Somos hermanas del mismo dolor (we are sisters of the same pain): Intimate partner sexual violence narratives among Mexican immigrant women in Philadelphia

Tiffany Dovydaitis, University of Pennsylvania


Intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV), any non-consensual or coerced sexual act perpetrated by one partner against another in an intimate relationship, is associated with poorer physical and mental health outcomes than physical violence alone. Immigrant Latinas in the US face an even higher burden related to IPSV due to a number of sociocultural, economic and political factors present in their lives. Through the combined use of holistic content and holistic form narrative analysis methodologies, I examined IPSV in the lives of nine Mexican immigrant women living in Philadelphia. Although interview questions focused primarily on migration and IPSV, women shared broader personal stories of a lifetime of suffering. I identified three major themes and plot types present within participant narratives. Themes included la Virgen y la Puta (The Virgin and the Whore), La Familia (The Family), and Avazar (Getting Ahead). The virgin and the whore theme illuminated pervasive sociocultural beliefs surrounding the importance of virginity, and the consequences of being viewed as a whore after childhood sexual abuse and adult sexual violence. The family theme included two subthemes on past family abuse and the present importance of loving children and giving them a better life. The final theme, getting ahead, represented the women's efforts to move beyond their histories of suffering in order to live happier lives. Plot types further demonstrated the women's conceptualizations of their own stories of suffering. These included the life of enduring suffering, the life of striving against suffering, and the life of suffering left behind. The use of combined narrative analysis methods allowed for an insightful examination of the contextual complexities of IPSV, and demonstrated how the women understood and ascribed meaning to their larger stories of suffering. As the first study to specifically examine IPSV among immigrant Latinas in the US, this descriptive work adds valuable new knowledge to an area of science that is still not well understood, and provides important implications for researchers, and health and social service providers working with this population. Future work should include community-based interventions to address sexual violence across the lifespan on both sides of the US-Mexican border.

Subject Area

Mental health|Nursing|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Dovydaitis, Tiffany, "Somos hermanas del mismo dolor (we are sisters of the same pain): Intimate partner sexual violence narratives among Mexican immigrant women in Philadelphia" (2011). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3475944.