Faculty Grant: Krista Chronister & Yolanda Valenzuela

Immigrant Latina Survivors of Partner Violence and Work
Culturally adapting an existing vocational development intervention

by Yolanda Valenzuela, PhD candidate, and Krista Chronister, Professor,
Counseling Psychology Program, College of Education

“Yo, de la manera en que me afectaba el trabajo, por ejemplo, este… En uno de mis trabajos, este… mi esposo llegó a trabajar ahí en un turno en la tarde… en ese poquito tiempo que él estaba pues me afectaba mucho porque nada más me miraba y me controlaba con la pura mirada, como no hagas nada, no hables.”

In the quote above, Maria shares how her husband stalked her at work and imposed such fear that she eventually quit her job.  Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a serious public health and human rights issue. Scholars have documented the enduring and devastating impact of such violence on women and their children. The vast majority of research, however, does not include or focus on culturally and linguistically diverse women or the impact of IPV on women’s work. Focus on IPV survivors’ work and financial resources is critical because these two factors are what allow women to access help. The purpose of our research study, therefore, was to take an existing vocational development intervention that Krista Chronister designed originally for English-speaking IPV survivors and culturally adapt it to meet the work and rehabilitation needs of Spanish-speaking Latina immigrant IPV survivors.  

Krista Chronister created the Advancing Career Counseling and Employment Support for Survivors intervention (ACCESS; Chronister, 2013) 15 years ago and has spent her career examining how well ACCESS supports IPV survivors’ vocational development and rehabilitation. Yolanda Valenzuela came to the University of Oregon to pursue a doctoral degree in counseling psychology and this adaptation study is her dissertation scholarship.   

We spent nearly six years translating and making initial cultural adaptations to ACCESS based on the small, but growing body of research with Latina immigrant IPV survivors. Our initial adaptations were made using the Heuristic model for cultural adaptations (Barrera & Castro, 2006) and included translating and back-translating all ACCESS materials; replacing more Western-based IPV psychoeducational materials with published materials created for immigrant survivors; offering more intervention meeting times; and using word-of-mouth recruitment more intentionally. From December 2017 through March 2018, we offered the five-week ACCESS intervention to 15 Latina immigrant IPV survivors living in Lane County. After each intervention meeting, we used focus group interview methods to gather information about participants’ experiences of that session. We audio recorded all focus groups with participants’ consent. We used a constructivist-interpretivist research paradigm to ask women questions about how ACCESS content fit their life experiences and work needs; what they appreciated most about the session and what they liked least; and what intervention pieces were least helpful. We analyzed the focus group data using conventional qualitative content analytic methods.  

Our study findings showed that (a) women participants experienced many of the same barriers that scholars have documented previously as affecting Latina immigrant survivors’ work and help-seeking, and (b) that our preliminary adaptations to ACCESS were culturally relevant for the unique and intersecting vocational needs of Latina immigrant IPV survivors. The barriers that most affected their work experiences, choices and persistence toward their goals included their lack of English skills and the lack of resources available in Spanish; employers’ and social service providers’ xenophobia and racism; and their documentation status. Participants also shared that aspects of familismo, traditional gender role expectations, and their role as mothers impacted their decisions about when to work and what type of work to pursue. With regard to the cultural adaptations, participants shared that ACCESS was very relevant to their work and vocational development needs, and helped them to remember what they used to dream about for themselves and their children. Our findings revealed that we need to make two primary changes to ACCESS for the next phase of cultural adaptation and effectiveness testing: (a) change some of the language in the intervention materials to be less academic and more descriptive, and (b) capitalize more on word-of-mouth recruitment and distribute study information to more Latinx community resources. 

We are grateful to the women who participated in this study and to CLLAS and Centro Latino Americano for being critical collaborative partners in this community-based research effort. The results from this study advance our development of ACCESS and its effectiveness with supporting Latina immigrant IPV survivors to pursue the work they need and want and that allows them to contribute fully to their families and communities.    

“…yo digo que este grupo, donde venimos, es como cargarte de la batería, prepararte allá afuera, porque muchas veces no es nada más tu casa, a veces hay abuso de afuera.”

Krista Chronister has spent the past 15 years studying the impact of IPV on women’s work and career development as well as developing vocational counseling services that address survivors’ mental health and work needs simultaneously.  

Yolanda Valenzuela’s clinical work and research focus on helping Latinx immigrant populations heal from trauma and achieve empowerment through culturally and linguistically responsive services.