How Culture Impacts Domestic Violence

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, anywhere. However, in a county as culturally diverse as the United States, many factors contribute to domestic abuse. Some communities have higher rates of domestic violence. Others respond to abuse differently, failing to seek out help when necessary. We’re exploring how culture impacts domestic violence and how we can overcome cultural obstacles to get help for survivors.

How Culture Impacts Domestic Violence

Domestic violence isn’t unique to any one culture or community. However, even though it occurs in all communities, victims don’t always recognize or report the abuse in the same ways.

For instance, victims in lower socioeconomic groups may feel they have no other choice but to stay with an abuser because of financial strain. Many victims from low-income households are not financially independent, making them feel trapped in an abusive environment.

Some ethnic groups experience abuse at much higher levels. African American women are three times more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner than women from other racial groups. One-third of all African American women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetimes. Native American communities suffer exceptionally high levels of violence due in part to deep-held cultural beliefs. And while Hispanic women experience similar domestic violence rates as other groups, they may face unique barriers in getting help.

Of course, many other factors can complicate abuse recognition and reporting, including religious beliefs, deep-held gender roles, education levels, and even geographic location.

Understanding the Role Culture Plays in Reporting

Culture can play a significant role in why people abuse. But more importantly, marginalized communities often underreport domestic violence. That is, while these communities might not have higher rates of abuse, they have a dramatically lower rate of reporting, meaning fewer victims get the help they need.

For instance, members of the LGBTQ+ community experience domestic violence at about the same rate as the general population. However, victims of abuse within this community often fail to report the violence because they fear isolation or unequal treatment from service providers.

Victims in rural communities lack access to services. Women and children from immigrant communities don’t report because of potential immigration consequences. And low-income victims from all ethnic backgrounds avoid reporting domestic violence because they are not financially independent.

How to Safely Report Domestic Abuse

Many issues shape how culture impacts domestic violence. It’s essential to understand how each community experiences and responds to domestic abuse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, know that you are not alone. No matter your current situation, there is help available. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or our nonprofit partner, Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) of Dane County.

For more information about safe reporting, click here.


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