Methods: Our study employed participatory research methods and brought together researchers, providers, and survivors across three agencies in the US to identify best practices, needs, and challenges in delivering gender-sensitive and culturally responsive care to women confronting IPV. Over a 12-month period, we formed a Community Advisory Board and conducted a series of focus group discussion and interviews with 28 practitioners and 13 survivors. During the focus group discussions, practitioners were invited to reflect on their motivations, strengths, and needs in their role as practitioners and share their expertise related to current best practices and identify areas of need concerning gender-sensitive and culturally responsive care.
Findings: Practitioners highlighted critical elements of a gender-sensitive and culturally responsive care framework. These include: 1) Practitioners’ Identities and Self-Awareness, 2) Gender and Cultural Sensitivity in Assessment, 3) Being System Navigators, and 4) Working at Multiple Levels: Response, Outreach and Prevention. Practitioners defined gender-sensitive and culturally responsive care as an approach that integrates micro and macro perspectives on IPV and acknowledges its structural and systemic underpinnings. For instance, practitioners shared Indian women on dependent visas in the US cannot pursue employment opportunities, adding to their economic dependency on partners and inability to leave. This foundational understanding among practitioners is critical because it reminds them to not ask survivors harmful questions such as, "Why did you not leave"? Practitioners described that immigration and language is a major barrier to help-seeking. Practitioners therefore act as ‘system navigators’ and support survivors navigate the different services while simultaneously working on their long-term healing. Furthermore, while most work-related to IPV continues to remain reactive, practitioners underscored the importance of continued outreach prevention work to break the cycle of violence in the South Asian community.
Conclusion: Practitioners listed creative and innovative strategies to enhance gender-sensitive and culturally responsive care to Indian immigrant women experiencing IPV in a foreign country. They emphasized the value of relationality and care in practice. Borrowing from feminist praxis, they emphasized non-hierarchical relationships and used their personal experiences to shape their practice. Rather than calling for more programs that may be cost-intensive, practitioners call for a shift in practice philosophy and approach to enhance the quality and effectiveness of existing IPV programs. These best practices are practical and sustainable because they can be adapted and translated even in low-resource settings.