Families and Domestic Violence

Module Sections:

Applying the Framework & Post-Test

Yin’s Family Vignette

Yin is a 38-year-old woman who relocated with her husband and two children from Thailand to the United States. Both she and her husband experienced a difficult adjustment to living in the United States. Despite his attempts to secure a job in his uncle's business, Yin's husband was unable to find a job that fit with his interests and skills. He, therefore, worked as a custodian in a school, became increasingly depressed, and began drinking alcohol excessively. Yin worked as a waitress in a restaurant and the children attended school. Yin and her husband at times discussed possibly moving back to Thailand particularly when they notice people at work or at their children's school make derogatory comments about their Asian accent and their immigration status.

Approximately one year after their arrival to the United States, Yin's husband began to hit her and verbally abuse her. The frequency of the abuse increased with her husband's alcohol abuse. The children witnessed these incidents almost routinely and felt helpless to protect themselves and their mother. Yin made several attempts to talk to her husband about his behavior. However, he kept none of his promises to stop hitting her. Yin thought about leaving her husband, but worried about the future of her status as an immigrant, and the ability of her children to obtain a green card if she left him. The idea that she could return to Thailand without her husband also felt overwhelming, as she worried about how she would "fit in" to her community in Thailand as a single or divorced mother. After a few months, Yin revealed the abuse to her parents in Thailand. Although they expressed their sadness and concern for her, they were not able to think of ways to help her. She then spoke with members of her husband's family about the violence. They responded to her by stating, "It is your duty to take care of him. He is sick, and he needs your help. Think about the children. They need their father to get better." Eventually, constrained by practical difficulties, and influenced by family, cultural, and gender-role expectations, Yin came to see the abuse as the inevitable consequence of her husband's stress and culture shock, in other words, “it is not her husband's fault." Rather than defining her situation as unacceptable, she normalized her particular experience, and defined it as her "cross to bear for the family's sake.”

Audio Companion: Families and Domestic Violence