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Domestic Violence Counseling among Arab Women: Literature Review Example

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This literature review explores the pervasiveness of domestic violence (DV) among Arab women, examines the barriers that hinder these women from seeking assistance, and determines the most appropriate approach to alleviate this problem. Seven scholarly sources were examined in this review. The literature reveals that despite being abused, most Arab women continue staying with their violent partners and never seek assistance because of cultural, religious, personal, and socioeconomic barriers. Researchers need to take into account the patriarchal structure of Arab society, the accepted norms of conduct, how women react to their problems, and how they seek care. A better understanding of the dynamics of families affected by DV can help counselors in providing individualized support to victims and their families.

Besides being a violation of human rights, domestic violence has devastating effects on victims' physical, sexual, reproductive, mental, and social well-being. In situations of domestic violence, it is crucial to learn why very few Arab women are willing to seek aid while many of them are hindered by what they perceive to be strong hurdles to outside professional support. Since there are often close linkages between individual resource concerns and traditional Arab attitudes toward family, many Arab women are persuaded to keep their violent marriages hidden. Fear of adverse reactions from their social networks, emotions of guilt and humiliation, and feelings of isolation further decrease their chances of getting official or informal support. As such, when developing services for this peculiar group, social service delivery systems must adopt special policies and intervention strategies that take into account the unique and distinctive sociocultural beliefs and values as well as barriers to services access to effectively address the persistent problem of domestic violence among Arab women.

The Pervasiveness of Domestic Violence among Arab Women

El-Nimr et al. (2021) assessed the prevalence of DV among adult Arab women before and during the pandemic lockdown to pinpoint relevant variables. Over half of the women in this survey reported experiencing some form of psychological assault. El-Nimr et al. (2021) report that there was a sizable rise in the prevalence of all types of DV, which include psychological, physical, and sexual violence after the lockdown began. Different categories of DV were seen anywhere from once a month to almost every day. But the most commonly stated frequency was once a month to three times a month. The socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic on families have been connected to a spike in DV in Arab nations, which has led to a lockdown in those countries. Educating the public and professionals about the problem, promoting early detection, and providing adequate counseling services are all crucial.

In the Arab culture, where women still confront substantial impediments to social, political, and economic parity, the detrimental impacts of ferocity against women on their health are especially obvious. Elghossain et al. (2019) collated the state of knowledge on the prevalence of DV against women in the 22 Arab League states. According to the results of the study, the rate of physical DV ranged from 6% to 59%. There was a 3-40% range for sexual DV and a 5-91% range for mental DV (Elghossain et al., 2019). Public health and human rights are affected by the widespread reports of physical, sexual, and psychological DV against women in a variety of settings, as stated by Elghossain et al. (2019). However, there is a lack of consistency in the data, which suggests that additional high-quality, internationally comparable research on DV is required, as is a stricter adherence to international ethical and scientific norms. Particularly important for directing efforts to prevent and mitigate violence against women are nationwide, population-based data. Clearly, DV is a pervasive human right and public health issue in most Arab nations that need effective evidence-based preventive approaches to alleviate the exacerbating situation.

Mojahed et al. (2022) elaborate on the multifaceted nature of abuse against women in the Arab world, which includes a wide range of interrelated psychological, demographic, social, legal, and political factors. Because of the social nature of the issue, it necessitates elusive interventions. Mojahed et al. (2022) recommend that prevention efforts should be more situational and structural, with an emphasis on the real ecological and contextual structure of domestic violence (DV) and human behavior, rather than just focusing on modifying individual behavior. Regional, national, and international efforts should be bolstered, and victims' access to well-coordinated police, legal, medical, and social services (such as counseling) could be improved, all of which might contribute to the establishment of a system to safeguard Arab women against the pervasive DV in Arab nations.

Why Arab Women Continue to Stay with Abusive Intimate Partners

Despite being abused frequently, for several reasons, Arab women opt to continue living with their violent partners. The most common factor that influences most Arab women to stay in their abusive marriages is the cultural and religious forces. Many Arab cultures discourage divorce and family separation. As a result, women bear the weight of keeping a family together by avoiding divorce by all means possible. Many do this to protect their children. Others do so in fear of “shame” and negative societal judgments. Miki's (2022) study focuses on American women of Arab heritage, and it centers on two feelings: shame and guilt. Arab American patriarchal society is studied by Miki (2022), who delves into the intersection between shame psychology and gender shame. In addition to humanizing the experiences of one of the most marginalized groups in American literature and society, Miki's (2022) work highlights the ways in which cultures dominated by males impact and display gender-based guilt. This study finds that most Arab women prefer to remain with their abusive personal relationships rather than risk the "shame" of leaving them.

Heron et al. (2022) looked at the reasons why women victims of domestic violence stay with their abusers. Even though being in an abusive relationship may be harmful to a woman's physical and mental health, many Arab women stay in them. An ethnically varied group of women who had been victims of domestic abuse were studied by Heron et al. (2022), who looked at their decisions to stay in or leave violent situations. There were three overarching elements for women's retention that were discovered by Heron et al. (2022). Keeping the family unit intact through marriage and having children fell under the first major subject of investment. Entrapment was the second overarching subject, and it included the subthemes of economic reliance, physical entrapment, social isolation, coping methods, and cultural beliefs. Unconditional love was the third essential idea. Heron et al. (2022) also found that there were mostly three reasons why women quit. Subthemes of external support included official and informal types of help. The second overarching concept was that of apprehension, which was broken down into two categories: worries about one's mental and physical well-being. The third main idea was that the children must be safeguarded. Some specific reasons to stay, such as religious views, seemed more prominent among women from ethnic minority groups.

Barriers to Counseling Services for Domestic Violence among Arab Women

For several reasons, even after experiencing DV, most Arab women do not seek help through counseling services. Many of them chose to remain silent and develop coping strategies. According to Oyewuwo-Gassikia (2019), DV victims may turn to their family or friends, their faith communities, social agencies, and the law for support. Participants in Oyewuwo-Gassikia's (2019) study, however, reported several barriers that prohibited them from employing such methods. Specifically, Balice et al. (2019) reviewed research on DV against Muslim women in the US, to determine why they do not seek help services. According to Balice et al. (2019), minority groups, particularly immigrant populations, have disproportionately high rates of DV. Death is the most extreme bodily manifestation of the psychological and physical harm that can result from experiencing domestic abuse. However, many Arab women in this demographic do not seek psychological care owing to the stigma associated with psychological health in Arab societies. In addition, many Middle Eastern cultures dismiss DV as a minor private matter. Some of the reasons why Middle Eastern women may not seek help for domestic abuse are the fear of retaliation, the loss of support and connections, cultural expectations, and the risk to their family's reputation. In order to effectively serve these women and their needs, it will be necessary to take into account and investigate their perspectives on the dangers and advantages of receiving psychiatric treatment in the future.


This research demonstrates that Arab women have unique challenges and concerns related to domestic abuse and that their access to and utilization of domestic violence services is impacted by a variety of individual, familial, societal, and cultural elements. At the individual level, battered Arab women often lack several resources, including language proficiency, financial stability, and familiarity with available community assistance and the logistics of accessing them. Since it is extremely challenging to escape an abusive environment if one does not have money to live on, a lack of personal resources is the single most crucial issue determining the vulnerability of abused women. Since they are so defenseless, many battered women refuse to get help and instead choose to quietly endure their violence. Many Arab women are influenced to keep their abusive relationships secret because of the strong ties between personal resource issues and traditional Arab values toward family. Their prospects of accessing official or informal help are already low; they are further diminished by their fear of unfavorable reactions from their social networks, their feelings of shame and humiliation, and their feelings of isolation. This research provides compelling evidence for urgent changes in intervention policy and social practice. The policy community must be educated on the specific challenges that DV survivors experience. This study has implications for counselors since they may provide survivors of DV with more individualized and efficient services by being more familiar with their sociocultural dynamics.


  • Balice, G., Aquino, S., Baer, S., Behar, M., Belur, A., Flitter, J., ... & Placenia, L. (2019). A review of barriers to treating domestic violence for Middle Eastern women living in the United States. Psychol Cogn Sci Open J, 5(1), 30-36.
  • Elghossain, T., Bott, S., Akik, C., & Obermeyer, C. M. (2019). Prevalence of intimate partner violence against women in the Arab world: a systematic review. BMC international health and human rights, 19(1), 1-16. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12914-019-0215-5
  • El-Nimr, N. A., Mamdouh, H. M., Ramadan, A., El Saeh, H. M., & Shata, Z. N. (2021). Intimate partner violence among Arab women before and during the COVID-19 lockdown. Journal of the Egyptian Public Health Association, 96(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42506-021-00077-y
  • Heron, R. L., Eisma, M., & Browne, K. (2022). Why Do Female Domestic Violence Victims Remain in or Leave Abusive Relationships? A Qualitative Study. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 31(5), 677–694. https://doi.org/10.1080/10926771.2021.2019154
  • Mikić, M. (2022). Arab American women and the generational cycle of shame: A cognitive reading of Etaf Rum’s A Woman Is No Man. Orbis Litterarum, 77(2), 114-125.
  • Mojahed, A., Alaidarous, N., Shabta, H., Hegewald, J., & Garthus-Niegel, S. (2022). Intimate partner violence against women in the Arab countries: a systematic review of risk factors. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 23(2), 390-407.
  • Oyewuwo-Gassikia, O. B. (2019). Black Muslim Women’s Domestic Violence Help-Seeking Strategies: Types, Motivations, and Outcomes. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 29(7), 856–875. https://doi.org/10.1080/10926771.2019.1653411
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