Abstract: Community-Based Theater to Develop Socioculturally Effective Bystander Intervention Approaches to Prevent Intimate Partner Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

Community-Based Theater to Develop Socioculturally Effective Bystander Intervention Approaches to Prevent Intimate Partner Violence

Sunday, January 14, 2018: 12:14 PM
Marquis BR Salon 8 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Mieko Yoshihama, PhD, Professor, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Fatmeh Baidoun, MSW, Research Assistant, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background and Purpose:  The overall goal of this project is to develop socioculutrally effective approaches to prevent domestic violence/intimate partner violence (IPV) in local immigrant communities. Toward this end, this study investigated how local South Asian community members would act when witnessing abusive/controlling behaviors of a partner against the other performed by peer educators. To respond to the needs of immigrants, programs that are socioculturally and linguistically competent are necessary yet not available in many parts of the country. This makes bystander intervention—actions taken by people who become aware of controlling/abusive behaviors of others—to prevent IPV important. The recent political climate that promote anti-immigrant sentiments compound the immigrants’ fear of involvement in outside agencies, which makes bystander intervention by lay community members even more critical.

Methods:  We used a participatory method, interactive theater, i.e., Theatre of the Oppressed’s Forum Theater, to engage community members in the development of socioculturally relevant bystander intervention approaches to prevent IPV. We recruited and trained interested community members to serve as peer educators and created short skits that depicted controlling/abusive behaviors of a partner in an intimate relationship. At a community event, peer educators performed one of such skits; after a performance, event participants were invited to step into the scene and try out different approaches to address a partner’s controlling behaviors. Guided by grounded theories, we analyzed the videotaped interventions—the enactments of what community members thought were helpful to prevent IPV.

Results:  Of approximately 135 event participants, about 53 came near the enacted scene, and 22 stepped forward to try out a bystander intervention approach. Their age ranged from 30s to 70s; they were either first generation immigrants or second generation (the first generation to be born in the U.S.), and about one third were male. Men were more likely to step up and tried to intervene in the abusive/controlling scene. While wide variations were found in the ways in which bystanders intervened, several salient themes were observed including: deescalating the conflict, encouraging the couple to resolve the conflict through dialogue and negotiation, imposing traditional gender role norms, and contesting the abusive partner’s gender-related beliefs. Both male and female bystanders intervened in a way that challenged the traditional gender roles (e.g., women should stay home for their children). However, some gender differences were found, for example, a greater proportion of male bystanders intervened in a way that suggested imposition of traditional gender roles. 

Conclusions and Implications:  The strength of this participatory theater-based method lies in its ability to create a socioculutrally relevant and relatable context, in which community members could try out different approaches to prevent IPV. Their enacted interventions elucidated their beliefs and assumptions about gender roles and expectations, which should be addressed in the development of prevention programs for the community. Community-based theater such as this can serve as a site for both investigating and challenging beliefs and assumptions held by the members of the very community for which a prevention program is being developed.