I grew up in a community where there are many dialects as well as sub cultures within a culture. For example, I belong to the Yoruba tribe, yet, I do not understand all the dialects being spoken by the people that identify with the Yoruba tribe. And, even though, Nigeria has decided to categorize the over 400 dialects of the country into three main languages – Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo, there are many subgroups in some parts of the country that still do not identify with the category that they have been placed.
I write this to see how to simplify the complex issue that the role of culture plays in violence from domestic violence to human trafficking. Within, the subculture or clan as you would, there are differences in cultural practices. For example, cutting of the face, widely known as tribal marks is still a practice in some tribes, including the Yoruba tribe. In fact, the cutting of face, is not always for tribal marks because there are many other reasons such as superstitious beliefs that make people cut their kids or family member’s faces. The cutting is not only on the face too. There are people who have several cuts as a result of superstitious beliefs on other parts of their bodies which are covered with clothing.
In another instance, it is the naming of a child. Most people name their child on the eighth day, meaning that, they do not announce the baby’s name to the public before the eighth day. The naming of a child is accompanied by traditional practices from the child’s family heritage. For example, the child must be named by several people including grandparents, named after grandparents, and so on.
These are just two of uncountable examples of cultural practices from my own community.
When it comes to social issues such as domestic violence or human trafficking, there is need to have a broad perspective in terms of understanding the culture in which the victim is coming from. Last week, I did a Ride Along with a police officer at the Coon Rapids Police Department. Officer Kim, who obviously has Asian heritage from his looks told me his experience with the immigrant population in the 10-year period that he has been working with the police department.
According to him, people from various cultures respond depending on their cultural background. For example, some cultural practices do not frown against violence of some sorts whereas in the United States, it is a crime. He said that, “in the African community where culture play a role is with the victim where they don’t want to report or speak.” He noted also that Asian women are very quiet. “We see every culture at their worst. We have a unique perspective in that way,” he added.
He explained further that people respect or disrespect the police depending on the culture they are coming from. In some cultures, the police is respected whereas in other cultures, the police is not respected.
Most of the time, the first person that a victim of human trafficking or domestic violence will come in contact with is someone from his or her culture. Unfortunately, if the culture is such that does not believe in the police or respects the law, it will be difficult for the victim to get help in a timely manner or get help at all. And, even in the process of getting help, there could be various challenges that will pose a barrier. I was at a meeting recently where it was mentioned that translators ask clients to lie to service provider in the process of interview.
Cultural practices, societal norms, and traditions are practices that have been in a community for hundreds of years. As times changes, some of the practices affects our health and well being. One main step I believe we can take to keep our culture in a way that it no longer poses as a threat to our well being is through continued education and awareness. When we can also come to the same page in terms of awareness, we can keep the good and nonviolence practices of our cultures and get rid of the violent practices.
Next week, I will be participating as a trainer on two panel discussions. One of it is focused on cultural awareness. According to the event organizer, the workshop will focus on “culture beyond race and ethnicity, to also include faith/religion, sexual orientation, region of residence, level of acculturation, and closely related factors such as socioeconomic status and literacy level.” At the workshop, the panel will “discuss not only how culture shapes survivors’ access to services, but also how the cultures surround our service systems (including advocates) can impact the outcome,” (Freedom Network).
Panelists will talk about things to keep in mind when providing culturally sensitive services to clients.
- Participants will become more aware of his/her own assumptions and bias about the clients, their family and/or community context.
- Participants will recognize power (such as language, immigration status, professional status, race, class etc) and its possible implications.
- Participants will build general cultural awareness about cultural factors that can impact the relationship between clients and providers.
Click here to register for the conference.
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Bye for now, until next time.