Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

July 2006


Objectives. The purpose of this research was to: (1) examine judgments about immigrants who are victims of and assailants in intimate partner violence, and (2) assess whether immigrants to the U.S., a diverse and growing population, know that intimate partner violence is illegal in the United States and their judgments about what sanctions, if any, should follow.

Methods. A random-digit-dial telephone survey was conducted in four languages with 3,679 California adults. There were roughly comparable numbers of white, black, Latino, Korean American, Vietnamese American, and other Asian American participants; 60.1% were born outside the U.S. An experimental vignette design was used to vary victim, assailant, and contextual factors about incidents of intimate partner violence and to assess respondents' judgments about the behavior and what should be done about it. Multivariate analyses were conducted to examine the independent effect of these predictor variables and characteristics of the respondents.

Results. Respondent judgments about whether an incident of intimate partner violence was wrong, illegal, or about what sanctions should follow were not related to nativity of either the victim or the assailant. Immigrant respondents differed from native-born respondents on two outcomes: immigrants were more likely to think that the behavior was illegal and that guns should be removed from the assailant.

Conclusions. Concerns that immigrants do not know that intimate partner violence is illegal in the U.S. are largely misplaced—immigrants know it soon after their arrival in the U.S. In addition, it appears that a cultural defense regarding domestic violence is not likely to sway others.


©2006 Association of Schools of Public Health. Reprinted from Public Health Reports, Volume 121, July 2006, pages 445-452.
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Date Posted: 09 December 2008

This document has been peer reviewed.