Abstract: The Role of Hindu American Temples in Preventing Intimate Partner Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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291P The Role of Hindu American Temples in Preventing Intimate Partner Violence

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Swathi Reddy, PhD, Researcher, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose: South Asian women in the United States are at increased risk for intimate partner violence as compared to the general population, underscoring the need for innovative solutions that facilitate help seeking among this group. A high level of religious involvement among South Asian Americans, the majority of whom identify themselves as Hindu, suggests that their places of worship may facilitate greater reach and impact of intimate partner violence resources and services into the community; however, very little research has examined this topic to date. The current study is a formative effort to investigate how Hindu American faith communities address the broader issues of intimate partner violence, and more specifically, how they respond to individual survivors and perpetrators and how they think these responses can be improved.

Methods: Using a community-centered approach, the author used purposive sampling to recruit participants from the two largest South Asian-serving Hindu temples in the Twin Cities metropolitan area with the assistance of site gatekeepers. Recruitment efforts were supplemented with participant-driven methods. Through these sampling methods, a total of ten participants - South Asian families, temples leaders, community stakeholders, and providers – were included in this study. The author conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with four individuals and three couples, and analyzed the transcribed data using inductive thematic analysis. Trustworthiness and integrity in the study were established through peer debriefing and a research audit trail, as well as maintenance of a reflexive journal.

Results: One of the most compelling findings is the extent to which Hindu American faith communities recognize the prevalence of intimate partner violence among women and desire to prevent it. According to participants, survivors of intimate partner violence can access various types of crisis services and ongoing supports, either directly or through referrals, from their temples. At the same time, this study revealed a general lack of knowledge among participants about how their temples addressed intimate partner violence. Only half of the participants could speak to some degree about the aforementioned efforts, and in most cases their understandings were fragmented and relied on personal experiences or word of mouth from peers. Nonetheless, participants unequivocally expressed the value of these sites and Hindu leaders in the move towards liberating men and women from the constraints of patriarchy.

Conclusions and Implications: This research contributes a new significant finding: contrary to popular belief, Hindu temples can act as sites to destabilize patriarchal gender beliefs. Given that temples leaders are seen as trusted figures in the community, it was revealed that Hindu temples have tremendous capacity to successfully provide efforts to address intimate partner violence and other forms of gendered violence. To date, social workers and community providers struggle to combat intimate partner violence in non-Western communities, and intimate partner violence interventions are often criticized as paternalistic and neo-colonial. The current study brings us one step closer to addressing this limitation, showing how Hindu temples operate as a salient space to implement intimate partner violence prevention programs within South Asian American communities.