Abstract: Finding a New Path: Post-Traumatic Growth through Intimate Partner Violence Among Evangelical Immigrants from Latin America (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Finding a New Path: Post-Traumatic Growth through Intimate Partner Violence Among Evangelical Immigrants from Latin America

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Liberty Ballroom N, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Allison Bloom, PhD, Assistant Professor, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA
Background/Purpose: While Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a devastating experience for many people in the United States, for immigrants from Latin America, structural, racial, and economic inequalities can create additional formidable obstacles. For example, legal constraints may prevent them from seeking services or force them to depend on abusers for residency (Salcido and Adelman, 2004; Erez et. al, 2008; Villalón, 2010) in addition to impediments such as language barriers or a lack of resources to navigate systems (Rizo and Macy, 2011; Sabina et. al, 2012; Postmus et. al, 2014; Reina et. al, 2014). However, IPV research must also interrogate the strengths within particular communities and their informal resources. Therefore, this study highlights how Latin American immigrant survivors who use evangelical Christian practices alongside formal IPV services can experience what Dr. Richard Tedeschi and colleagues term post-traumatic growth (PTG), or a positive outcome as the result of an otherwise traumatic experience. This research is supported by the documented connection between faith and PTG (Tedeschi and Calhoun, 2006; Calhoun et. al, 2000; Harris et. al, 2010) and between healing and evangelical Christianity (Csordas, 1997; Lurhmann, 2005).

Methods: This study is based on twelve months of ethnographic research and additional site visits by the principal investigator from 2015 to 2017 at an IPV center in Connecticut with a 40% Latina clientele. Data collection included participant observation in four Spanish language support groups, semi-structured interviews with thirty immigrant clients from Latin America, semi-structured interviews with fifteen staff members, and semi-structured interviews with thirty outside providers connected to this clientele, including three Christian pastors and one Catholic priest. Clients interviewed were a representative sampling of support groups, had developed rapport with the PI, were in regular support group attendance, and could make time for interview sessions. The PI then conducted selective coding of client interviews and narratives in support groups to analyze areas of PTG in relation to Christianity and IPV (Padgett 2016).

Results: PTG was consistently indicated by clients who were engaged with both formal IPV services alongside evangelical Christian practices and beliefs. Of the thirty clients interviewed, eighteen expressed a strong religious connection. Twelve were affiliated with evangelical Christianity, while the remaining six were affiliated with Catholicism, or had a flexible affiliation between Catholicism and evangelical Christianity. This fluidity is consistent with literature on Pentecostalism’s influence on Catholicism and Protestantism throughout Latin America (Robbins, 2004; Garrard-Burnett and Stoll, 1993). Their narratives indicate a range of overlapping areas of PTG, including an increased sense of opportunity, personal strength, spirituality, and relationship to a higher power.

Conclusions/Implications: Although IPV is particularly difficult for immigrant survivors, this research demonstrates the possibility of PTG with proper support. This study suggests the need for collaborations between IPV service centers and their local religious communities as well as more research on the connection between religion, IPV, and PTG. This potential for growth is also an important indication for IPV centers to be culturally competent when seeking to develop services to better serve Latin American immigrant communities.