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Culture as a barrier to service provision and delivery: domestic violence services for minoritized women

Smailes, Sophie and Burman, Erica and Chantler, Khatidja (2004) Culture as a barrier to service provision and delivery: domestic violence services for minoritized women. Critical social policy, 24 (3). pp. 332-357. ISSN 0261-0183

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Abstract

This paper addresses how domestic violence services to women of African, African-Caribbean, South Asian, Jewish and Irish backgrounds are structured by assumptions about ‘culture’ which produce barriers to the delivery of domestic violence services. Phoenix’s (1987, ‘Theories of Gender and Black Families’, pp. 50-61 in G. Weiner and M. Arnot (eds) Gender Under Scrutiny. London: Hutchinson) discussion of the representation of black women is applied more generally to analyse how discourses of gender and racialization function within accounts of domestic violence service provision. Discourses of both cultural specificity and generality/commonality are shown to intersect to effectively exclude minority ethnic women from such services. Domestic violence emerges as something that can be overlooked or even excused for ‘cultural reasons’, as a homogenized absence; or alternatively as a pathologized presence, producing heightened visibility of minoritized women both within and outside their communities - since domestic violence brings them and their communities under particular scrutiny. Such configurations also inform discourses of service provision to minoritized women. Finally key implications are identified for service design, delivery and development, including the need for both culturally specific and mainstream provision around domestic violence, and the need to challenge notions of ‘cultural privacy’ and ‘race anxiety’ in work with minoritized communities.

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