What works for migrants and people with a refugee background
Involving the local community and considering participants' cultural background helps to make prevention activities successful for migrants and refugees.
Why migrants and refugees are unique
Refugees and migrants may be at greater risk of violence and less likely to report abuse than other groups, because of:
- social isolation
- language barriers
- low levels of education and income
- fear of authorities, particularly among those who fear deportation or have had poor experiences with authorities in the past
- a lack of awareness of legal rights and available services.
What works for migrants and refugees
Successful prevention activities for migrants and people who have been refugees:
Involve the cultural community
- Build networks with local cultural groups and services to help develop strong community ties and trust.
- Involve community leaders to raise awareness about sexual violence and discourage unhealthy traditional and religious practices.
- Build community cohesion by working towards reducing individuals' isolation and strengthening social links.
- Provide leadership development programmes to empower individuals in the community to work towards violence prevention and support.
- Use local platforms like radio stations and religious groups.
- Allow flexibility to account for individuals' circumstances and values. For example, abuse victims may prioritise keeping their family together over escaping an abusive relationship.
- Recognise that privacy is often very important when dealing with small communities and people with limited social support networks.
- cultural values that normalise controlling, male-dominated relationships
- cultural, social, and personal barriers to speaking up — eg some people may come from backgrounds where talking about sexual violence is unacceptable or where sexual violence is legal, and some may have experienced multiple victimisations.
- Provide culturally-sensitive training for practitioners so that they understand the community's cultural values and can incorporate these into their activities.
- Take a strengths-based approach to culture — rather than challenging communities about cultural tolerance of violence, focus on how cultural and religious ideas can be used to support anti-violence messages.
- Use interpreters and practitioners who speak the community's language.
- Successful models of prevention and intervention in migrant and refugee communities — Ministry of Social Development (2011) (DOC 1.5MB)
- Primary prevention of violence against immigrant and refugee women in Australia — Carolyn Poljski (2001) (PDF 690KB)
- Preventing partner violence in refugee and immigrant communities — Forced Migration Review (2011)
Why involve the cultural community
The local cultural community is often the main source of contact for migrants and refugees. Engaging the wider cultural community will help your activity to be responsive to specific needs and issues.
How to involve the cultural community
Evidence for involving the cultural community
Case studies of community initiatives to address family violence in refugee and migrant communities — Ministry of Women's Affairs (2011)
Report on Auckland workshop for ethnic, migrant and refugee stakeholders — Ministry of Women's Affairs (2007) (PDF 98KB)
Why consider culture
Cultural values can normalise behaviour that allows sexual violence to happen, including: