Culturally-Specific Community & Systems Engagement

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Understanding the Cultures We Live In

Culture is too hastily understood as ethnic culture, but in fact we all inhabit multiple cultures simultaneously and need to understand which ones we are operating in to be effective.

1. Culture of domestic violence and gender inequality

  • The presence of domestic violence tells us about the presence of inequality in a relationship; the extent of the violence tells us about the extent of the inequality.
  • All cultures have gender inequality; the degree of inequality differs, the space to push against the boundaries differs and the rigidity with which these structures are maintained differs.
  • Equality does not imply everything is perfectly divided in half all the time. Rather, it is the space where both members of a couple can negotiate those divisions fairly, without fear.

2. Culture of familial and community values and norms

  • Familial cultural values within relationships should be viewed as being on a continuum where they keep shifting rather than being absolute, fixed positions. E.g., expectations of children’s obedience will vary between parents, at different times, in different places (such as when visiting grandparents).
  • How family norms operate differs in relationships and changes within relationships.
  • Cultural norms in communities are dynamic, changing; not confined to one culture but present in all, with different forms of expression and adaptation. E.g., in European culture, arranged marriages are now only sporadically practiced between upper classes to keep or consolidate family wealth or virtue (Princess Diana and Prince Charles); amongst South Asians, they are practiced traditionally (parents arranging a match) and in modernized form (a global dating service).
  • This is not to minimize how harmful traditional cultural norms can be but to be reminded about who defines, changes and subverts them.

3. Culture of systems

  • Systems have their own culture – victims/survivors have to function within the culture of shelters, of the courts, of the criminal and civil legal system, immigration system, child welfare system, etc.
  • The culture of systems can be so prescriptive as to not meet people’s needs. E.g., in a shelter, excessive rules can make refuge and rest impossible.
  • Systems’ policies and procedures often put the onus on victims instead of providing resources or justice. E.g., in the child welfare system, a worker’s difficulty in addressing paternal violence can result in punitive maternal compliance plans.

Resources on Culturally-Specific Advocacy

What is Gendered Islamophobia? 2021

Building upon a history of shared values and intersecting work, the Partnership to End Gendered Islamophobia brings together HEART, Justice for Muslims Collective and Vigilant Love to build analysis, tools and power to dismantle Gendered Islamophobia. This workshop is specifically tailored towards practitioners in the field of gender-based violence and gender justice. We focus on ways practitioners can better understand how gendered Islamophobia shows up in their work, and ways to respond in holistic ways. The workshop includes a focus on the intersection of gendered Islamophobia, gender-based violence and reproductive justice. The workshop emphasizes the invisibility of state violence in understanding gender-based violence and particularly the implications of the War on Terror and Islamophobia for Muslim survivors of gender-based violence. Moreover, this workshop includes discussions upon intra-community solidarity and what can be done within broader Asian American spaces to address gendered Islamophobia.

How COVID-19 and Systemic Responses Are Impacting Asian and Pacific Islander Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

This advisory explains how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting Asian and Pacific Islander (API) survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and describes policies enacted to address the pandemic including the CARES Act, and API and immigrant survivors’ eligibility for the programs and services offered in the legislation, as well as the implications of utilizing the services. The Advisory also discusses the effect of systematic responses to the COVID-19 crisis and the unique issues that API survivors face that systems must account for to support survivor safety during the pandemic.