INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH THE STUDY
The focus of this study is to discuss the impact of domestic violence on black ethnic minority women living in the UK. To discuss intervention support services available and limitations faced in accessing statutory and voluntary organisations services. The topic has been chosen following a successful volunteering placement within an area of domestic violence.
Volunteering at Coventry Haven as a domestic violence advocate/support worker meant being confronted daily by black ethnic minority Women living in the UK with “no recourse to public funds” needing support. The “no recourse to public funds” rule means that women with unsettled status cannot access public provision including refuges, and social welfare (Sen. 2007:13)
The organisation delivers services from a feminist perspective, taking a critical position of women in question and argues that issues of masculinity power are the ultimate root of intimate violence (Dobash and Dobash 1979).
This feminist theoretical framework also argues that violence must be located within gendered perspective of men’s and women’s lives (Letherby 2003:42).
The literature based study will adopt a feminist perspective and framework which understands domestic violence as a gendered occurrence to provide an analysis of current and relevant literature on the issues of domestic violence on black ethnic minority women in the UK.
This study will also discuss effects of domestic violence on health and well-being of the black ethnic minority women in UK. Moreover, it will explore the support services available to victims and discuss the limitations faced in accessing state services. Research will discuss the implication of findings for practice and will suggest a number of various recommendations towards current support services.
From my own personal perceptions as a woman brought up in Africa, now living in the UK. Many women continue to occupy a less important position in family organisations with many African men still possibly viewing domestic violence as the only way to solve family disputes. Women’s Aid (2007) argue that although there is no legal definition of domestic violence, recommendation from the Home Office states that: “Domestic violence includes any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (physically, psychological, sexual, financial or emotional between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members in spite of of gender or sexuality” (Women’s Aid, 2007).
Until most recently, the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim was defined as that of partners, ex-partners or intimate family members, but following critiques by black ethnic minority women organisation like the Women’s Aid, Southhall Black Sisters, the definition now includes all forms of abuse including cultural specific forms of violence like forced marriage, honour killing and dowry attacks (Women’s Aid, 2007).
To discuss the impact of domestic violence on black ethnic minority women in UK and explore the intervention support services existing, the limitations these women face in accessing state services.
- To provide an analysis of current/ relevant literature on issues of domestic violence on black ethnic minority women in UK.
- To discuss the effects of domestic violence on the health and well-being of black ethnic minority women in UK.
- To explore the impact of cultural influences when accessing domestic violence support services.
- To explore the domestic violence support services available from statutory, voluntary organisations and their limitation in accessing these services.
- To discuss the implication of the findings for practice and suggest some various recommendations towards current support services.
METHODOLOGY AND THEORATICAL APPROACH
This chapter will discuss the methodology and theoretical framework which the researcher has adopted for the rationale of the study and will provide the aims and objectives for the research. The feminist theory of domestic violence will be briefly discussed within the research to gain an idea as to why men (perpetrators) abuse their female partners.
The research is a literature based project adopting the feminist perspective methodology which argues that issues of gender and power are the ultimate root of intimate violence (Dobash and Dobash 1979). The feminist theoretical framework argues that violence must be situated within the gendered context of men’s and women’s lives (Letherby 2003).
Understanding domestic violence as a gendered occurrence leads to a focus on the problems of violent behaviour. As (Cheyne; O’Brian; and Belgrave, 2000) argue, “The main purpose of feminist theory in every discipline has been to introduce the issues of gender”. With regards to domestic violence Kersti Yllo (1993) comments that, the most primary feminists insight, is that, domestic violence cannot be sufficiently understood unless gender and power are taken into account.
A critical theory of the feminist hypothesis will be adopted because of its distinctive features that focus on oppression and commitment in order to use the research procedures and outcomes for empowering the oppressed; in this case the black ethnic minority women living in UK either on spousal visa, students or unknown status. However, the black ethnic minority women would appear to be marginalised under this classification.
From my own personal perspective as a black woman living in the UK, many black women continue to occupy a subordinate position, with many black men possibly viewing violence as the only way to solve family problems. Through-out the process of the study, the researcher will remain in a distance objective stand to remain free from biases that could hinder obtaining knowledge. Objectivity in social research is, the principle drawn from positivism that strives to ensure that the researcher remains objective and distanced from the study. In this way, findings depend on the nature of what was studied somewhat than the personal beliefs and values or the researcher (Rubin and Babbie 2001).
The study will draw together and re-analyse qualitative literature to discuss the impact of domestic violence on black ethnic minority women living in the UK on, either, spousal visas, student visas or under an unknown status. Research will explore the impact of cultural influences on manly and woman relationships within the black ethnic minority families, impact of domestic violence on the women’s health and well-being. Furthermore the study will look at limitations black ethnic minority women come across when assessing statutory and voluntary organisations services for domestic violence support/services.
A literature search is defined as methodical and thorough search of all types of published literature in order to identify as many items as possible that are related to a particular topic (Gash 2000:1) As Creswell (2003) points out, the literature review shares with the readers the results of previous studies and also benchmarks results of a study with other results. Primarily literature reviews are based on a synthesis of primary findings done by other researchers. It also helps in generating a picture of what is known or not known about a particular happening (Creswell, 2003; Groove, 1993).
Another reason for doing a literature based study is the time factor considering the process needed to undertake primary data collection. The use of literature review can be viewed as less expensive compared to primary data collection in financial terms. The researcher also agrees with Stewart (1993) who argues that in case of tough budget and time constraints the use of secondary data is also good enough and can make available quality data.
Like any other method of secondary research, literature review has its strengths and weakness. The strengths for literature based study is that the researcher rarely affects the subject being studied because books have already been written, case records already recorded therefore, analysing the literature can have no effect on them. Literature based research also permits the researcher to study processes that occur over long periods of time. Literature based studies also have some limitations depending on the data that already exists. Each time the researcher bases a research on an analysis of data that already exist, is clearly limited to what exists.
Due to sensitivity of issues of domestic violence primary research methods of collecting data might not have been the most appropriate for this research. It is very difficult to gain access to women in refuge in practical terms because refuge locations are kept secret for the safety of the victims. Victims may not wish to discuss their past experiences fearing to trigger some emotions. Some women in refuge have been hostile in the past towards academic researchers using residents (Hoff: 1999.)
The literature search focuses on sources that would meet the identified aims and objectives. Exploration terms were predefined to retain focus on domestic violence and abuse on black ethnic minority women.
Intended for the purpose of this research the term “Black” is used exclusively for women born in Africa, living in UK on either, a spousal visa, student visa or unknown status. One of the limitations will be in recognising unrecorded cases of domestic violence. Fearing stigmatisation and shame by many black women, many incidents of domestic violence go unreported within the black communities therefore; literature review may not be a true account of all the black women surviving domestic violence and abuse.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
French et al (2001) suggest that literature review goes through three fundamental steps. This includes the search for relevant literature, analysis and critical evaluation of individual sources of literature and finally synthesis which involves comparing, contrasting, organising and finally presenting the written review. (French et al 2001)
For the purpose of this study, literature information will be sourced from either, books or journals, grey (unpublished) literature, official publications including charitable organisations. Most sources will be obtained from the library catalogue systems and electronic database using some key words.
Domestic violence, black ethnic minority women, abuse, perpetrators, spouse and battered women
Since initial literature search does always yield many articles, practical screening criteria will be used to screen literature in order to get articles that are relevant to the subject only. The practical screening criteria will include factors such as the language in which the articles are printed.
To arrive at relevant literature, database for Coventry University, Social Welfare and Community Studies was used. To search for literature the Coventry university catalogue searches of electronic database using tools like, Cinahl, Assia. Medical Science Academic Search, Ebsco, Science direct and the internet has been used.
The literature search used a set of inclusion and exclusion criteria, ensuring that time was not consumed on literature that was immaterial to the study.
|Black ethnic minority women in heterosexual relationships only.||Black ethnic minority women who were born in UK and anyone holding a UK citizenship.|
|Black ethnic minority women living in UK only. The reason is mainly to focus and target this group of women living in UK on spousal visa, student visa and unknown status only.||Any articles in foreign languages will be excluded. The rationale for the exclusion of articles in foreign language is that, it would be costly in terms of finance having to pay translators.|
|Literature review that is more than fifteen years will be included in the research for historical background purposes.|
LITERATURE ON ISSUES OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
This chapter will discuss the literature review on issues of domestic violence, focusing primarily on black ethnic minority women living in the UK. To be able to understand the issues of domestic violence, it is vital to recognise that violence against women is an international reality which has been acknowledged as a major public health issue (Shipway 2004). The acknowledgement of domestic violence internationally as a major public health has seen an improvement in numbers of localities dealing with domestic violence, but there remain some areas where little if anything is done to support women abused by intimate partners (Shipway 2004). Problems have risen where women from the ethnic minority have been lumped into one category and not considering their different cultural and religious differences.
With no intensions of making excuses, it has been noted that obtaining data on black ethnic minority women (BEM) housing needs is difficult. (Netto et al., 2001) report that there was national evidence that people from the black ethnic minority with including refugees find it very difficult to access services.
Whilst domestic violence affects women from all ethnic groups, women from black ethnic minority communities may face isolation more that women from the majority.
There are claims that women from the black ethnic minority communities may have to overcome religious and cultural pressure resulting in them being afraid of bringing shame onto their family respect or in some cases normalising and accepting domestic violence (Women’s Aid 2010).
According to (Binney et al, and Women’s Aid Federation, 1988), the average length of time a woman endures violence before leaving an abusive relationship is seven years. Also research has shown that a woman is beaten and average of 35 times before she seeks helps.
Amina Mama (1989) highlighted that the additional implications of race, ethnicity in conditioning the experience of domestic violence. In addition Amina Mama (1989) argues that fear of racism responses could act as barriers preventing black ethnic minority women from accessing services or speak out about the domestic violence they experience.
(Chantler et al (2006) mentioned that stereotyping and stigmatisation as barriers that prevent women from the black ethnic minority communities from seeking help. The position of black ethnic minority women escaping domestic violence is exacerbated by barriers to reporting abuse which also include protecting family honour and normalising and accepting violence. Netto et al (2001) indicated the lack of specialist refuge spaces and immigration legislation as a barrier that denies black ethnic minority women with insecure status to access domestic violence services.
Immigration issues posed a significant barrier for eight of twenty three survivors (Home Office 2008). As indicated by the Home Office, a woman who has entered Britain as a spouse of a British citizen does not have recourse to any public funds should the marriage breaks up within one year.
Exclusion in this way will stem, in part, from the fact that these women are categorises due to their unsettled immigration status which as a result becomes a barrier to accessing statutory services.
Whilst women from the black ethnic communities are faced with the same obstacles in leaving violent relationships as white majority (Burman and Chantler 2009), confirms that; money, childcare, housing, transport may carry cultural specific inflections, exacerbated by racism and class position. According to (Burman and Chantler, 2009), such representations, in most cases have material consequences in terms of policy and development (Burman and Chantler, 2009).
(Gilroy and Woods, 1994:101) states that black ethnic minority women face structured and subjective racism and sexism which determine their access to, as well as their choices in the basic right of adequate roof over their heads.
Roehampton University (2008) revealed that the housing needs of the black ethnic minority were overwhelming and a number of respondents admitted to the need for improved consultation with black ethnic minority’s sector (Banga and Gill, 2008:2). One woman stated that black women lack a voice, their needs are not accounted for and that it has not been about services to suit women and children’s needs but about women and children having to fit into services (Banga and Gill, 2008: 2).
The NSPCC domestic violence campaign briefing (2008) indicates, two thirds of local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales offers a specialised service to women who are victims of domestic violence; one in ten (46 out of 434 has a specialised black ethnic minority services for abused women. These are mainly in England (95 per cent) and almost half are in London. Such statistics indicate a gap in knowledge about the extent and geographical coverage for black ethnic minority and how domestic violence affects such communities.
On the other hand the success and accomplishment by the Southall black sisters (2008) confirms how the system can be achieved to challenge insufficiencies in local government response after winning a court case against Ealing Council (Southall Black Sisters, 2008).
The council was found guilty of failing to pay proper regard to equalities legislation, in particular the Race Relations Act when making its decisions to cut the entire funding of Southhall Black Sisters (SBS) who provided services for black women (Southall Black Sisters, 2008).
Rai and Thiara (1997) identified several obstacles to accessing the emotional, informational and instrumental support for women from specialist services. According to critics of “on-size-fits-all” approach, women have negative views of current policies of domestic violence especially those of local authority (Southhall Black Sisters, 2008). This “one-size-fits-all” highlights an institutional culture that fails to recognise the need for domestic violence action and policy.
The end the violence against woman campaign (2007) reports that the government departments failed to put in place a framework that ensures that domestic violence was addressed effectively. In addition Mason (1992) estimated that between 25 percent and 50 percent of homeless families headed by a woman had become homeless as a result of fleeing domestic violence. Vincent and Jouriles (1988). Bearing in mind such a high estimation by Mason (1992), it is important to note that in some cases battered women are confronted with homelessness and harsh economic hardships when they separate from violent partners.
(Williams and Becker 1994), concluded that, of the one hundred and forty two programs surveyed, less than have made special effort to accommodate the needs of black ethnic minority populations, for example providing outreach services, adding or tailoring intervention to encourage involvement by women from the ethnic marginal groups (Williams and Becker 1994).
In addition, statistics issued by Women’s Aid Federation of England made known that one in four women do experience violence in the home at least once during their life time (Women’s Aid Federation of England, 2002). Also according to the Home office, “two women weekly are killed by intimate partners” (Home Office 2002).
Numerous researchers and practitioners in the past studies on domestic violence within black ethnic minority communities have preferred to lump all women from the black ethnic minority in one group. (Fonte, 1988) points out that in much of previous researches; little attention has been paid to similarities and differences among different groups within the broad race/ethnic category (Fonte, 1998). For purposes of racial/ethnic comparisons, diverse ethnic groups have often been shrunken into heterogeneous categories for example “black” though ignoring the diversity within that larger group.
The process whereby individuals with diverse cultural backgrounds are sorted into broad race/ethnic categories by researchers is “ethnic lumping” (Fonte, 1993). In most cases when research is circumscribed ethnic group the findings are sometimes over generalised to all members of the larger group. Issues of within-group diversity have been rarely been addressed.
Moreover, experiences and values within these groups have been influenced not just by immigration histories, cultural heritages but also by historical facts. Researchers need to be aware and knowledgeable of how ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, language and socioeconomic status are crucial when collecting domestic violence data from women within diverse groups if their diverse needs are to be met effectively.
A more careful assessment of the potential role of race/ethnicity in domestic violence, rather than ethnic lumping and overgeneralization is essential if adequate interventions are to be developed and utilised at the same time removing the barriers faced by women from the black ethnic communities in accessing statutory and voluntary organisations.
HEALTH AND WELL- BEING
This chapter will focus on the impact of domestic violence on the health and well- being on the lives of black ethnic minority women living in the UK as they face the barriers to accessing some statutory services. In seeking to understand the ways in which domestic violence and abuse undermines any woman’s life, health and well-being and the determination to survive it can be helpful for researchers to consider “Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs (1987).
Figure 1.1 Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs (1987).
In 1987 Maslow argued that the social and economic disadvantage people face, hold them back from meeting their needs. Memories of past events damage or block people’s capacity to act. (Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (1987).
Abrahams (2010), affirms that abused women agree with Maslow by claiming, domestic violence/abuse demolishes the structure of their hierarchy needs with the loss of their personal identify, destruction of confidence and self -esteem, isolation from potential systems and fear of uncertainty (Abrahams, 2010).
Apart from women’s Maslow’s hierarchy of needs not being met and the physical aftermath of domestic violence, there are some serious consequences on the victim. The World Health Organisations (2001) lists depression, anxiety, psychosomatic symptom, eating disorders, sexual-dysfunction as being a direct result of the endurance of domestic violence and abuse. (World Health Organisations, 2001)
Below are pictures showing the aftermath of physical domestic violence on women.
Fig: 1:2 Women’s Aid, 2007.
The impact of domestic violence on mental health has been well documented and includes low self-esteem, anxiety and depression (Kirkwood, 1993, Mooney 1994 and Thiara 2003a). Research suggests that 50 percent of women users of mental health services have experienced domestic violence (Department of Health, 2003), compared to one-third of women in general population in the UK (Mooney, 1994).
Women from the black ethnic minority accessing mental health services remain over-represented within such researches. Given that the General Practitioner is the first port of call for women who face domestic violence (Dobash et al., 1985: 148), is considerable that seven women who were not in social housing were not registered with a General Practitioner (GP) in part because they were not able to afford paying for the medication that may be prescribed for them.
Campel (2000) confirms depression and post traumatic stress disorder as the most prevalent mental-health problems of intimate partner violence. A study by (Mclnnes, 2003) reveals that it is not only while enduring domestic violence that women feel the impact of negative stereotyping associated with domestic violence. (Mclnnes, 2003) also describes the stereotypes as a form of social violence inflicted upon women. Women continue to live with the feeling of rejection and stigma from the general public even after leaving the perpetrator.
A research by Mitchel and Hodson (1983) found out that sheltered women had a mean depression score two standard deviation above the norm. In addition to a number of studies focusing on battered women who sought medical service and presenting with high rate of psychological difficulties.
(Browne 1993; Holtsworth-Munroe et al. 2000) have also provided general discussions of the mental health correlates and consequences of husband violence. Other researchers have also documented depression in large percentages of battered women in shelters or those receiving non-residential services for battered women (Cascardi and O’leary 1992).
Results of studies on battered women showed that depressed mood, sleep problems, loss of energy, inappropriate guilt, problems with concentration and feelings of worthlessness were associated symptoms of depression (Andrews and Brown 1988). (American Psychiatric Association 1994) also reported that low self-esteem which is closely related and often occurs with depression is generally referred to as an overall negative evaluation of self within battered women.
In additions, Brown (1993) also observed that posttraumatic stress disorder may be the most appropriate diagnosis for many battered women with several researchers finding higher levels of posttraumatic stress symptoms in women receiving services from domestic violence shelters compared to other groups of women. Kemp et al. (1995) found out that 81 percent of battered women and 63 percent of women who were verbally abused met criteria for a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Although it is unclear as to whether problems with substance mis-use arise before or after domestic violence, (Jaffe et al. 1986; Dawns and Gondoli 1989) argued that this issue warrants attention for the benefit of abused women. (Bergman and Brismar 1991) confirms that 23 percent of battered women who received emergency medical attention services had a history of alcoholism whereas no women in a non-abused comparisons group did (Bergman and Brismar 1991).
This chapter will discuss the cultural barriers within the black ethnic minority families to seeking statutory and voluntary organisations domestic violence support services. One of the most vital needs of women leaving home due to domestic violence is access to safe, secure stable housing. Although the refuge movement provides a network of refuges to women of all backgrounds, accommodation is available on an emergency and temporary basis only (Hague and Malos 1998:101).
(Lee et al., 2002) suggest that the most influential factor on how a woman responds to domestic violence is social and cultural context of her life. Even with the provision of refuges, a research by the (Southall Black Sisters, 2008) found out that black ethnic minority women and children endure violence for between three and forty years before seeing help.
United Nations (UNCRC Article 6 , reports women from the black ethnic minority communities take an average of ten years before leaving a violent relationship. As a result children grow up in unsafe and unhealthy home environment (United Nations 2008).
(Adams 1999) points out “In considering domestic violence within black ethnic minority families, there has been reluctance to acknowledge its existence”. In addition Mama (1989) remarks that violence against women is historical bound up in patriarchal practices which are based on gender relationships more so in the black ethnic minority households. (Women’s National Commission, 2003; Gill 2004) states that women are taught that the public image of family is more important than the safety of the individual.
Honour and respectability are dependent on a successful marriage. Also women fear dishonour and rejection from their communities if their marriage should fail. Just like the Asian women, black ethnic minority women consider seeking help from the outsiders as the last resort (Yoshioka et al. 2003). Black ethnic minority women are advised to stay in their marriage rather than leave abusive relationships (Gill 2004).
(Adams 1999) argues that there are greater obstacles for women coming to the UK on spousal visas, women complaining of domestic violence risk deportation should they leave the martial home before the first year of arrival or marriage. (Adams 1999).
(Abraham, 2000) indicates that isolation is an important factor in domestic violence particularly among immigrant families (Abraham 2000). For women with no-recourse to public funding (NRPF), this isolation continued after they left abusive relationships. Thirteen out of twenty women had no contact with family or friends in the two weeks prior to the interview due to a range of reasons including; lack of informal sources of support in the UK. Fear of being disowned by family for leaving the marriage and fear of being traced, including lack of sufficient funds to visit friends or speak to families in the subcontinent.
A research by the NHS (2003) suggests that sense of shame and fear of stigma within black ethnic minority communities might prevent women with complex social problems accessing services, the sense of shame in accessing drug services remain a concern. In addition problems of confidentiality within the community also lead to lack of confidence in services (Fawcett 2004). (Women’s Aid 1997), commissioned a study exploring the needs of black ethnic minority women.
The study illustrates that large numbers of from these communities are not aware of specialist support services. Lack of such information by the black ethnic minority women leads them to endure violence for longer periods.
(Women’s Aid 1997) also reveals, negative perception about refuges and inadequate help from agencies further heighten anxieties about refuges within such communities. Black ethnic minority communities, encompasses a multitude of ethnicities, nationalities, cultures and religions. As a result of this black ethnic women consist of various diverse needs, concerns and life-styles. (Dhillo-Kashyan and Woods 1994) highlights the difficulties for such women to retain their cultural and religious customs during their stay in refuges. He adds that it is apparent that there were difficulties in supporting women with specific needs with shared accommodation provided by refuges as communal living.
(Mama 1989; Adams 1988) noted that, there are greater difficulties for black ethnic minority women in accessing refuge support than white women. Furthermore, whilst other groups stated in the research that they would accommodate this group of women, there seemed little understanding of their cultural and specific needs.
Adams (1998) noted that black ethnic minority women feel far less secure in their own ability to leave home, particularly as they are considered subordinate within their own culture. In addition many women from the black ethnic minority communities stay with their abuser for economic reasons.
A Study by Humphrey and Thiara (2003), notes that women from the black ethnic minority community were significantly more likely to continue to suffer substantial problems both emotional and materially more than six months after separation from the abuser. (Humphrey and Thiara, 2003).
(Thiara, 2005) states that not being fluent in English acts as a barrier preventing black ethnic minority women from seeking help and accessing services. Such women are unable to access written information on domestic violence (Thiara, 2005).
REFUGES, CARE AND SUPPORT
Despite the Feminist organisations campaign and attainment in 1977, of acceptance of domestic violence as a basis for homelessness in housing legislation (Morley et al, 2002), women’s “general” refuges which opened in the 1970’s to aid women and children fleeing domestic violence, enabling women to re-build their live and move on to stable, suitable accommodation confirmed that not all women’s care support needs were being met and not all women had equal access to the “generic” provision (Banga, B., Gill, A. 2008).
Regardless of all campaigning, researches and large number of studies in domestic violence field, (Hague and Malos 1998; Dobash and Dobash 1992), changes in British social policy and housing policy in particular have in some respects, further secluded women and children experiencing domestic violence.
Research documents that in the face of state policy and local authority practice women’s refuges which maintain themselves on the rentals paid through benefit system for residence can seldom afford to accommodate women with no-recourse to public funding (NRPF). As a consequence, women with no recourse to public funds who repeatedly attempt to leave on many occasions only to return to their violent relationships (Dobash and Dobash, 1992; Mullender, 1996).
(Crisis, 2006) confirms, women’s homelessness continued to be ignored by strategic thinking and policy making even though many women are still staying in hidden, informal and marginalised homeless accommodation.
In a mapping exercise that included 551 woman’ organisations in London found that 73% of black ethnic minority organisation faced a funding crisis between year 2000 and 62% of black ethnic minority organisation had closed or moved locations (Soteri, 2002). Such data showed that by year 2000 black ethnic minority organisations were under threat and had less secure continuation (Soteri, 2002).
A study on women in refuge accommodation in 2007 found that on average black ethnic minority women who happen to be accommodated in refuge stayed forty-four days in specialist refuges than women who accessed the main stream (Gill, A.; Banga, B. 2008). Furthermore twenty one refuges turned away 2,300 women who attempted to access specialist refuges because they were full. As a result this rejection figure was mush higher for black ethnic minority women. A research by (Women’s Resource Centre, 2007) showed that only 25% (percent) of women who stayed in refugees went to council housing upon leaving the refuge.
A study conducted by Women Resource Centre (2008), on the state of London-based black ethnic minority women’s organisations, including the findings from the thirty-second report of the working group with the voluntary sector (2000) found that London-based black ethnic minority organisation had experienced long term volatility and 36 per cent have no paid staff at all.
Even if the demand for services had increased and workloads have tripled, evidence showed that there was little support in terms of secure and core funding (Women Resource Centre, 2007).
Women’s Resource Centre (2007) research on the state of funding for women found that the lack of suitable housing to move on to meant that, women stayed in refuges for longer periods of time. This resulted in women being isolated for longer periods. Also this lack of housing also influenced whether or not women return to their abusers.
In is research for Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Chahal (2000) suggests that black ethnic minority groups who are social housing tenants have a tendency to live in the most deprived areas and are over-represented in disadvantaged inner city areas. According to (Chahal, 2000) roughly 60 per cent of tenants within the housing association accommodation come from the black ethnic minority communities. (Coy et al. 2007) states that a third of local authorities in the UK have no specialised support services and fewer than one in ten have specialist services for black ethnic minority women.
While the UK government acknowledges that there are many commonalities in the experience of women escaping domestic violence, there appear to be little policy development that relates to specific concerns and needs of black ethnic minority women. Presents of racism in the mainstream refuges has been the subject of a number of researches over the past few years. This was highlighted in the recent research study (Chantler, 2006) which found, racism to be operating at three levels starting with the service users, workers and at state level through immigration policies that stop women from accessing services.
SUPPORTING WOMEN WITH ‘NO RECOURSE’ TO PUBLIC FUNDS
The provision of accommodation and support is vital for women who experience domestic violence, a fact recognised by the government in 2003 (Rights for women, 2003). Women from the black ethnic minority communities with a “no recourse” visa who experience domestic violence find themselves in a complex situation because they cannot access public funds. Neither to leave their partner and are fundamentally trapped in the violent relationship.
The ‘no recourse’ to public funds rule as defined by the Home Office (2009) prevents women, especially from the black ethnic minority community on spousal visa or subject to immigration control from accessing certain public funds including welfare benefits such as, income support, child benefit as well as housing and homelessness assistance (Women’s Aid 2007).
A survey of 11 London refuges found that in the period 2006/07, 223 women with “no recourse” to public funds requested refuge space. However, only 19 (8.5%) women were accepted for support. This meant that just 3% of the total of 585 women who were provided with refuge space providers in 2006/07, of the 19 women accommodated 16 had children (Islington, 2008), no re-course to public funds.
The Immigration law (underpinned by various immigrations Acts) is set out in the Immigration Rules, Part 8 of the Immigration Rules state that a woman who joins a partner who has a settled immigration status can be given a 2 years “spousal” visa on the condition that the partner agrees to provide for their financial and material needs (Home Office 2010).
When relationship breaks down, victims are often deterred from looking for help, or leaving violent relationships because they have nowhere to go, do not feel safe in their own homes and also do not have legal rights to remain (Rights of women 2003). Research by the (Southall Black Sisters, 2007) found out that it takes up to 24 months for a woman’s application for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) to be determined when she leaves an abusive partner.
(Brittain et al, 2005) states that for many women from black ethnic minority, the nonexistence of interpreters makes accessing services very complex. Bearing in mind the existing political climate of hostility towards immigrants, the cutback to interpretation as well as English language classes makes it likely that these barriers become entrenched, unless there is a change in policy and practice regarding interpretation and English classes. When experiencing domestic violence women who have ‘no recourse’ to public funds need be given the ability to access the services as they need to escape domestic violence and protect themselves and their children.
BLACK ETHNIC MINORITY WOMEN AND LAW
A research entitled until women and children are safe, (Women’s Aid, 2007) argue that women from the black ethnic communities face a number of problems within the legal process. In most instances gaining access to legal representatives is often stressful and confusing.
Lack of specialist services or interpreters mean that such women are deprived of effective access to law and those women whose immigration status made them not entitled for help with legal aid experience particular difficulties (Women’s Aid, 2007).
During the same time Women’s Aid research highlighted the process of going to court as itself traumatic and terrifying for women due to lack of separate waiting areas, so that applicants and their abusers often had to share the same small space (Barron, 1990).
(Women’s Aid, 2007) states that, courts like many other agencies have often failed to understand the whole range of emotional, psychological and practical reasons why many women stay with or return to a violent partner. As a result this does often have effect on women for not being taken seriously hence making them unwilling to come to courts.
(Bryan, Dardzie and Scafe, 1985) argue that the issue of law enforcement within black communities is extremely controversial. Negative stereotyping of black people individually and within family groups is pervasive.
In conclusion, the examination of literature revealed rather little published material on the issue of black women generally and even less on the subject of violence within the home. This contrasted with the wide body of work on white women suffering abuse from partners (Hammer and Maynard, 1987; Dobash and Dobash 1980).
The stereo-type that surrounds domestic violence often denies the legitimisation of black ethnic minority women as victims (Bograd, 1999). Often domestic violence against black ethnic minority women is not considered as serious as the violence committed against white victims (Harrison and Esquada, 2000). This often creates a barrier in black women’s willingness and ability to disclose issues of domestic violence to any professional or care providers. Any discriminatory practices limit such women’s comfort level in disclosing domestic violence and seeking out services to address it.
As mentioned earlier in the study, many researchers and practitioners in past studies on domestic violence within black ethnic minority communities have chosen to lump all women from this community in one category.
(Fonte, 1988) argued that in much previous researches, little attention has been paid to similarities and differences among various groups within the broad race, ethnic category.
“Ethnic lumping” as argued by (Fonte, 1993), ignores the diversity within the larger group of black ethnic minority women. Black ethnic minority women umbrella encompasses a multitude of ethnicities, nationalities, cultures and religions. As a result the black ethnic minority consists of various diverse communities, each with their own needs, concerns and life styles and cultures that have to be taken into consideration offering support.
Although it is clear that statutory and voluntary agencies have a moral and legal duty to respond effectively to the needs of women surviving domestic violence, practitioners need to become aware of limitations of a race-blind service delivery. (Dominelli, 1988; Mama 1989a) also argue that attention needs to be paid more generally on the effects of policing practice and immigration legislation on lives of black women.
Voluntary organisations such as Coventry Haven and many others play a key role in providing advocacy and other support services to domestic violence survivors yet these services appear to have been historically underfunded and struggle to meet the need of women who attempt to access them. In the face of state policy and local authority practice study revealed that women’s refuges like Coventry Haven which maintain themselves on the rentals paid through benefit system for women residence can rarely afford to accommodate women with ‘no recourse’ to public funding (NRPF).
Women’s Aid, (2009) research on domestic violence and housing policy found out that there is a reduction in resources available to organisations working with black ethnic minority women and such organisations have experienced long term stability with 36 per cent having no paid staff at all.
As a result funding remains one of the barriers for women accessing services. This study also found out that a lack of speciality shelters/refuge spaces and an absence of clear guidelines for involving specialist agencies in policy services development and evaluation meant that there is often low recognition of domestic violence with housing policy (Women’s Aid, 2009).
Finally, it is essential for all statutory and voluntary organisations recognise the need to evaluate their methods of delivering services and ensure that gaps are identified and filled as appropriate if the needs of black women surviving domestic violence are to be met from a different cultural perspective. Outreach services are very crucial for raising awareness about services and providing information to women from the black ethnic minority communities about the services. However the few services that are available have no regular source of funding as mentioned earlier in the study. As a result, many voluntary organisations working with survivors of domestic violence from the black ethnic minority communities will have no alternative but to shut down, leaving such women exposed to further violence from intimate partners.
IMPLICATIONS TO SOCIAL WELFARE PRACTICE
Responses to domestic violence should be culturally sensitive and suitable therefore more training for front line staff/practitioners should be vital to make them aware of the cultural differences when responding to domestic violence. Too often “black” is lumped with white women and as a result, black women are invisible whose existence and needs are ignored (Dominelli, 2002:30). As a result of such practices of lumping black women with white women, black feminists have criticised the white radical feminists for not considering the experiences and perspectives of black women when dealing with domestic violence.
The complexities of race and gender can aggravate problems for practitioners and serve to cover the realities of women’s experience in the family (Lupton; Gallespie, 1994:106). In offering assistance to people of different race and social class, it is essential for practitioners to understand their viewpoints especially their culture and values about family life (Lupton; Gallespie, 1994:106).
During my practice as a domestic violence advocate/support worker for Coventry Haven, I noted that the organisation experienced some difficulties in supporting women from the black ethnic minority communities.
The reason being that, this group encompasses a multitude of ethnicities, nationalities, cultures and religions. As a result of such multitudes and lack of awareness and knowledge of different cultures by the front line practitioners meant that not all women’s needs were being met.
In every effort to meet black ethnic minority women’s needs, the services available fail to meet the complex needs of this population (Martinson 2001; Bograd 1999). In order to achieve this, (Borgrad, 1999) suggests that developing theories that move beyond simple description of domestic violence, but take into account intersections of race and class will be necessary in order to provide access to appropriate services for black ethnic minority women.
All practitioners within the statutory and voluntary sector need to recognise the practice dilemmas. Insufficient cultural knowledge may result in inabilities to distinguish between understandings, and respecting other cultures and holding stereotypical notions about other cultures which I found problematic for many volunteers during my practice as a domestic violence advocate/support worker.
- Researches on domestic violence within ethnic groups need to pay attention on the differences among various groups as “ethnic lumping” ignores the diversity within the larger group of black ethnic minority women.
- Theories need to move beyond simple description of domestic violence and take into account intersection of race and class in order to provide access to appropriate services for black women.
- The Government needs to extend the domestic violence rule to include all abused women including women with ‘no recourse’ or insecure immigration status and introduce protection for this group of women whose marital relationships would have broken down.
- Responses to domestic violence should be culturally sensitive and appropriate therefore, providing culturally appropriate information and support may assist all women regardless of their race/ethnicity to disclose domestic violence.
- Mainstream services to augment their identification of domestic violence and signposting to specialist agencies for specialist services.
- There is need for improved awareness and training for practitioners on culturally sensitive responses to black women’s domestic violence.
- There is need to review some of the diversity policies and procedures in generic refuges.
- More funding for more specialist domestic violence services working with women and children from the black ethnic minority communities.
- More volunteers and interpreters from different cultural and language backgrounds are needed to ensure the language barrier is overcome.
- The development of interpreting and translation services should be a prioritised, not only can they make life easier for people whose first language is not English, but they would also offer agencies same as Coventry Haven a more effective way of working through some complicated cases of violence.Practitioners from both statutory and voluntary organisations need to ensure that the needs of women from the black ethnic minority communities are addressed within the context of their being seen as whole human beings in which each area of their life interacts with others, looking at collective solutions to individual problems.