Lifting the "Political Gag Order" Breaking the Silence Around Partner Violence in Ethnic Minority Families
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A culturally appropriate assessment should include the same demographic and background information that would be gathered from any other client or family (e.g., history of substance abuse, mental illness). Therapists should also explore the following areas relevant to minorities (Abney & Priest, 1995; Chan & Leong, 1994; Comas-Diaz, 1995; LaFromboise et al., 1994; Okamura et al., 1995):
Race/Ethnicity. Ethnic identities of all family members should be carefully assessed. It would be a mistake to assume that every visibly black client identifies as African American. These clients may identify as West Indian or African-Caribbean. Among Asians, the father may be Chinese, the mother Laotian, and the children might define themselves as Chinese-Laotian Americans. The ethnic identity of Latinos and American Indians should also be considered. It is best to ask the client how he or she identifies.
Economic Status. Objective measures of economic status should be obtained (e.g., amount and source of income, ability to meet basic needs). Subjective measures should be considered as well. For example, how is the family's economic status perceived in comparison with others in the neighborhood or the extended family?
Family Structure. Clarifying boundaries and family roles (e.g., wage earner, child caretaker) will provide information about family power structure. Additional information about the family support network can be gathered by asking questions about, for example, the location and amount of contract with relatives and economic support provided to or obtained from family members.
Level of Acculturation. Information about acculturation can be gathered from language preference and immigration history:
Prior Exposure to Violence. Personal history of incest and child physical abuse (Lujan, DeBruyn, May, & Byrd, 1989: West & Williams, 1997) should be assessed. It is also important to evaluate family history of trauma (e.g., lynchings, war atrocities) for several reasons:
Suicide Potentiality. Battered Asian Americans (Crites, 1990) and black women (Stark & Flitcraft, 1995) are at increased risk for suicide attempts. It is wise to conduct a suicide assessment with clients from all ethnic backgrounds.
Cultural Coping Strategies. Therapists should assess family strengths, as well as past and current family coping strategies. These could include family rituals or religious practices, such as visiting healers (Comas-Diaz, 1995) or sweat lodges (Williams & Ellison, 1996).
Based on the literature the following policy recommendations are given (Franco, 1996; Jasinski, 1996; Williams & Becker, 1994):
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