Domestic Violence in Selected Southeast Asian Refugee/Migrant Communities: Issues of Historical Context and Culture

Mark C. Edberg, Development Services Group, Inc.

This paper reviews preliminary qualitative data on domestic violence among Southeast Asian groups in the Washington, DC metropolitan area (from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). The data come from a research study on substance abuse, HIV risk and domestic violence among these populations sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Of particular interest are the connections between refugee trauma, family dysfunction, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Some subgroups within the Washington, DC area Southeast Asian communities came to the U.S. from particularly difficult home country and migration situations - particularly those from Cambodia and some segments of the Vietnamese population (e.g., Amerasians), and as a result experience higher levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, family conflict, and economic stress. In addition, there are issues of social status loss, particularly for men who may have held higher status positions in their home country, and yet have had a more difficult time than women in finding adequate employment here in the U.S. Occurrences of domestic violence are compounded by a lack of services, gender roles, and by a traditional reluctance to come forward with problems that may disrupt the family or bring shame.

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Updated 05/20/2006