Nora Montalvo-Liendo

Intimate Partner Violence and culturally specific interventions

Study seeks to understand the cycles of violence within South Texas
October 12, 2018

Nora Montalvo-Liendo, PhD, RN, FAAN, an assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Nursing in McAllen, has dedicated her career to aiding survivors of domestic abuse. As part of her research, she wanted to understand why some men abuse women.

Montalvo-Liendo’s location in McAllen led her to want to understand more about the population of South Texas and how those of various cultural backgrounds experience domestic abuse. This prompted her to begin research to understand why men of Mexican origin abuse women.

“We know very little about why abusers hurt their intimate partners, particularly Hispanics,” said Montalvo-Liendo. “However, it happens all too often. In the United States, one in three women experience intimate partner violence, and here in South Texas, 10 women were killed by their partners between 2011 and 2015.”

Difficult Dialogue

Montalvo-Liendo, along with colleagues, Debra W. Matthews, PhD, RN, Heidi Gilroy, PhD, RN, Angeles Nava, PhD, RN, and Christyn Gangialla, MSN, RN, recruited participants in South Texas for a qualitative study, interviewing self-identified men of Mexican origin who abused women. Qualitative research is an exploratory process, used to understand individual’s reasons, motives and perspectives. The research was published last month in the Journal of Transcultural Nursing.

Participants were asked questions about their childhood, first experience with verbal, physical or emotional abuse, what factors contributed to their abusive behavior, what influences men of Mexican origin to be abusive towards women and how the abuse has affected their children.

“Intimate partner violence is a serious public health issue, and we hoped to gain insight that can be used to develop culturally appropriate prevention and intervention programs for men of Mexican origin who abuse women and their families,” said Montalvo-Liendo.

Insights on Abuse

The study included eight men who self-identified as being of Mexican origin who indicated that they had a history of abuse against their intimate partners.

“All of the participants had experienced abuse as adolescents,” Montalvo-Liendo said. “Also common among the men were the absence of parents, a multi-generational history of abuse in their families and pointing to triggers as the cause of abusing their partners.”

One participant admitted that his infidelity caused the first incident, while the rest of the men blamed their partner for triggering the abuse. Participants minimized their abusive actions or defined abuse as something more extreme than their own physically aggressive behaviors.

All but one of the participants had biological or step-children. The men acknowledged that the children responded to witnessing the abuse with fear, or by imitating the abusive language or behavior. Some expressed concern that their children might be permanently affected by the violence and may even grow up to be like them, possibly growing up to abuse their intimate partners in the future.

The study supports a wealth of evidence that shows that the long-term harm of raising children in an abusive environment is that the abuse may be carried on by the next generation.

“The participants said that their history and culture were significant factors leading to their abusive behavior,” Montalvo-Liendo said. “They said that growing up, male relatives abused women, and they identified with role models who were abusive to women. Developing programs to help change the culture of abuse that some children grow up with can make a difference, and so can increasing awareness of this important issue.”

In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), Montalvo-Liendo was featured on the Journal of Transcultural Nursing’s September podcast to talk about the study and the recently published journal article.

— Diane L. Oswald

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