Chapter 8 Supplement Respecting Diversity: Responding
to Underserved Victims of Crime
CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS IN ASSISTING VICTIMS OF CRIME
"Cultural Considerations in Assisting Victims of Crime" is a two-year research project
conducted by the Washington, DC-based National MultiCultural Institute (NMCI) and funded
by the Office for Victims of Crime to:
- Survey the needs for programs that provide culturally competent services to diverse victims.
- Address gaps in current training curricula.
- Disseminate the materials via training to criminal justice professionals nationwide.
Report on Needs and Promising Practices. The resulting Report on Needs and Promising
Practices presents an overview of current victimization issues as they affect people of diverse
backgrounds and cultures, and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of victim assistance
programs, with the following findings:
- Programmatic barriers to effective delivery of victims' services, including--
- Assumed similarity.
- Misinformation about victim services and victim compensation.
- Language barriers.
- Lack of diversity among program staff.
- Barriers related to victim and provider belief systems, including--
- Distrust of the criminal justice system, fear of deportation.
- Loyalty to one's cultural groups.
- Shame and taboo.
- Cross-cultural communication.
- Expectations of service provider's role.
- Grieving and healing process.
- Perception of privacy.
- Role of the family.
NMCI research also confirmed that while there are several general training curricula on
cultural diversity, there is a lack of training curricula material specific to victims of crime.
Cultural Competence Assessment Tool for Victim Service Providers. As part of the third
phase of the project, NMCI developed a Cultural Competence Assessment Tool for Victim
Service Providers that addresses the barriers victims often face, and provides a mechanism for
internal assessment within service agencies and criminal justice professionals. NMCI has
piloted the instrument at 100 sites. The data will be analyzed in the latter half of 2000 and the
instrument will be utilized by providers to:
- Evaluate providers' culturally competent behaviors.
- Assess knowledge, skills, and perceived preparedness in addressing the needs of the
- Determine which immigrant populations are most challenging to serve.
- Design interventions to improve culturally competent victim services.
- Determine strengths and areas for growth.
- Determine recommendations for agency policy change.
- Determine which provider demographic factors are most likely to correlate with providing
culturally competent services (NMCI January 2000).
ADVOCACY FOR IMMIGRANT BATTERED WOMEN
A survey conducted by the Immigrant Women's Task Force of the Northern California
Coalition for Immigrants' Rights revealed that 34 percent of Latinas and 25 percent of
Filipinas surveyed had experienced domestic violence in either their country of origin, the
U.S., or both. Further evidence indicates that there are large numbers of immigrant women
trapped in violent relationships who are afraid to ask anyone for help. Language barriers, fear
of deportation, and a poor understanding of their rights in the community are the most
commonly cited barriers to their seeking help. Frequently, batterers manipulate their partners'
unsettled immigration status as a means of keeping them in the abusive relationships (FVPF
Shelters for battered women are often concerned with the legal consequences of serving
battered immigrant women without legal documentation. According to the Family Violence
Prevention Fund (FVPF), nonprofit organizations are explicitly exempt from verifying
immigration status as a condition for providing services. Immigration status is not relevant to
a battered woman using the shelter, nor should it affect provision of services (Ibid).
FVPF has developed a brochure that is available in Arabic, English, Chinese, Korean,
Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. It informs immigrant battered women of their
rights (regardless of their immigration status) and provides them with crucial information about
whom to contact for assistance, where to go, what they need to take with them when leaving,
protection orders, and temporary public assistance (Ibid).
The role of the victim advocate in helping battered immigrant victims is to learn about possible
options, assist victims in accessing these options, and respect the decisions that they make. In-depth coverage of these issues can be found in the Domestic Violence In Immigrant Refugee
Communities: Asserting the Rights of Battered Women, available through the FVPF Web site:
An additional resource for immigrant victims of domestic violence is the National Domestic
Violence Hotline for crisis intervention and detailed information on shelters, legal advocacy,
assistance, and social service programs. The hotline is available 24 hours a day in English and
Spanish and through translators, in 139 other languages: (800-799-SAFE) or from a TTY
- NMCI Training Program for Criminal Justice Professionals. NMCI has developed a
curriculum for a one-day training program for law enforcement officers and administrators,
victim advocates, and prosecutors. The training identifies the barriers to effective delivery
of services to diverse victims and provides participants with the knowledge, skills, and
awareness necessary to overcome these barriers. Workshops can be delivered to a targeted
audience that works with victims in one specific capacity or to victims of one specific type
of crime. Case studies allow participants to analyze real situations, envision the elements of
a culturally competent program and service delivery, and design a culturally competent
needs assessment and outreach plan.
- Hope in the Cities (HIC) is an effort to bring together political, business, and community
leaders in Richmond, VA to address matters of racial healing. Using a large interracial,
multifaith network of people from business, government, education, media, religious, and
community organizations, Hope in the Cities seeks to develop a process of healing that
involves honest conversations on race, acceptance of responsibility, and acts of
reconciliation. HIC utilizes its experience and resources to encourage reconciliation and
responsibility for positive change in race relations, by creating cross-racial partnerships in
many communities throughout the country, including Los Angeles, CA; Philadelphia, PA;
Chicago, IL, and Hartford, CT. Hope in the Cities, 1103 Sunset Avenue, Richmond, VA
23221 (804-358-1764) <http://hopeinthecities.org>.
- Conflict Intervention Unit (CIU), Chelsea MA. Chelsea (population 36,000), the poorest
city in Massachusetts, leads the Boston region in unemployment, has the highest crime rate,
and is home to an estimated 10,000 undocumented immigrants. Nearly 30 percent of the
population live in one ten-block area of rundown dwellings. Chelsea's CIU--an initiative of
the local Chief of Police--was formed using individuals from the community who were
trained to help people solve conflicts that often escalate into assaults or litigation. From
May 1998 to August 1999, the CIU mediated 111 disputes, of which only five went to
court. CIU has reduced crime and racial tension in minority communities by giving
residents a peaceful way of resolving disputes without involving the local police department.
Conflict Intervention Unit, Chelsea Police Department, 180 Crescent Avenue, Chelsea MA
02150, (617-889-8670) (Bash, Amato, and Sacks January 2000).
- It IS Your Business. A collaborative effort between the Family Violence Prevention Fund
(FVPF) and the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community
(NIDVAAC), It IS Your Business is a campaign designed to provide the African-American
community with information about how to prevent domestic violence and protect women at
risk for abuse. While the message is that domestic violence is everyone's concern, the
material is directed towards African-American males. The community action kit provides
educational information on domestic violence, how to confront African-American males
known to be abusing women, and how to strengthen communities to make them safer. The
campaign provides African American-oriented radio stations nationwide with a series of
twelve professionally-produced, serialized 90-second public service announcements (PSAs)
that educate listeners about safe interventions to help battered women and provide referrals
for resource materials. Other materials in the It IS Your Business kits are bumper stickers,
a catalogue of awareness-raising items, and stickers for neighborhood businesses and
agencies. National Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community,
University of Minnesota, 386 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Avenue, St. Paul, MN
Chapter 8 Supplement References
Bash, C., M. Amato, and M. Sacks. January 2000. "Chelsea, Massachusetts: A City Helps its
Diverse People Get Along." Practical Perspectives. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of
Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF). n.d. Battered Immigrant Women. <http://www.
Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF). n.d. Domestic Violence In Immigrant Refugee
Communities: Asserting the Rights of Battered Women. <http://www.fvpf.org/
National MultiCultural Institute (NMCI). January 2000. Summary Report on Cultural
Considerations on Assisting Victims of Crime. <http://www.nmci.org>.
UPDATED CHAPTER REFERENCES
Ogawa, B. 1999. Color of Justice: Culturally Sensitive Treatment of Minority Crime Victims,
2nd ed. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
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