Research study focuses on domestic violence in the Latino community

July 27, 2009

There are few data profiling the level of female victimization in the Latino community. Supported by a grant from the National Institute of Justice, a Penn State Harrisburg faculty member has embarked on a nationwide research project to fill that void.

“We really don’t have a good understanding of female victimization in the Latino community relative to the impact of culture and minority status," said Chiara Sabina, the assistant professor of social sciences who is conducting the research project. "That’s basically why I chose the Latino segment of the population for the study. It is a group which needs attention.”

Issues addressed by the research include gender roles, religiosity, acculturation level, and immigration status. Sabina thinks these factors may impact the victimization experiences and responses of Latinas.

“In time of trouble, Latinas may first turn to family, but if the victimization comes from within the family, it could deter a female in a family-centered culture from going to authorities," she said.

To facilitate responses in the research, the survey will be fully bilingual.

“Early information that my research partner and I have gathered indicates that victimization (threats, physical violence) frequently comes from within the family -- from the people who are supposed to care for the victim,” Sabina said.

As part of her ongoing research into intimate partner violence, Sabina also has discovered that immigrant Latinas have a lower prevalence of victimization than those born in America.

“I will be looking to see if traditional culture is bucked if ‘Anglo orientation’ increases,” she said. “We could have a culture-clash issue here.”

Describing her scholarship and research as a “bit of a crossover” involving victimization study and criminal justice issues through psychological and sociological views, Sabina and her academic partner, Carlos Cuevas from the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, will be taking the national sample from high-density Latino areas, including Florida and the Southwest.

They also hope to extend their research to teenagers, an understudied group, to judge the level of victimization in family relationships.

“Prevention may be an important aspect,” she said. “We will be asking if domestic violence services work with families in the Latino community and not just individuals.”

Sabina earned a doctorate in applied social psychology from Loyola University in Chicago. She holds bachelor's degrees in psychology and Spanish studies from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in applied social psychology from Loyola. She completed post-doctoral work at the University of New Hampshire, focusing on dating violence among college students internationally.

She joined the faculty in the Penn State Harrisburg School of Behavioral Sciences and Education in 2008.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 28, 2017