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Social Capital, Human Capital, and Reaching Out for Help with Domestic Violence: A Case Study of Women in a Vietnamese-American Community

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society Volume: 20 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2007 Pages: 375-390
Hoan N. Bui; Merry Morash
Date Published
December 2007
16 pages
This study examined abused Vietnamese-American women's help seeking behavior.
The results show that a lack of key forms of human capital, such as language, education, and transportation constrain women's choices in getting help with abuse. Women with limited human capital tended to select services near their homes, and where they could communicate needs in their native languages. Personal networks, religious affiliations, and the broad immigrant community networks were the settings for social capital that were relevant to seeking help. The traditional values held by the community members could prevent women from reaching out for help; even when the local social work providers make a referral, women might not follow because of the constraints they feel. Without changing norms in time of crisis, women can be isolated even when surrounded by family and friends because orthodox views of kin and community about marriage and gender roles are that domestic violence is acceptable behavior, and seeking help is not appropriate. Social capital in the immigrant community can be a source of help, but can also limit women's connecting with a full range of potential health providers. Family and friends provide much-needed emotional and material help but often encourage women not to use the legal system. Religious settings can bring comfort and also reinforce beliefs that women should acquiesce to violence to maintain an intact, harmonious family. Although the immigrant community affords benefits from solidarity, it also discourages women from challenging traditional gender arrangements by asking for help with domestic violence. Policy strategies should increase access to help, and for community education, which could enable women to reach out for a variety of types of assistance before and after violence becomes extreme. The sample consisted of women ranging in age from 21 to 69, who had spent 2 to 20 years in the United States. Tables, notes, references