Wayne State social work faculty receive funding to study help-seeking among Latina sexual assault survivors


The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women announced last month that the LA VIDA Partnership and faculty from Wayne State School of Social Work will receive approximately $348,000 to study how tailoring sexual assault and domestic violence services to the cultural values and needs of Latina women can increase help-seeking among this population.


Associate Professors Debra Patterson and Stella Resko will evaluate the impact of the culturally and linguistically appropriate domestic and sexual violence services offered to Latina women and children by LA VIDA Partnership, a program of the Community Health and Social Services (CHASS) Center in Southwest Detroit. This community participatory research project will identify what distinguishes culturally specific services from mainstream ones and what outcomes they seek to achieve with respect to clients’ wellbeing. They will also identify the needs of Latina sexual assault survivors, the formal and informal supports and strategies they use to cope with and heal from assault, and whether the culturally specific services offered by LA VIDA meet their needs.


According to Patterson, whose practice and research has explored sexual assault survivors’ experience with formal service systems, relatively little research exists on help-seeking among Latina women who experience interpersonal violence.


“Understanding the cultural values and needs of Latina women is critical to understanding how and where they feel comfortable seeking help for interpersonal violence,” Patterson said. Privacy may be particularly important to survivors in tight-knit Latino communities, particularly when attending group counseling sessions, she suggested. Moreover, Patterson said, research indicates that Latina women often initiate help-seeking for assault in health care settings, which means services located within a Federally Qualified Health Center such as CHASS may be more accessible than those offered in social service settings.


According to Resko, the LA VIDA Partnership was established to address an important gap in domestic violence and sexual assault education, prevention and intervention services in Southwest Detroit.


“This grant from the Office on Violence Against Women provides an opportunity to work closely with LA VIDA to promote and support innovative services for Latina survivors of domestic and sexual violence,” she said.


For additional information on research at the School of Social Work, visit our Center for Social Work Research website.

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