to believe that the abuser’s verbal, physical and sexual abuse is granted. Instead, understanding the abuser’s dysfunctional method of relating allows victims to attribute the abuse to the abuser instead of their own shortcomings. With this knowledge, victims are able to heal from the abuse and regain a feeling of self-worth (Yoshiaka, 2001).

It is widely believed that Asian women of many regions are highly susceptible to lives of subjugation and servitude to their partners. This belief is attributed to a variety of cultural factors. It is hypothesized that women remain in abusive relationships due to the stigma that is placed on them if they leave their partner. In order to preserve family dignity, respect and honour, women many times do not speak out against abusive situations. In fact, due to the powerful traditional practices enforced within Asian communities, extended family members who do have knowledge of the abuse encourage women to tolerate the abuse.

In a study by How (1990), she sought to examine the impact of domestic violence within the Asian population, specifically within Southeast Asians including Laotians, Khmer, Vietnamese, and Chinese. The researcher found that the impact of traditional Asian values such as close family ties, harmony and order do not necessarily send the message that abuse is unacceptable. Instead, women are expected to play a submissive role that includes values of fatalism, perseverance and self-restraint. Victims feel that if these qualities are maintained, they are showing respect to their families and bringing them great honour. Ultimately, victims feel they are honourable women who are fulfilling their spousal duties (How, 1990).

Within the Asian-Indian population, the definition of relationship is nearly synonymous with marriage due to the culture’s belief in arranged marriage. Arranged marriage is the practice in which parents select their children’s future husband or wife. Potential mates are then allowed to provide their input about his or her potential husband or wife. A lasting marriage is a symbolism of honour and respect, which in turn reflects upon the entire family. This is especially important for other siblings within the family, whose chances of being arranged depend greatly on their female siblings’ compliance to their husbands. Additionally, for couples who have female children, women may endure the abuse in order to protect their daughters’ “name”, or reputation.

Otherwise, if the family secret is exposed or the woman leaves the relationship, a victim’s daughter may never have a chance of getting married because her family name is now tainted. Some Indian brides suffer dowry related abuse. A dowry is a material exchange given to the groom’s family by the bride’s family in exchange for the groom’s family inviting the bride into their family. Sometimes, the groom’s family will demand more dowry money or other assets such as livestock, cars or jewelry. If the demands are not fulfilled, the bride may be severely mistreated physically, verbally and sexually by her new groom and in-laws (BBC Network, 2006).

The article Domestic Violence and Asian Immigrant Women by M. Yoshioka(2001), explores the Asian community’s attitudes toward domestic violence. The researcher also desires to understand psychosocial factors regarding domestic violence within this population. Specifically, the study was developed to look at three areas that involved abuser approval of abuse: situation-specific approval of violence; endorsement of male privilege; and perceived alternatives to abuse.

The setting of the study takes place in New York, which compels the researcher to pose questions regarding Asian families’ views and struggles with domestic violence in the context of an immigrant country. Yoshiaka also implemented an assessment tool that was specifically created to gather information about attitudes regarding abuse titled, the Revised Attitudes toward Wife Abuse Scale (RAWA),which was developed by Yoshiaka and Dania (1999). In order to develop this assessment tool, 650 surveys of Chinese, Cambodian, Korean, Vietnamese, and South Asian adults were gathered.

Immigrant families contend with many obstacles. Abusive environments further complicate the hurdles that exist for women who are taken out of their familiar homeland elements. Based on these dynamics, victims of abuse in this type of environment are further isolated due to possible separation from family of origin, language barrier, and lack of knowledge about the host country’s view of abuse and provision of supportive services.

Researchers found that it is a “complex interweaving of cultural, environmental, and interpersonal factors” that contribute to the possibility for domestic violence within the immigrant population. They identify values such as privacy, honour, self-restraint, harmony, and order (Hosted, 1984; Hu & Chen, 1999; Kerkrade, Tang, &Westwood, 1991; McLaughlin & Braun, 1998) as factors that may minimize the severity of domestic violence within the culture (Ho,1990).

Additionally, immigrants’ support system is usually left behind in their homeland, which strips them of supportive family and friends who could otherwise support and advice victims. Further, they may not be knowledgeable of the support services available in their host country. Another factor that contributes to isolation is a possible language barrier (Das Dasgupota & Warrier, 1996). Lack of command of the host country’s language could be absolutely devastating and fearful for a victim who is already isolated from a support system and familiar environment.

Results from the study showed that gender, ethnicity and witness to parental abuse were factors contributing to greater acceptance of wife abuse. Males were more likely to endorse abuse, particularly Cambodian men when compared with Chinese men. Additionally, children who witnessed their mothers being abused were more likely to view abuse as acceptable. Researchers made a final and significant point, stating that although Asian immigrants are categorized within one category, there are apparent differences in Asians’ views of spousal abuse.


In describing domestic violence toward Asian women and its effects, it was first necessary to describe what a victim is like. Unfortunately, the general public assumes that a battered woman is most likely quite vulnerable in that she is uneducated, passive and weak. Some even believe that a victim enjoys the abuse. Many people wonder why an abused woman does not simply leave her relationship. The reality is that anyone could be a victim, regardless of age, race, disability status, financial status, and education. This is why it was important to describe the profile of a victim at the beginning – to emphasize that there is no typical profile. Anyone could become victim to abuse by simply trusting that her partner will care for her with respect.

Victims could also be boys and men, however, for the purpose of this research, this population was not addressed to any capacity. Additionally, cultural norms of other ethnicities were not explored duet the focus of this research being solely on Asian women. However, some of the studies included in this research included comparative data between Asian women and women of other nationalities.

The cycle of violence was also explained. It is a critical factor in understanding abusers’ behaviours for the purpose of providing services to abusers and especially to provide victims with an understanding of what they are experiencing and why. Many sufferers of domestic violence are told what is deficient in them. Over time, they begin to believe these untruths.

In investigating the intricacies of domestic violence and how it affects the Asian population specifically, it was important to provide examples of various cultures’ norms regarding the views and treatment of women. Although all Asian countries’ cultural norms and sub-cultural idiosyncrasies were not described within the context of this research, some cultures’ customs were explored. Although it is important to obtain an exhaustive understanding about various Asian cultures it is vital to acknowledge that several idiosyncrasies exist within each country, every city and even every subculture. Thus, it was important to explore research that explained this factor of culture.

Further, it’s difficult to generalize that one particular culture or sub-culture has a set template of norms, therefore, descriptions of cultural norms were described with care and consideration. It should be noted that when speaking of any given culture, it is not to be assumed that the description exclusively applies to each and every person within particular culture. Therefore, application of cultural norms should be understood with the idea that no one culture is completely homogenous. All in all, it is important to have a balanced understanding of cultural norms that do not over-generalize a culture and yet do take into consideration that there is a majority view about most issues.

General data on domestic violence was quite accessible. Many forms of information exist that assists in understanding the nature of abuse and its effects. There is also a wealth of information about the type of support available to victims of abuse and perpetrators. The Internet Isa plentiful source for finding local agencies and support groups relating to domestic violence. Information was also discovered through various modes of literature – books, journal articles and magazines. Visual media can also be accessed via Internet, videotape, DVD and television programming that advocates for victims’ rights and disseminates other information for advocates, victims and perpetrators.

Due to the directed nature of this piece, it was necessary to not only search for general information about domestic violence, but instead, there was a need for materials about domestic violence within the Asian population. With this need came the task of finding out as much as possible about the many categories of Asians that exist and to also find the most amount of information about each category and sub-category.

This was found to be a gruelling task, because contrary to belief, there are several classifications within the category known as Asian. Compounding this point was the lack of abundant information regarding domestic violence in various Asian cultural contexts. Additionally, little information was found about supportive services within many Asian communities, most probably due to the cultural views regarding keeping personal information within the family and also duet the accepting views toward abuse.

Fortunately, much of the information found did include the many facets of violence within the Asian population, such as provision of statistical data of how many women of various cultures reported spousal abuse; perpetrators’ views about abuse; perpetuation of these views duet cultural beliefs about abuse; long-term effects on abused women and children; availability of treatment; treatment modalities; and laws that now protect women against violence.


The devastating effects of domestic violence have been brought into the forefront of popular culture only within the past twenty years ago. Since then, and probably long before on a smaller scale, advocates have been working vigorously to service domestic violence victims and expose the horrific nature of its effects.

This has included conducting research with women, children and perpetrators; attempting various forms of therapeutic modalities to address the after-effects; provision of abuser services; and exposure of domestic violence through written and visual media. Through these efforts, victim advocates have provided support to thousands of women who otherwise would either continue to live a life of isolating despair or alternatively, lose their lives to domestic violence.

Unfortunately, the amount of information and support services that are available vary widely based on victims’ geographical location, largely due to the level of tolerance toward domestic violence. Naturally, the more a society believes an act is a crime, the more intensive the work toward ending it. However, other factors exist that inhibit further research toward ending violence against Asian women. Many Asian countries are horribly impoverished and do not have the means to either conduct necessary research nor provide protection and services to women and their children. Victim advocates contend with many hurdles under these types of conditions.

Funding is not available to do the necessary work involved. In supporting women who are or have suffered domestic violence, the need for many levels of support is needed. Women who are currently in an abusive relationship are most likely stripped of many basic needs and resources. For instance, abused women may not have access to finances, a car or other transportation, food supply, proper clothing and medical care. In order for domestic violence advocates to provide for these needs, they must have the proper financial backing. With financial resources, food pantries could be created, medical care could be made available, shelters could be built and transportation could be provided to important locations such as homes of supportive family, friends, and religious institutions.

For women who decide to leave abusive relationships, services such as transitional living could be made available. Providing a safe living environment would be paramount for Asian women, particularly due to the lack of support received by family members, immediate family included. If a woman were to leave her husband to seek out the support of immediate family, the victim would be turned away in most cases and encouraged to return to the abuser’s home. This suggestion is based on the family’s unwillingness to dishonour the family name by having daughter who left her husband. Further, they do not want to offend the groom’s family by displaying their disapproval toward the abuse. Women who decide to leave their partner also require additional support services such as referrals for educational and vocational services. If they have children, they may need childcare services so that the women can seek employment to support themselves and their children.

Education related to cultural views about abuse is also necessary. It’s important to debunk societal norms that accept abuse. For an Asian woman, leaving her spouse is directly contradictory to everything she learned about achievement of life goals since she was a child. From childhood, many Asian parents clearly define their daughters’ role in society as children, as adolescents, and ultimately, as adults. The ultimate goal is to marry into a distinguished, successful family that is willing to accept a deserving woman into their lives. Being trained in this way for essentially all of their lives, it is often complicated task for an abused woman to understand why she is worthy of making her own choices and living her life in the way she chooses, which includes being free of any level of abuse.

As stated earlier in the Method section, it was mentioned that there was not ample research in the area of domestic violence in the Asian community. This is not to say that there is not enough to support those who would like to know more about domestic violence. However, there seems to be a great need for extensive research and investigation into the many cultures within the Asian population and the effects of domestic violence in these communities. By further understanding the nature of abuse in this context, service providers are able to more effectively provide the type of services needed by Asian women.


Domestic violence research in the Asian population is still in its infancy. Considering that fact that domestic violence has not been intended to for so long provides a time frame that suggests that although there is not an abundance of work toward attending to Asian victims, there have been some concrete efforts in its progression.

Delving into the intricacies of domestic violence within this population is no easy task, and will not be going forward. There are many hindrances to gaining swift and accurate information about Asian women’s suffering, although it is urgently needed. One of the biggest hurdles that have been discussed within this research is Asians ‘cultural views regarding secrecy of family troubles. A woman is not only betraying her husband if she discloses abuse, but she is also shaming both her in-laws and her family of origin by disturbing the family structure and name. Although some parents would provide their support in a situation such as this, most would not. Therefore, the victim knows she has nowhere to go.

Not only is family name at stake. Compounding this pressure is the fact that women are not highly regarded within most Asian cultures. Therefore, no one considers her desires and needs. Instead, she must does she is commanded, which usually involves fulfilling caretaking responsibilities for other members of the family. A woman in Asian society is considered similarly as a child. She does not have many skills that would be useful other than household responsibilities, she must be watched, and she is not knowledgeable about many subjects. Based on this outlook, how is it possible to fathom that she may need to be attended to properly? For any social change to occur towards the treatment of Asian women, it is a necessity that views of women themselves also change.

In speaking of women who suffer from spousal abuse, it is vital to discuss the effects of abuse of others in the home that are also experiencing the abuse. Children are particularly susceptible to inaccurate methods of dealing with life circumstances due to inexperience. Therefore, those who are also experiencing abuse or even witnessing it learn that violence is the answer to life’s obstacles. Further, children of abused women do not have high regard for their mothers due to their observation that she is being mistreated by their father. Thus, they too learn to become abusive toward their mothers, and in turn continue to repeat the cycle of abuse. In essence, they inherit this devastating method of dealing with life throughout childhood and on into adulthood. Children who were once victims and/or witnesses of domestic abuse now become the perpetrators, simply due tithe lack of knowledge that alternatives exist.

Intervention is absolutely necessary to protect abused women. However, for long-term gain, intervention is also essential. Without an outlook toward the future, there will be no end to violence, but instead only bandaging of pain and suffering that has already occurred. There is no guarantee that prevention work will decrease the prevalence of domestic violence in Asian families, particularly due to strong views opposing the idea of regarding women equally. However, there is great possibility that given time, views will change and progress will be made.

It is a difficult yet courageous and commendable feat to attempt to eradicate abuse from the lives of Asian women. However, as seen within this research, the reality currently remains that leaving relationship may not appear to be the most appealing option for women who have received life-long training to dedicate their lives to servitude to their spouses. Additionally, they also know that there are few positive alternatives to leaving their spouse. They may be destitute with no support from their families of origin. They have no source of financial or emotional support.

They may risk ever seeing their children again. And most regrettably, they are endangering their lives by attempting to leave. Thousands of cases are reported in the United States and United Kingdom stating that women have lost their lives to spousal abuse. In these countries, most people agree that thesis a horrible tragedy and work toward changing the occurrence of such heinous crimes. Alternatively, Asian communities have very high tolerance and indeed acceptance of domestic violence to the extent that very few people openly show their disgust against it. In fact, it is encouraged and applauded. It is seen as being a well-deserved and appropriate punishment. Women can well expect being burned to death on account of their parents’ inability to pay off the groom’s family. Adwoman can be openly beaten without neither family nor strangers attempting to put an end to it. How then can it be stopped?

Ending an evil such as this without a sense of social responsibility is extremely difficult. Further, work with abusers is nearly impossible, knowing that this method of relating to partners has been cultivated and accepted in the minds of Asian men. Moreover, because the Asian community believes in resolving familial issues amongst each other, many abusers would not be receptive to counselling. Even in the case that an abuser agreed to seek counselling, other family members may not be supportive of this type of resolution, instead viewing it as disloyalty and abandonment of the family.

Due to the abundance of obstacles to ending violence in the Asian community, it becomes clear that abuse toward women within the Asian population will surely be maintained for now. However, it is also hopeful to state that progress will be made, based on the progress that has already been achieved. Although progress is very slow and despite the many fears that they are contending with, it is encouraging to know that women have begun speaking out against abuse.


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