Domestic Violence: Diversity Matters

From the September 2014 SVPA Newsletter
Ryan A. Cheperka, Ph.D.
SVPA Diversity Chair

In 1981, the Day of Unity was observed by the National Coalition of Domestic Violence ( Since then, October has become Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and many cities and towns around the country hold an annual rally and march, called Take Back the Night. If you have ever attended such a march, you may have noticed the diversity in the crowd and the attention speakers often give to issues of oppression and inequality that surround a culture of violence. Some may wonder, “Why talk about racism? This march is about violence against women.” Or, “All domestic violence is just as bad - why does it matter what your background is?” Well, I will briefly attend to those questions here, with hope that the conversation about diversity, culture, and domestic violence continues in your lives and communities.

Sometimes the best way to answer a difficult question, like the examples above, is with another question. To begin, I will list a few questions that Thelma Bryant-Davis poses in her book, Thriving in the Wake of Trauma, that can help navigate a growing awareness of the impact of culture on trauma.

  • How does a woman’s faith affect her feelings about her own anger in the context of domestic violence?

  • How does a man’s sexual orientation affect his sense of safety in the context of being discriminated against in the workplace?

  • How does an adolescent girl’s race affect her body image in the context of being gang raped?

  • How does a boy’s mental disability affect his sense of shame in the context of being physically assaulted on the playground?

These questions are examples of how we approach the topic of diversity and culture when we think about domestic violence and the clients/patients we work with who have such experiences. It is crucial in our work as psychologists to attend to cultural oppression when we are working with survivors of abuse. The ways trauma is experienced is through a cultural framework, where values and messages within one’s family or communities influence how the trauma is processed or understood. Further, the inherent trauma of discrimination and oppression most certainly impacts participation in, reactions to, and processing of domestic abuse and violence.


It is important to be attentive to various cultural identities, such as ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religion, ability status, age, and national origin, and how these and other identities intersect with each other and provide a context within which violence occurs. Rather than explain all of the possible ways that cultural identities matter (there is not room for that), I want to leave you with the notion that humans are complex and that culture is like the dye and the stitching of a quilt, bleeding through all of the shapes and patterns while intricately sewing it all together.

As you continue to gain awareness of these complexities and why they matter in the context of domestic violence, I would encourage you to join Sacramento for the 35th annual Take Back the Night march and rally.

Details below:
When: October 11th (Second Saturday)
Start Time: Resource Fair & Rally: 5:00pm | March: 8:00pm
Location: Sacramento Native American Health Center, Inc.
2020 J Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

Bryant-Davis, T. (2008). Thriving in the Wake of Trauma: A Multicultural Guide. MD: Altamira Press.