This paper aims to bridge the gap in our understanding of the service needs of Arab Muslim women survivors of IPV in order to inform service providers about ways to increase community connections and support for this population of IPV survivors.
Methods: Twenty-nine participants were recruited and interviewed for this study. The sample was composed of 24 Arab Muslim women surviving IPV and five staff IPV counselors. The administrators of an Arab community agency recruited staff and survivor participants. The survivors who participated in the study were, on average, 36 years old. Seventy-one percent were immigrants without U.S. citizenship. Of the six women reported to be U.S. citizens, 50% were naturalized. The immigrant participants reported living in the U.S. an average of 9.5 years. The majority of participants identified as Palestinian (48%). The other participants identified as Syrian, Moroccan, Egyptian, Lebanese, and Iraqi.
A bilingual, Arab-American research team member, who was a former IPV counselor at the agency, conducted the interviews with survivor participants. The university faculty researchers conducted the interviews with the IPV counseling staff. The development of the semi-structured interview protocol used to conduct the interviews was a collaborative process among all members of the research team. The interviews elicited information on the women’s experience of domestic violence as well as their thoughts on how to better support Arab Muslim survivors of IPV. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded thematically using NVivo qualitative software, guided by the principles of a phenomenological approach. The research aimed to capture the lived experience of the participants.
Findings: Data analysis reveals that Arab Muslim female survivors want access to culturally specific services in addition to community education on IPV. Seven themes speak to the participants identified needs. They are: Individual needs-(1) Civil and legal aid workshops for women, (2) Culturally sensitive shelters, (3) Employment support, (4) Increased number of Arab speaking counselors and advocates, and (5) Education for men and boys to prevent IPV; Community needs include: (6) Breaking the denial and (7) Increased involvement of religious leaders.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings underscore the need for domestic violence agencies and shelters that prioritize the specific cultural and religious needs of the Arab Muslim survivor. Then, by ensuring survivors have access to information in Arabic on their legal rights and how best to seek want information we can bridge the gap to culturally specific services. It is also important to continue to prioritize community education, specifically among religious leaders, men, and boys in order to dispel relational myths and break the culture of silence.