Latinx survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) in the United States experience disproportionately high rates of mental health concerns and homicides compared to their non-Latinx counterparts (Stansfield, Mancik, Parker, & Delacruz, 2019). Despite growing research on Latinx survivors’ help-seeking barriers (Rizo & Macy, 2011), there is still limited understanding of how IPV agencies provide outreach and deliver services to this community. Some research suggests that Latinx survivors residing in rural areas are greatly marginalized and have difficulty accessing and utilizing services (Sawin, Sobel, Annan, & Schminkey, 2017). Given known barriers, such as negative prior experiences receiving services and lack of culturally-appropriate resources (Alvarez & Fedock, 2018), it is important to investigate differences in how IPV agencies serve Latinx survivors based on rurality. This exploratory, cross-sectional study addresses knowledge gaps by (a) examining overall service delivery practices and perceived challenges to providing culturally appropriate services for Latinx survivors, and (b) investigating differences between rural and urban service agencies.
A statewide quantitative study was completed by 80 IPV agency leaders (urban=29; rural=51) in a southeastern state. The study-developed survey included questions concerning community characteristics (e.g., attitudes toward immigrants), agency characteristics (e.g., staffing, clients, services), service delivery practices and challenges, cultural competence and related barriers, and respondent characteristics (e.g., work history). Data were subsequently analyzed with Wilcoxon rank-sum tests and Fisher’s exact tests to examine bivariate associations.
The findings showed consistent differences between rural and urban agencies in service delivery resources and perceived service barriers. For example, compared with rural agencies, urban agencies served more Spanish-speaking clients (p = .022); and employed more Spanish-speaking full-time staff (p = .008). At the same time, rural agencies typically reported greater challenges in serving Latinx survivors. For example, rural agencies were more likely than urban agencies to report the lack of Latinx direct service staff (72% vs. 32%, p = .001) and on-site interpreters (68% vs. 32%, p = .004) as barriers to providing culturally-appropriate services for Latinx survivors. Rural agencies were also more likely than urban agencies to report cultural disconnect from Latinx communities (56% vs. 28%, p = .030), lack of culturally sensitive training (44% vs. 17%, p =.024) as barriers to appropriately serving Latinx survivors.
Conclusions and Implications
This exploratory study found different patterns between rural and urban agencies with regard to service delivery content, resources, and perceived challenges. Considering the many barriers that Latinx survivors face in seeking services – particularly when living in rural areas – it is critical that IPV service agencies are appropriately equipped to serve this community. Notably, rural agencies serving Latinx IPV survivors should consider hiring Latinx and Spanish-speaking staff, offering more services in Spanish, conducting outreach activities focused on strengthening the agency’s relationship with and presence in the Latinx community, and offering trainings on cultural humility. Guided by the study’s findings, we will discuss implications for enhancing service delivery provision for Latinx survivors. We will also share recommendations for future research with a larger, more representative sample.