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Thematic Analysis of Domestic Violence Experiences

Data Analysis and Discussion

This chapter presents a summary of the study findings in terms of the themes emerging from the interview responses. Ideally, the researcher did a simultaneous collection and analysis of the interview transcripts to facilitate an effective primary understanding of the underlying research questions. This process entails a process of data collection and analysis until it reaches a point when no fresh data categories can be derived from the interview transcripts. Consequently, a large amount of qualitative dissertation help was produced from the qualitative study which could overwhelm the researcher. To address this problem, the researcher selected thematic analysis as the most appropriate data analysis technique for an effective data analysis process. Therefore, the current study adopted thematic analysis framework proposed by Corbin and Strauss (McCann & Polacsek, 2019). This involved the categorization and organization of data into similar patterns of meanings to identify the participants’ lived experiences of domestic violence. Thematic analysis technique allowed for the much-required flexibility in identifying and understanding human experiences based on how they respond to questions. In the end, the analysis process led to the development of two significant themes namely, African cultural beliefs, attitudes and values that influenced the experience of domestic violence and immigrant status factors that influenced the experience of domestic violence.


Difference in Cultural Expectation

The most responses indicate that the African cultural beliefs, attitudes and value of the participants played a significant role in influencing their domestic violence experiences. When asked to describe their experience and how they found themselves in the situation of domestic violence, most of the responses clearly indicated that somehow, there was an aspect of cultural differences, especially a difference in cultural expectation that contributed to the misunderstanding and consequently violence between them and their partners. For example:

Brenda: One year into our marriage I found out we were expecting a son. This didn’t go well with him and according to his words it was his worst day of his life. I was confused at first until when the marriage was finally over. Throughout the pregnancy, I was mistreated by him and his family, even his brother and mother would beat me up when I make small mistakes or even if it’s someone else before they ask. I really suffered in the hands of those people, my supposed husband didn’t make things easier. Terrible things I don’t even believe if they’re real human beings. That’s how I found myself in that horrible situation……. Better to stick to our African men whom we can understand, white people have different cultural expectations than us and it can’t work out no matter how much you try. At least to the majority….

Based on the above response, there seems to be a difference in the cultural expectation between the couples that contributed to violence among them. While Brenda expected that having a child would be welcomed by her husband and in-laws, this was not the case. Consequently, she underwent a lot of physical, psychological and financial torture for giving birth, a phenomenon that is considered a ‘blessing’ in some black minority communities.

Another aspect of difference in cultural expectation emerged when a respondent described how he unexpectedly had to put up with bullying and physical abuse from his partner, whose apparent previous relationship was characterized by domestic violence. When asked to explain how he got himself in a domestic violence situation, the respondent narrated how even though it is culturally expected that he would be the one dominating his wife, his wife unexpectedly continued to dominate him through physical abuse, beating, slapping and throwing things at him while he could do nothing. The respondent said that:

Moh: …. And I didn't know how to respond to that. And it's made me think about myself, why I was really stuck in that situation even if I didn’t like it. I thought I was stronger than her, both physically, but she ended up putting and making me feel weak, because I couldn’t touch her. I couldn’t fight back…. Mother often frustrated because people reacted to us differently than how I was doing, which I find to be strange, because sometimes I think for her, she was expecting me to fight. I didn't fight, so maybe that's why she was never understanding…

The society’s expectation of him not revenging or beating up his wife encouraged her to continue with her physical abuse over her husband. Unsurprisingly, existing literature has highlighted a connection between difference in cultural expectations and domestic violence. Graca (2017) asserted that couples from different cultures might not understand the impact of different cultural backgrounds until they stay together long enough to realize each of the have different cultural expectation. Similarly, Femi-Ajao et al (2008) observed that cultural difference may cause a difference in reactions to different life situations, and this may have a significant impact in how they relate to each other. Thus, from the interview findings, as well as findings by other researchers, cultural differences and a difference in cultural expectations appear to be a significant cause of domestic violence among black ethnic minorities in the UK.

Cultural Differences and Help Seeking

The study results also revealed that domestic violence victims (especially men) also tend to avoid help seeking due to the perception that the society might view them as ‘weak.’ When asked to whether it was easy to seek help by disclosing their domestic violence experiences to authorities, most of the respondents, especially male respondents asserted that they found it embarrassing to seek help as it was culturally abnormal to be beaten up by their wives. For instance:

Interviewer: Was it easy for you to disclose or report to the authorities or seek help from your GP or therapist. Victim support.

Paulo: Being an African and Ugandan in particular, where we come from as men. We are We brought up in in this in a way that we don't have to show our emotions. And when you talk about as a man from my African cultures, as a man, when you talk about being mistreated by a woman, they look at you as a chicken and as nothing. So all the time I had to suffer in silence. And it didn't help because of the African culture I come from. We don't we are brought up in a way that we keep ourselves to ourselves in regard to being abused by women at home.

Interviewer: So you didn't get to report to the authorities at all.

Paulo: No, I didn't. Because still I had that fear in me is, is something which can just go live. So though I've been in UK for some time, but still my culture background does play a big role in that because I find myself life because even if I tell I tell two friends and you talk about it with your fellow man…

The tendency of men not seeking help was also highlighted by a community support service provider who acknowledged that across most cultures, men tend to wait until late to seek help whenever they are experiencing domestic violence. When the respondent was asked why some victims, especially men take too long to come out, the respondent attributed the habit of men not seeking help to self-esteem issues. The respondent said that:

Chris: On men, it would be very difficult I had to choose but the police work to say to work with you help you and I accepted. And the major problem is that a lot of men, if not all of them, coming out, takes a very, very long time. And by the time they come out, they that is too late. They suffer from mental health issues. They suffer from lack of self-esteem.

If men tend not to seek help because of self-esteem issues, then it implies that there are some emotional consequences they suffer within the community upon coming out and expressing their experiences. As highlighted in the subsequent sections in this analysis, the self-esteem issues might arise out of the fact that the society might view them as weak, yet they are expected to be strong.

The study also revealed a cultural difference between men and women with regards to help seeking, whereby men are less likely to assist in help seeking compared to men. When explaining why domestic violence, especially men do not speak out, the respondent noted that while women are likely to speak out about the domestic violence experiences of their friends, family and relatives, men are less likely to speak out for their friends family and relatives, and this contributes to the low ceases of help seeking among men compared to women. The respondent narrated that:

Chris: …They take a long time because maybe they fear even most of the men I worked with, they had come out themselves, but usually women, friends, neighbors, they come out to tell you that there is a problem, my neighbor is this something you interpret. But for men, there are not many men who could tell that their friend is being abused. And that also is a major concern for me… and women have an easier way of coming out, you know, parents friends from the they are looking at them, but men don't have that type of thing even if people know it, they know that is…

Chris: Especially culture, and religion it becomes Part of it is that men are supposed to be that the head of the family. And if you come to this country, being a head of the family is for those that believe in it. So, equality has taken on a lot of women's thinking that, you know, my husband and I we are partners, so why would he be the head of the family and all that kind of thing. And so when the man cannot assert his control to the family, sometimes it ends up the situation that he cannot control anymore.

When another respondent was asked whether they think they do not have the right to seek help by speaking up or reporting his experiences of domestic violence was restricted by his cultural beliefs and expectations, the respondent narrated that:

Moh: And when I look back at the time. Those this think I was a man. I was 20 years old. I was big, strong massively. You know, I was very good at sports. Since I was doing boxing at a time. So, there's no way, no one would have. I didn't think anyone would turn around and think this woman can beat you. If you see this woman, she was a very small, tiny way you know she was 50-60 kilograms over woman and tiny and so, you know, so, in a way, no one would have believed.

Even if they sought help, the cultural differences between the victims and authorities, and the victim’s immigrant status created the perception that the authorities did not do enough to address their problems. For instance, when asked whether they were satisfied with the support they received from the police or counselling agents, most of the responses suggested that cultural differences played part in the perception of quality of responses. For instance:

Interviewer: Do you feel satisfied with the support you’re receiving/received? I.e from the GP, police, or counselling services?

Brenda: I hope I won’t be in trouble for saying the truth. To be honest I was not satisfied by the police because one police man asked me “Are you sure you’re not just faking to use the opportunity so you can get permanent stay in UK” I was shuttered , I remember weeping and almost lost my breath. As for the counselling services my GP referred me to, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but it made my situation worse than it was already

Ideally, we can argue that even if the police in the above response genuinely questioned the motives behind the victim’s case, the victim misconstrued the police’s inquisitiveness to be culturally or ethnically bias. This misunderstanding and wrong perception can be blamed for several other victims not reporting their experiences for fear of being ethnically profiled. For example, another respondent said that:

Moh: So the support and received Obviously when I would, when I decided to go to my GP, I informed the GP, she did not believe it…..the GP was putting it down to sports. Because it was quite severe injury actually. So the GP laughed when I said it was a hit injury I got from my girlfriend, but still didn't believe me. And the second thing is obviously GP looked after me, gave me what I needed to do as a GP but she said no I think it's a sports, sort of injury. I wonder if it was a woman who had the injury if she would have been treated differently. I think the GP would have called the police even.

In the latter response by Moh, it is apparent that the victim had a perception that the GP did not believe his injuries were caused by his wife during a domestic violence because it is culturally not expected that his wife could beat him up. This case highlights the extent to which cultural differences and expectations prevent domestic violence victims from seeking help.

Immigration Control

Another significant finding of this study is immigration control, whereby victims of domestic violence felt restricted due to fear of deportation. When asked whether their violent partners, or the authorities subjected them to any form of immigration control, most of the respondents explained how they felt intimidated by the fact that they were immigrants and could be deported if they showed up to authorities to seek help or report experiences of violence and abuse. For instance:

Brenda: Yes, yes very much! so when I finally forged my way to enter the UK, my ex-husband followed me after a few days, he started threatening me again to tell the home office that we were in a sham marriage so that I would be deported so I was scared to report the abuse to the police…… I didn’t report to the authorities while I was in France, the family always threatened I would be the one to get arrested and no member of my family would be able to trace me. So I was scared…

Moh: …And then, sort of, personally, obviously I was, I didn't want to be in trouble with the police. You know, that time was my family were telling me never to be in trouble with the police. I was an immigrant from Uganda, whereby your police record matters…..I was not a citizen then, so. Well, I think, I think one of the things I did not report is I wanted to keep my record clean, but I would have wanted to report…. She would sometimes provoke me just to get me to hit her but I remained cool because I wanted my police record clean as an immigrant.

Indeed, these responses highlight yet another challenge faced by immigrants who are victims of domestic violence. These findings corroborate with the literature by Katwala & Somervile (2016) who acknowledge that immigrants are less likely to report cases of domestic violence or seek help from relevant authorities due to fear of scrutiny and ultimate deportation. The situation is especially worse for individuals with incomplete immigration papers whose partners, upon knowing that they would not report cases of abuse and violation due to fear of deportation, would consistently abuse them and get away with it (Yuval-Davis et al 2018).Similar observations were made by Graca (2017) who asserted that immigrant couples with sham marriage documents tend to experience a challenge in finding a permanent solution to issues of domestic violence because their fear for scrutiny and deportation prevents them from seeking help from relevant authorities.

But the issue of immigrant control did not only emerge in the form of fear of scrutiny by immigration authorities but also in the form of individuals manipulating their partners to get relevant immigration papers then begin abusing them with because no drastic action would be taken against them. For instance, one of the respondents narrated how her wife, after getting all the papers and gaining some sort of security, resorted to abusing their partners for selfish gains. The respondent said:

Paulo: Yes, I wasn't married yet. She consistently wanted me to marry her because she wanted to get her immigration papers sorted because in this case, she didn't have.

She didn't have migration papers. But eventually she got papers because she had kids with me and had British citizenship and which my kids made her take on my citizenship. And then she had to apply for her immigration papers. So literally, because I fell in love with her, but she fell in love with only my papers I had to suffer abuse from her because she never really loved me. She didn't really love me as genuine. So, all what she wanted was papers

Nonetheless, the issue of immigration control and its relation to domestic violence among immigrant communities has been documented across various kind of literature. However, much of these studies have concentrated on the female gender, leaving a paucity of knowledge on the extent to which immigrant men face immigration control in the context of domestic violence. A unique finding of this study is that immigrant men also experience similar immigration control issues in domestic violence as do their women counterparts. This study has established that women with insecure immigration status or those who rely on their spouses’ visa tend to be fearful of deportation and thus fail to report cases of domestic violence to the relevant authorities or seek help from counsellors.

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This study has reported findings that indicate a paucity of solutions for domestic violence within African Immigrants in the UK. Unlike the expected situation recommended by Ting (2010), the victims of domestic violence interviewed in this study did not have adequate formal or informal support, nor did they have any knowledge about the existence of culturally adapted services for people immigrants experiencing domestic violence. Nonetheless, the barriers for help seeking found in this study are similar to those highlighted in the study by Ting and Panchanadeswaran (2009) including fear of deportation, fear of mockery from peers, family members and lack of confidence in domestic violence services and their status as illegal immigrants – all which kept them trapped in abusive relationships.

The data revealed that there were certain perceived procedures of solving domestic violence issues especially through community elders, family networks, religious and spiritual leaders. But in the absence of such traditional approaches in the host country, victims could not find alternatives. It is apparent that due to fear, most immigrant community members in the UK are unwilling to seek help outside their traditional source of help.

Evidence from the interviews reveal the extent to which immigrants are grappling with issue of domestic violence and are not able to reports due to fear of deportation. With the increasingly strict immigration policy and regulations, it is highly likely that domestic violence-related crimes will go unreported and witnesses will refuse to testify due to fear of any interaction with the police that could contribute to their removal from the country.

The phenomenon of immigration control is compounded by cases of police brutality characterized by people being arrested in courthouses, which consequently create a chilling effect on immigrants. As a result, more immigrants remain in vulnerabilities and shadows without reporting abuse even though no person should fear reporting domestic violence due to the fear of deportation.

An escalation of this scenario might expose vulnerable members of the immigrant community such as younger men experiencing abuses as serious as sexual abuse from their older partners, I fear that their families will tear apart in case of deportation. Furthermore, criminal partners might use the crackdown on immigrants to intimidate their partners. Ideally, it is common among abusers to threaten their victims that if they go out to seek help, they might be removed or separated from their children.

Under normal circumstances, support service providers would advise that police and other relevant authorities are there to protect everyone regardless of their citizenship status. However, in the wake of strict immigration policies, the service providers might pause before giving such advises especially upon experiencing increased immigration raids and control from enforcement authorities. This may affect the victims’ ability to seek help or protection orders from the authorities. Moreover, victims might withdraw reported cases as a result of immigration fears. Particularly, this might be more unfortunate in the case of children abuse where parents might fear to testify to secure protective orders due to fear of deportation.

Clearly, domestic violence may decline in because witnesses or victims are reluctant or afraid to cooperate with the police due to fears of deportation. Consequently, alleged domestic violence perpetrators may find their ways back into the streets without any punishment, exposing the community to greater risks of violence.

But this problem might be worse than domestic violence perpetrators being free. Cases may arise where the law enforcement continued unwillingness to obey immigration laws and treat detainees with respect and thereby instead of using the right channels of enforcement, they might release the suspects back into the streets to potentially reoffend yet their victims are mostly members of the immigrant communities.

The findings of this study indicate the mostly unintended cases of immigration enforcement as well as the importance of guaranteeing the safety of immigrants so that they can feel free to report cases of domestic violence. This study has contributed important knowledge by identifying how tougher immigration enforcement affects immigrant victims’ ability to report domestic violence. Part form contributing to the already existing literature on immigrants’ domestic violence experiences, this study reveals immigrants’ responses to public policy, especially when the victims’ responses to stricter immigration policies informs the design of criminal justice response. Furthermore, the knowledge of these responses is important at the time when there is a growing public mistrust by immigrants and increased immigrant vulnerabilities to crime.

Implications of the study

Many African immigrants in the UK are increasingly experiencing domestic violence and dealing with various challenging psychosocial issues. This implies that the relevant authorities must develop response service tailored to the needs of immigrants, Furthermore, it is apparent that there needs to be an outreach program within the immigrant community targeted at both men and women to sensitize them and deliver culturally informed resources through different forms of media. Moreover, due to the needed cultural emphasis on solutions, the potential interventions should consider group, family-oriented, and collective perspectives.


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