Perceptions of Male Privilege and the Physical, Psychological and Economic Abuse of Economically Disadvantaged Minority Women

Shahid Alvi, University of St. Thomas

Poor minority women's experiences of violence have received minimal scholarly attention. Further, few studies have attempted to study such experiences using broad definitions of victimization that include psychological and economic dimensions of abuse. This paper reports preliminary results of a 2001 study of poor minority women's experiences of psychological, physical and economic abuse in a public housing estate located in a Midwestern city. It also examins the idea that such experiences are conditioned by ethnic and cultural histories, particularly in terms of the connections between these histories and strong beliefs in the legitimacy of male privilege. The results suggest that poor minority women's experiences of victimization are both profound and multi-dimensional. However, there was virtually no variation in victimization rates between women of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and most of the victimized women manifested some level of belief in the legitimacy of men's "rights" to abuse. Implications for theory and further research are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006