Abstract: Domestic Violence (DV) in the Immigrant Korean Community: DV Knowledge and Intervention Strategies Employed By Community-Based Informal Faith Leaders (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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172P Domestic Violence (DV) in the Immigrant Korean Community: DV Knowledge and Intervention Strategies Employed By Community-Based Informal Faith Leaders

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Siyon Rhee, PhD, Professor, California State University, Los Angeles, Arcadia
Sei-Young Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Northern Iowa, IA
Ga-Young Choi, PhD, Associate Professor, California State University, Los Angeles, CA
Evaon Wong-Kim, PhD, Director & Professor, California State University, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Background and Purpose: Immigrant Korean domestic violence (DV) victims are far less likely to report DV incidents to legal authorities or seek formal services in coping with victimization compared to those from other ethnic groups (Choi et al., 2018; Raj & Silverman, 2007). As an alternative, they tend to seek informal help from faith leaders including church and other spiritual organizations. Therefore, faith leaders’ roles in assisting the survivors become crucial (Choi et al., 2018; Lee et al., 2008). In the current COVID-19 pandemic, which might have further isolated DV victims from help resources, it is even more crucial to evaluate the roles of faith leaders as the victims’ primary informal source of help. The amount of published studies using primary data collected from faith leaders is extremely limited. We aimed to bridge such gaps by examining the DV knowledge and intervention strategies employed by community-based faith leaders as the primary point of contact. We also examined the moderation effects of gender on the relationship between church leaders’ positions and their DV intervention strategies. Considering that the majority of Korean immigrants are Protestant Christians (71%, Pew Research Center, 2012), we focused on Korean pastors and church leaders in a city where Korean immigrants are concentrated.

Methods: Survey data were collected from 102 immigrant Korean faith leaders randomly selected from a Korean Business Directory in 2019. The survey questionnaire consisted of DV intervention strategies and 35 items of DV knowledge. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were employed.

Results: With regard to intervention strategies, over one third of the pastors answered that they prayed for the victim and the perpetrator, followed by providing pastoral counseling. Less than 5 % reported the abuse incident to police. The relationship between type of intervention and church position was moderated by gender. Female faith leaders including pastors’ wives and junior pastors tended to refer victims to formal services, while male pastors in higher ranks were more likely to employ religious remedies. In response to a list of IPV knowledge, such items as “Being treated like a child” and “Isolation from family and friends” were not regarded as spouse abuse by pastors.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings show that Korean faith leaders predominantly adopted pastoral counseling and prayer as their immediate DV intervention strategies. Moreover, they had limited DV knowledge that may pose a risk of exacerbating the victims’ health and mental health. This study suggests the importance of ongoing DV training sessions to improve church leaders’ knowledge on DV and helping strategies such as empowering the immigrant DV victims to proactively seek help in a timely manner and linking them to appropriate community-based agencies. The significant gender moderation effect suggests that social workers should reach out to more male faith leaders to involve them in well-developed training programs. Carefully designed partnership and collaboration between Korean American DV service programs and female faith leaders appear to be important in increasing culturally sensitive DV service resources and utilization in the Korean immigrant community.