Supporting people from CALD, migrant and refugee experiences of violence

CALD, migrant and refugee experiences of violence

  • Culture includes a person’s beliefs, values, customs and religious practices and can affect how a person thinks and behaves
  • However, it is important to remember that belonging to a certain culture does not always mean following all its beliefs and traditions
  • People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds experiencing violence face complex issues when trying to access services
  • To provide services that put safety first, support workers must develop cultural understanding.

Understanding barriers to support

There can be many barriers for women from CALD backgrounds when trying to access support services, including:

  • Language
  • Discrimination
  • Issues around settlement and immigration
  • Pre-migration history of torture and trauma
  • Lack of family and community support
  • Fear of authorities, as well as a lack of understanding of systems and laws that can provide support and protection

Effective cross-cultural communication can assist in breaking down some of these barriers and increasing access and safety for clients.

Respect for an individual’s culture, including acknowledgement of values and belief systems, while recognising the strengths people from CALD backgrounds demonstrate are also essential. Providing options through information and support while reinforcing the unacceptability of violence are all important to increasing the safety and wellbeing of people from CALD backgrounds who are experiencing violence.

Understanding CALD worldviews

A worldview is how we understand and make sense of the world around us. It includes beliefs and value systems. 

Understanding the worldview of a person from a CALD background is crucial, because it informs the decisions they make for themselves and their family in relation to experiences of domestic and family violence. Often people from CALD backgrounds are afraid to talk about their situation to family and friends or to contact a support service. This may be because of feelings of shame or discomfort around the topic of reporting abuse. There may also be fear of being cast out by friends, family or the community.

It is important to provide information around the different forms of domestic and family violence and make clear it is a violation of human rights. It is also important to understand how culture, traditions and social norms can frame these issues and contribute to the challenges that women face. There are several key areas that help frame a worldview for CALD women. Three of the most important are pre-migration experience, settlement experience and cultural context.

Understanding CALD experiences of sexual violence

People from CALD communities might hold different perspectives on what sexual violence is. Culture may also play a role in how a person who has experienced sexual violence understands the experience.

Responding to a disclosure of sexual violence by someone from a CALD background requires an understanding of the issues surrounding their experience. Reporting sexual violence is daunting for anyone who has experienced it, for people from CALD backgrounds there are an increased number of risks and considerations to be aware of.

Listening without judgement and not making any assumptions about the woman’s experience are essential skills when providing support.

There are a number of factors that will influence a person’s experience of assault, including:

  • Age and developmental stage of the person experiencing violence
  • Severity and pervasiveness of the violence experienced
  • Timeframe of assaults
  • Presence or lack of a protective or responsive significant other
  • Social and family perspectives on sexual assault
  • Previous trauma
  • Cognitive and emotional capacity of the person experiencing violence
  • Capacity and knowledge of the right to seek legal support

All of these factors can influence how a woman from a CALD background might disclose. To ensure appropriate support is given, the understanding and skills of the service need to support safe disclosure. As a support worker you have an opportunity to address barriers for people from CALD backgrounds in accessing their rights and options.