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What are the personal and cultural criteria of Indo-Canadian women in deciding to seek counselling help? McLellan, Marla 1998

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WHAT ARE THE PERSONAL AND CULTURAL CRITERIA OF INDO-CANADIAN WOMEN IN DECIDING TO SEEK COUNSELLING HELP? by Maria McLellan B.A. University of Victoria, 1983 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS i n THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of Counselling Psychology We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA MAY 1998 © Maria McLellan, 1998 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of Co o A) < C i . ' / . , r*S / g / / ^ ^ v The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date J T o / O E ? , l99t DE-6 (2/88) A b s t r a c t The purpose of this study was to explore the decis ion-making process of Indo-Canadian women in seeking counsel l ing help. Little research regarding help-seeking behaviours and attitudes of minority groups has been done in the area of counsell ing psychology. Even less attention has been given to the Indo-Canadian community. The aim of this study was to contribute to existing research through a contextual understanding of the influences on an Indo-Canadian woman whe/n faced with the decis ion to pursue counsel l ing help. It was further intended to provide mental health serv ices with information on ways of encouraging this cultural group to utilize the avai lable help resources. This study used narrative and multiple case study methodology. Seven Indo-Canadian women, all having previously used mental health serv ices , were interviewed. Interviews were then t ranscr ibed, and 'straightened' into individual narratives based on the unique story of each participant. Factors of hindrance and facilitation with regard to help-seek ing were extracted from the narratives and then analyzed for commonal i t ies. The transcripts and narratives were val idated by an external examiner to ensure freedom from distortion and bias. Five of the seven stories along with the factors of hindrance and facil itation were further val idated by the respective participants. In addit ion, an abstract story was constructed from the individual accounts. Findings extended the research through the identification of facil itating factors in the decis ion-making process of Indo-Canadian women in seek ing counsel l ing. Table of Contents A b s t r a c t i i Table of Contents i i i A c k n o w l e d g e m e n t v Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Rat ionale for the Study 2 Approach to the Study 4 A Note on Terms 6 Chapter 2: Rev iew of the Literature In t roduc t ion 7 Help-seeking Behaviour in the Mainstream Culture 7 Help-seeking Behaviour in Immigrant Cultures 1 0 Potential Barriers 1 2 Help-seeking Behaviour Among Indo-Canadian Women 2 5 Introduction 2 6 Reasons For Not Seeking Help 2 6 South As ian Women Within the Family Structure ./. 2 7 The St igma Attached to Help-seeking 3 0 The Lack of Knowledge About Help Providers 3 2 Reasons to Seek Help 3 3 Preferred Counsellor Attributes 3 6 C o n c l u s i o n 3 8 Chapter 3: Methodology Design of the Study 41 P a r t i c i p a n t s 4 2 Interview Process 4 3 Const ruct ion of Narrat ives 4 7 Val idat ion of Narrat ives 4 7 Narrat ive Ana l ys i s 4 8 Chapter 4: Results and Analyses First Narrative and Commentary 51 Second Narrative and Commentary 5 9 Third Narrative and Commentary 6 8 Fourth Narrative and Commentary 7 9 Fifth Narrative and Commentary 8 6 Table of Contents (cont inued) Sixth Narrative and Commentary 9 6 Seventh Narrative and Commentary 1 0 6 Common Factors 1 1 7 Abs t rac t Narrat ive 1 3 0 Chapter 5: Discussion In t roduc t ion 1 3 3 Limitat ions of the Study 1 3 3 Impl icat ions for He lp -seek ing 1 3 5 Implicat ions for Counse l l ing Pract ice 1 3 6 Implications for Future Research 1 4 0 Pe rsona l Ref lect ion 141 "The Pr isoner " 1 4 3 R e f e r e n c e s 1 4 6 A p p e n d i c e s A. Contact Letter to Volunteer 1 5 4 B. Consent Form 1 5 5 A c k n o w l e d g e m e n t s v Conqueror of cit ies, young seer, Born with unlimited power, The Spirit susta ins every act... - Hymn to Indra, the Embodied Spirit Rig V e d a 1.11.4 (cited in Ghatage, 1997) Thank you to the seven women who offered to tell their stories. The generosity and strength of the women in the South As ian community leave me awestruck. Thank you to Larry Cochran , supervisor extraordinaire. His guidance and encouragement al lowed me to see what I was capable of accompl ish ing. Thank you to Bill Borgan for stepping in at the final hour without hesitation or lament. Thank you to Wendy M., Wendy G . and Janice for editing my work without crushing my spirit - not an easy feat. Thank you to all my friends and loved ones who kept me fed, exerc ised, and on track. Without their support this would not be my final word. 1 Chapter 1 In t roduct ion Much of the help-seeking research dedicated to the general populat ions and to minority immigrant groups has focused on barriers which inhibit help-seeking behaviours and attitudes. Moreover, a good deal of the medical and social sc ience literature has addressed the reasons for minority groups' ill use of mental health serv ices , but little research has focused on those in the communit ies who do decide to seek professional help. Whi le it is evident that the barriers are extensive, it is l ikewise evident that many people, including those of immigrant cultures do utilize mental health care serv ices (India Mahi la Assoc ia t ion , 1994). The s t resses of immigrating to a new country and culture are daunting; the st resses of being a marginal group where the dominant culture dec ides the norms of professional help can be further debil itating. Many individuals within ethnic populations could benefit from professional help and support; however, few utilize avai lable serv ices . Those who decide to seek professional help must somehow overcome certain cultural expectat ions and societal norms. It seems to be the women who most often reach out for professional support (Beiser, 1988), even though they seem to be the ones who are under the greatest inf luences within their culture. The focus of this study has been on the women of the South As ian population. There are many reasons why Indo-Canadian women do not seek professional counsel l ing. There are, however, many women who do find help. It is the assumption of this researcher that if an understanding of 2 the decis ion-making process of these women were broadened, interventions could be strategical ly p laced within the dec is ion-mak ing process so as to design programs to better meet Indo-Canadian women's mental health needs. Accordingly, the purpose of this study is to ask the following quest ion: What are the personal and cultural criteria of Indo-Canadian women in deciding to seek counsel l ing help? Rat ionale for the study "While national interest in the mental health needs of ethnic minorities has increased in the past decade, the human service profess ions, especia l ly cl inical and counsel l ing psychology, have fai led to meet the particular mental health needs of this population" (Sue & Sue , 1990). Further, Dutt (1989) included in a report on immigrant women that "the persistent theme throughout the documents written on the subject of health care and social serv ices for immigrant and refugee women is the under-uti l ization of serv ices" (p. 53). Nevertheless, there are many immigrant women who want and need mental health care (Beiser, 1988). The quest ion, then, is how the gap between the desire to seek help and the procuration of serv ices can be successful ly bridged. There is an ever increasing number of people from foreign countr ies settl ing in C a n a d a . Due to the tramatic effects of immigration and cultural accl imat izat ion, many immigrants are at risk of developing mental d isorders. It is the responsibil i ty of mental health serv ices to come to terms with how to address and respond to the needs of these people. Without such serv ices, the quality of life of many immigrants, 3 particularly that of the female immigrant populat ion, will cont inue to spiral in a downward direction. In her research on South As ian women in Britain, Wi lson (1979) wrote: "To serve and suffer is cons idered not only a woman's lot but right. If a woman is suffering things are as they should be" (p. 7). The implication is that a woman should be accept ing of and honored by her fate. While this statement may not be true of all women in the South As ian community, it need not and should not be the case for any woman in any community. A further rationale for this study is the fact that C a n a d a ' s mult icultural pol icy and 'commitment to facil i tating immigrat ion' as laid out in the Report of the Beiser on Mental Health Issues Affecting Immigrants and Refugees (1988), necessi tates the provision of diversity in the realm of effective and appropriate mental health care. If C a n a d a is prepared to welcome new immigrants on the pretext of a fulfilling and equal-opportunity way of life, then its requisite is to provide for these cultural groups in the same way it provides for the mainstream popu la t ion . For counsel l ing to be appropriate and effective, then, it must respect the cl ient 's cultural norms and beliefs. Dil lard (1983) wrote: Multicultural counsel ing is based on a concept of cultural plural ism. Cultural plural ism involves the recognition of var ious cultural and ethnic groups.. . , including each group's anthropological , soc io log ica l , economic, and political relationships. This concept exceeds mere observance of the presence of multicultural and ethnic groups; rather, it fosters an equal presence by suggest ing respect for human diversity (p. 4). Counsel l ing of this nature requires, at the very least, a greater awareness 4 and understanding of the needs of Canada 's diverse cultural communit ies. However, as Dillard points out, such awareness does not preclude the need for more sensi t ive and culturally appropriate mental health strategies and programs. To date, many of the services in place serve to hinder, as opposed to encourage, immigrant utilization. Counsel l ing agenc ies need to address this disparity, or the lack of utilization of mental health serv ices will continue as it has over the past decades (Dutt, 1989; Beiser, 1988). There is evidence that women in the Indo-Canadian community do not seek counsel l ing help even though they want and need it (Dutt, 1989; Beiser , 1988). It is vital that attention be given to both the barriers which prevent their seeking professional help and to the factors that might encourage or facilitate their decis ion-making p rocess . Through these steps, C a n a d a can begin to fulfill its promise of an open and welcoming country which respects and provides for each individual member of the community in all areas of life. Approach to the study This study began with the intention of using Gladwin 's 'Ethnographic Decis ion Tree Model ing' (1989) as a design method which breaks down a decis ion process into simple 'do it; don't do it s teps' . However, after complet ing the first participant interview, I no longer felt the model would capture the r ichness of the told exper iences of the part icipants. Consequent ly , I turned to narrative research as a means of capturing the unique exper ience of each individual story. "Story cult ivates a kind of understanding that goes beyond explanation to something more akin to wisdom or il lumination" (Cochran, 1989, p. 74). The meaning behind the 5 struggle of each participant to reach out for counsel l ing help could not have been extrapolated using another, less inclusive type of des ign. The story honors the participant's journey in that it al lows her to tell her story in its entirety, as she exper ienced and lived it. "As a participant, one dec ides, plans, and acts, living out a story" (Cochran, 1989, p. 75), and as a researcher or witness to the story, one helps to 'straighten' out the story, adding further to its meaning. In this regard, participant and researcher work together to create and analyze the narrative. In addit ion, a mult iple-case design was uti l ized to show replication of logic in the decis ion making process of the seven participants interviewed. Y in (1984) asserted that case study is an effective means of " investigating phenomenon within its real-life context" (p. 23). The use of mult ip le-case des ign , therefore, serves to compl iment the narrative approach to data collection. Data was gathered using an open-ended interview format in order to elicit the dec is ion-making p rocess within the full context of each individual's exper ience; the part icipants were al lowed the space needed to reflect on and describe their exper iences. The researcher worked to become aware of her own assumpt ions and b iases so as not to influence or question the validity of the story-teller in any way. The research produced authentic narrative accounts of the dec is ion-making process of the individual participants. A c ross -case compar ison of these narratives revealed the presence of common factors of hindrance and facilitation among the seven unique life stories. A note on terms Because of the diversity within the South As ian populat ion, it has not been possib le within the limits of this study to dist inguish between the var ious within culture groupings. Consequent ly , the terms South As ian , Indian, East Indian and Indo-Canadian will be used interchangeably to refer to all South As ian women as one cultural group. 7 Chapter 2 Rev iew of the Literature In t roduc t ion This chapter provides background information on help-seeking behaviour in the general population, followed by an overview of help-seek ing attitudes and behaviours in minority immigrant populat ions, with a particular focus on the As ian cultures. The final sect ions of the chapter focus on the help-seeking attitudes and behaviours speci f ical ly within the Indo-Canadian community, paying particular attention to those attitudes and behaviours most relevant to Indo-Canadian women. He lp-seek ing behaviour in the mainstream culture To understand the help-seeking behaviours and attitudes of a particular group, it is first necessary to understand those of the mainstream culture. The following sect ion offers a base understanding of help-seeking in the mainstream population. It is not an exhaust ive study. The majority of people who report experiencing problems do not seek any help at all (Cheatham, Shelton, Ray, 1987). More often they attempt to use various coping strategies to work the problem through. Accord ing to Barker, Pis t rang, Shapi ro, Shaw (1990), distraction, thinking of ways to overcome the di lemma, and substance use are commonly util ized strategies. In a review of help-seeking literature, Gourash (1978) identif ied several characterist ics common to those who do seek help: young, white, educated, middle-class and female. Men appear to prefer self-help methods to medical or psychological facilities (Barker et a l . , 1990; 8 Cheatham et a l . , 1987). Cheatham et al . further added to this list of common he lp-seeker character is t ics, those individuals who identify themselves as Jewish or as not strongly religious, and those from urban or suburban environments. In addition, both Gourash and Brown (1978) named the two factors contributing most to help-seeking behaviours as age and race. The majority of help-seekers are young and Caucas ian . Gourash (1978) further reviewed the research f indings on reasons for help-seeking, and the sources to which help-seekers reach out. Accordingly , the research findings indicated that people general ly seek help for comfort, reassurance and advice. Family and friends are consul ted first and agenc ies or professional organizat ions last (Barker et a l . , 1990; Gourash , 1978; Mechanic, 1975; Snyder, Hill, Derksen, 1972). Soc ia l networks were found to provide support, to help in dec is ion-making, and to offer referral information for mental health serv ices . Profess ional help was found to be most often ultil ized for severe emotional distress, when ass is tance from the socia l network was not avai lable, or when there was reluctance to d iscuss problems with others (Brown, 1978; Gourash , 1978). After family and friends, Barker et a l . added family doctors as the next preferable helper resource in the British populat ion. Accord ing to their review, this was not the case in studies conducted in the United States where people tended to seek help from mental health professionals after family and fr iends, possib ly due to dif ferences in the medical care systems of the two countr ies. Brown's (1978) research further indicates that the nonhe lp-seekers are the group most at risk because they tend to rate lowest on self-esteem measures, have unsupportive and unreliable social networks, and have strong reservations about d iscuss ing problems with others. Other research has shown that people in need of help fail to use helping resources because it means openly admitting to inadequacy or failure (cited in Schoner t -Reich l & Muller, 1995). In a study of ado lescents ' percept ions of barriers to help-seeking, Dubow & Tisak (1989) found that one of the major concerns was that family or friends would find out, thus conf i rming their hypothesis that ' se l f - consc iousness ' is an inhibit ing factor in help-seeking behaviour. Mechan ic (1975) included causal attributions as having an influence on an individual's decision to seek help. Mechanic referred to causa l attributions as the cause one attributes to the identified problem. These can be both internal, personality factors, or external, environmental factors. Mechan ic argued that the attributions are inf luenced by the type and ser iousness of the problem, the sociocultural character ist ics of the individual, as well as his/her social circle. A he lp-seeker 's dec is ion p rocess , therefore, includes first identifying the problem as reso lvable , then deciding to go for help, and finally, choosing a source of help. In summary, the help-seeking research supports the var iables of race, age, social network, type and severity of a problem, and level of se l f -esteem as determinants in deciding to seek professional support for emotional distress. The research further indicates that the decis ion to go for professional counsel l ing is not one that is made without cons iderable d e l i b e r a t i o n . 10 He lp -seek ing behaviour in immigrant cultures A considerable amount of research has been done over the past decade on help-seeking in immigrant populations. There is unanimity in the research that immigrants, both new to the country, and those who have resided in the country for generat ions, underuti l ize mental health resources (Allodi, 1978; Beiser, 1988; Root, 1985; Sue & McKinney, 1975; Sue & Mor ishima, 1982). This phenomenon is particularly underscored in the research on As ian cultures. Included, too, in much of the research is the need for mental health professionals to have a greater awareness of individual and within group di f ferences of the various cultural groups (Dil lard, 1983; Li t t lewood, & L ipsedge, 1997; McGoldr ick, Giordano, & Pearce, 1996; Reynolds & Pope, 1991; Root, 1985; Sue & Sue , 1990; Yee & Hennessy, 1982) which can determine the help-seeking behaviours and attitudes of individuals. If a counsel lor appears racist in his/her approach to a particular cultural group, this can lead to a feeling of distrust on the part of the help-seeker. Di f ferences include degrees of assimi lat ion or accul turat ion, identif ication with the home country, facility with native and host languages, family composit ion and intactness, amount of educat ion, degree of adherence to religious beliefs, and counsel lor-type preference. In contrast, Ho (1983) lists several traditional va lues he bel ieves appl icable across all As ian ethnic groups: 1. the loyal devotion, respect for, and deference to authority, specif ical ly familial and societal authority. 2. the use of self-control and internal restraint s ince all individual behaviour reflects on the family. 3. the use of shame and guilt to 11 d iscourage individual ism. 4. the acceptance of condit ions in life without attempting to understand or control the environment or to determine one 's own destiny. And Herr (1987) wrote: Most nations are pluralistic in their sex role ass ignments , soc ioeconomic c lasses , and ethnic, racial or religious groupings. Never the less, persons within a particular nation, regardless of its degree of plural ism, tend to be exposed to similar soc ia l metaphors, customs, languages, and value sets, which dist inguish their cognit ive environment from that of persons in other nations (p. 107). Whi le there are differences among cultural groups, so, too, are there commonal i t ies which cannot be d ismissed. Assupt ions, however, must be set as ide until more is known of the client's personal situation. Other barriers to mental health care for immigrant minority groups have been identified in the research. From the following list, those barriers that require further explanat ion will be dealt with in a later sect ion of this chapter. Barriers included in the literature are language barriers (Beiser, 1988; Dil lard, 1983; Manitoba Employment Serv ices , 1987; Root, 1985; Y e e & Hennessy, 1982); financial barriers ( Beiser , 1988; Root, 1985); service accessibi l i ty (Beiser, 1988; Brown, 1978; Root, 1985); a lack of information and misinformation regarding serv ices (Beiser, 1988); the separation of medical and mental health care when many cultures see them as interrelated (Beiser, 1988); rights and responsibi l i t ies (Beiser, 1988; Mani toba Employment Serv ices , 1987; Zhang , 1995); racial stereotyping (Beiser, 1988; Corvin & Wiggins, 1989; Y e e & Hennessy , 1982); distrust of the counsel l ing process (Beiser, 1988; Litt lewood & L ipsedge, 1997; Manitoba Employment Serv ices , 1987; 12 Mickle, 1985; Shon & J a , 1982); anxieties around breaking a cultural barrier (Al lodi, 1978); culture shock often resulting in he lp lessness , depress ion, and fatigue (Allodi, 1978; Manitoba Employment Serv ices , 1987; Oberg, 1960; Taft, 1977; Westwood & Ishiyama, 1991); and cultural dif ferences in values and beliefs which often render the care inappropriate or ineffective (Beiser, 1988; Di l lard,1983; Y e e & Hennessy , 1982). In addit ion, Ishiyama (1989) has listed a number of feel ings exper ienced by new immigrants which could pose further barriers to help-seek ing : homes ickness, insecurity, depress ion, loss and grief, lonel iness, anger, frustration, self-doubt, and confus ion. Al lodi (1978) has argued that when serv ices are oriented to the community, when the language barriers are adequately bridged with bil ingual staff, and when services are rendered access ib le in a physical and socia l sense , underutil ization of mental health serv ices can be corrected. Yet time seems to pose an additional barrier. Degrees of acculturation and ethnic identity are concepts which may not be reconci led through change of policy or serv ices as suggested by Al lodi . These two concepts are explored in the following sect ion. Potent ial barr iers to he lp-seek ing in immigrant cul tures Ethnic identity. Ethnic identity is an important considerat ion when exploring help-seeking behaviours among immigrant groups. Ethnic identity is c losely l inked to acculturat ion. Acculturat ion refers to an individual 's transit ional process into a new culture, and ethnic identity concerns integration of the 'bicultural se l f into a larger se l f -system (Westwood, & Ishiyama, 1991). According to these authors, people 1 3 commonly vaci l late between assimilat ion and ethnic self before they fully integrate. Herr (1987) and Sue and Sue (1991) concur that one's original ethnicity is carr ied with an individual, that the norms, va lues and traditions learned and reinforced across generat ions, through soc ia l and polit ical identif ication, are internal ized. Smith (1991) asser ts that ethnic identity is not something one chooses but something one is born into, and then is shaped by one's life experiences in a society. Because a person 's behaviour is learned through the culture, that behaviour will directly relate to the va lues of her/his culture. Therefore, identity is affected by the degree to which one assimi lates into the mainstream society. Individual di f ferences in ethnic identity development and attitudes toward mainstream culture have been d iscussed by a number of researchers who have suggested various stages through which new immigrants go during the process of accl imatizing to a new culture (Atkinson, Martin & Sue , 1983; Berry & Annis, 1974; C ross , 1971; Parham & Helms, 1981; Sherif & Sherif, 1970; Vi l lasenar, 1990). Ishiyama (1989) wrote that " adjusting to a new culture and socia l context inevitably cha l lenges, confuses, threatens, and inval idates individuals' previously achieved sense of identity and self-worth" (p. 44). These feel ings can have a detrimental affect on a person's help-seeking behaviours. When a person is feeling ineffective and inferior, it is difficult to imagine breaking the cultural barrier of s i lence by seek ing psychological help. According to Leong (1986), the idea of developing one's own sense of 14 ethnic identity has been investigated in several studies. One such study by Sue and Sue (1991) d iscusses three identities that As ian -Amer icans use to resolve cultural conflict: 1. the traditionalist, who retains traditional As ian values. 2. the marginal person, who rejects all traditional va lues. 3. the As ian-Amer ican, who rebels against paternal authority and integrates bicultural elements in a new identity of past and present. Ruiz and Taft (cited in Leong, 1986) have linked sel f -esteem to ethnic identity. For instance, Ruiz has argued that ethnic identity confl icts can arise through parental messages about a chi ld 's culture or ethnic sense of belonging thereby impacting the development of self-es teem. Addit ionally, Taft has asserted that the effect an action has on the sense of self is dependent on the associat ion between that action and the person's sel f -esteem. The need for family approval , for example, might be too closely linked to the self to risk seeking outside help, and given that the family self is a significant part of identity among As ians (Hsu, 1985), seek ing counsel l ing may be too threatening for the individual as an internal conflict ensues . Ethnic identity, then, can have a strong influence on an individual 's help-seeking behaviour depending on the point at which the person is in her/his identity struggle. Accord ing to Berry (1980), the gradual shift in identity is related to the degree of acculturation, and both require the passage of time in order to complete their transition into the formation of a more acceptable identity based on an acceptance of the new cultural norms and bel iefs. 15 A c c u l t u r a t i o n . Al lodi (1978) defined acculturation as the "transitional p rocess in which the va lues, expectat ions and behavioural aspects of two cultures come into conflict within the individual" (p. 8). A lme ida (1996) lists severa l factors that affect acculturat ion among As ian Indian famil ies: educat ion, c lass , caste, family s i ze , economic support, connect ions to their traditional culture, degree of rel igiousity, past migration history, and how they have dealt with the loss of their country of origin (p. 400). Most of these variables can be appl ied to any minority immigrant group. Accul turat ion conflict can similarly occur within a family, s ince individuals acculturate by varying degrees and at different rates (Yee & Hennessy , 1982). A s the degree of acculturation to the new culture increases, cultural inf luences from the culture of origin may be less direct or obvious, although still present (Root, 1985; Taft, 1977). Taft argues that cultural beliefs from one 's original ethnic group can rarely, if ever, be completely obliterated from a person's sense of identity. In terms of help-seeking, acculturation has an effect on a person's percept ion of i l lness and attitudes to mental health serv ices (Al lodi, 1978). Accord ing to Taft (1977), one's attitude towards change can be determined by the culture in which he or she identifies. If the culture accepts change as a positive value, the individual is more likely to seek counsel l ing help. Taft has identified certain 'dynamic' aspects of acculturat ion: goals; social attitudes and values embodied in culturally def ined behaviour; the habits, traits, and defensive and express ive styles that character ize the behaviour of the members of the society; the role 16 expectat ions and feelings of obligation and propriety concern ing that behaviour; and the related feelings of social identity (p. 134). Because of their dynamic aspect, these factors may change or even oscil late as the individual struggles to find an acceptable cultural identity, and , therefore, choose certain norms and beliefs as part of that altered identity (McGoldr ick & Giordano, 1996). Acculturat ion as a predictor of help-seeking behaviour has been addressed in several studies. In their research on groups using a Posit ive Attitudes subsca le , Leong (1986) found that As ian Amer ican 's accul turat ion status was a signif icant predictor of posit ive or ientat ions toward group counsel l ing. Their results showed that loss of face was not a signif icant predictor of positive attitudes toward group counse l l ing . Within their d iscuss ion other studies are cited that have shown acculturat ion as signif icantly related to help-seeking att i tudes. And Nishia (as cited by Leong, 1986) found that Japanese-Amer icans were twice as likely to seek counsel l ing for personal growth than J a p a n e s e cl ients. Furthermore, Dhruvarajan's (1993) study of first generat ion Hindu immigrants to C a n a d a , reported that the longer the time s ince immigrat ion, the greater the preference for individual ist ic over col lect ivist ic norms. In terms of help-seeking and acculturat ion, then, it would seem that the less acculturated a person is to the immigrating country, the less likely he or she is to seek help from mental health serv ices within the host culture. Percept ions of and reactions to mental i l lness. Kleinman (1980) has referred to medicine as a 'cultural system'. The extent to which a person 17 sees her or himself as ill and in need of treatment var ies with her/his culture (Littlewood & L ipsedge, 1997). In addit ion, the behaviour exhibited by the individual exper iencing the i l lness is var ied ac ross cultures (Herr, 1987; Kleinman,1980). Similarly, the beliefs about the causes of i l lness and the norms governing the treatment vary across national groups (Kleinman, 1980; Littlewood & L ipsedge, 1997). Some cultural groups do not separate physical from emotional distress (Littlewood & L ipsedge, 1997; Root,1985). They consider the two as interrelated and interdependent. Moreover, physical i l lness over emotional complaint is general ly more acceptable and more likely to receive care, attention and treatment (Beiser, 1988; Litt lewood & L ipsedge, 1997; Yee & Hennessy, 1982). Consequent ly, emotional symptoms are often concealed (Beiser, 1988). Somat izat ion of emotional problems is a common phenomenon among many cultural groups (Kinzie, Bochnle in, Leung, Moore, Riley & Smith, 1990; Littlewood & L ipsedge, 1997; Zhang, 1995). For example, Ch inese, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Laotian people tend to concentrate on the physical symptoms of depress ion such as s leep lessness , low energy, weight loss, appetite disturbance, backaches and headaches (Beiser, 1988; Sue & Sue , 1972; Tseng , 1975; Yee & Hennessy, 1982; Zheng, 1995). Furthermore, traditional Ch inese medicine assoc ia tes health with emotional ba lance, and mental i l lness with emotional excess (Zhang, 1995). It would seem unlikely, then, that a tradit ionally-minded Ch inese individual would participate in psychotherapy, which demands expression of emotion, to al leviate an emotional disturbance. Another traditional Ch inese belief is 18 that depression and anxiety are a daily part of life that should be accepted without question or attempt at relief (Yee & Hennessy, 1982). A n d , t radi t ional ly-or iented Koreans attribute mental i l lness to famil ia l d isharmony and so treat the problem within the family (Yee & Hennessy , 1982). For other As ian groups, personal and emotional problems are considered a personal flaw that cannot be remedied (Tseng & W u , 1985). And for others, overcoming personal problems is a matter of avoiding unpleasant thoughts and exercis ing will power (Arkoff, Thaver, & Elk ind, 1966). Not one of these beliefs appear compatible with western notions of psychotherapy. Soc ia l and emotional norms also vary among cultural groups. Western psychotherapists value individuation, se l f - consc iousness and independence from parents whereas their Eastern counterparts value the family unit and respect and loyalty to others (Kleinman, 1980). Hence, a person a western counsel lor might deem emotionally unstable, might be cons idered healthy and balanced by her/his eastern counterpart . Lefley and Pederson (1989) wrote: "There is an assumption that we all agree on the same meaning for the constructs 'healthy and normal ' when in fact, we may merely be reflecting our own social va lues" (p. 76). Consequent ly , we may be unnecessar i ly stigmatizing members of immigrant minority groups and causing them to avoid or distrust the mental health serv ice sys tems. Distrust in and expectat ions of mental health serv ices. Many cultural groups do not consider emotional support a viable form of help (Chen, 1977). Root (1985) found that there was a general disbelief in the 19 As ian communit ies that therapy could help solve their problems. Tradit ional As ians feel they have coped successfu l ly for generat ions with their problems through consultat ion and advice of traditional healers (Beiser, 1988). Sue and Zane (1985) argue that the lack of credibility ascr ibed to therapists by the As ian communit ies is possibly the main reason for the underutil ization of serv ices. Distrust in western psychotherapy stems, too, from the previously d i scussed dif ferences in perception of mental i l lness. Tradit ional Ch inese bel ieve that emotional disorders are caused by morbid thinking, and that psychotherapy asks them to talk about painful (morbid) thoughts which should be avoided (Beiser, 1988). In addition, western forms of psychotherapy tend to de-emphas ize somatic interventions, unlike traditional Ch inese beliefs that promote them. It seems that counsel l ing strategies are based on cultural norms, and the pract ices of western culture do not necessar i ly coincide with those of the east (Herr, 1987). Expectat ions of the process of counsel l ing help pose further barriers to he lp-seekers , particularly when these expectat ions are in direct opposit ion to what exists in mainstream culture. In their research on help-seeking attitudes of As ian students, Arkoff et a l . (1966) found counsel l ing to be perceived as directive, paternalist ic, and authoritarian. As ian he lp-seekers in general reportedly expect an authoritarian relat ionship with a therapist whereby direct advice and information are provided (Christenson, 1987; Littlewood & L ipsedge, 1997; Root, 1985). In addit ion, Yuen and Tinsley (1981) found that the Ch inese participants in their study bel ieved that clients in a counsel l ing setting should have 20 lower levels of responsibil i ty, openness and motivation than those of the counsel lor. When expectations are not met, and the norms in place do not concur with cultural beliefs, the openness to help-seeking decl ines cons ide rab l y . A col lect ive world view. Sue & Sue (1990) define a world view as the way in which an individual perceives his/her relationship to the world. How a person thinks and makes decisions is undeniably affected by his/her world view. Many cultural groups emphas ize the value of collectivity whereby there is an interrelationship among the self, the family, and the community (Beiser, 1988; Leong, Wagner, Kim, 1995; Okon, 1983; Shanh i rzad i , 1983); As ian cultures, for example, stress that the individual is important only as a member of her/his family (Beiser, 1988). Furthermore, group loyalty and dependence are highly valued in As ian cultures (Yee & Hennessy, 1982). Consequent ly, decis ion-making is inf luenced by the family and the community based on the moral and ethical values they deem important (Othman & Awang, 1993; Westwood & Ish iyama, 1990). In As ian society, there is a definite social structure and order that accompan ies their world view; the family is one of the most important aspects of this structure (Yee & Hennessy, 1982). The male figure in the family is held responsible for the behaviour of the family members and consequent ly , has the responsibil i ty and authority to control that behaviour; the extended family often takes the responsibi l i ty of monitoring that control (Manitoba Employment Serv ices, 1987; Y e e & 21 Hennessy , 1982). Women in As ian cultures usually take a secondary role to the men in that the authority and control rests within the patriarchy (Yee & Hennessy, 1982). Therefore, the authority and control is passed from the woman's father, to her husband, and to her eldest son when she is w idowed. G iven the nature of the As ian family structure and hierarchy, Ishiyama (1995) summar izes possible obstacles an As ian individual might face when consider ing sharing personal problems with a helper: loss of pride, shame, guilt, fears of losing face, and social repercussions. B e c a u s e individuals so profoundly identify with the family, d isc losures of a personal or negative nature could be considered cri t icisms of the family and would be a sign of disloyalty and dishonour, bringing st igma and shame to that individual, to his/her family members, and to the community at large (Ho, 1984; Root, 1985). In addition, maintaining the family honor and face is an important value in As ian culture. As ian chi ldren, even as grown adults, are expected to be obedient to their parents (Hsu, 1985). Obed ience is defined as maintaining the family honour and face within the community. Brown (1978) reported that Ch inese Amer icans only tend to utilize the mental health system when the situation is critical or the family and community resources are exhausted. This is further testimony to the vital role of the family and community in the realm of decis ion-making and, therefore, help-seeking in the As ian culture. S h a m e and St igma. The interconnectedness of the individual, the family, and the community of those cultures ascr ibing to a col lect ive 22 world view, is particularly noteworthy when consider ing the shame and st igma attached to mental i l lness in many cultures. Kinzie et a l . (1980) have commented on the negative impact a mentally ill person can have on the social and economic status of a family due to the resulting st igma. Further, mental health problems can result in shame, disgrace and loss of face for the individual, the family and future generat ions (Mick le,1985; Yee & Hennessy, 1982). Y e e and Hennessy (1982) provide reasons for the use of the concept shame. Shame is differentiated from guilt in that guilt includes only the individual, whereas shame includes the exposure of that individual to others which then reflects negatively on that person's entire family. Shame is used to prevent a member of the family from 'acting out'. As ian communit ies have what Yee and Hennessy term a "highly developed gossip system' (p. 61), to keep control over the behaviour of its members. A s already mentioned throughout this chapter, mental i l lness has different connotat ions among various cultural groups. It seems , however, that the st igma attached to mental i l lness is somewhat universal . Researchers of As ian cultures have deemed the st igma of mental distress extremely profound (Chen, 1977; Kinzie et a l . , 1980). It is rooted in many fears, such as the failure to live up to family expectat ions (Root, 1985), the possibi l i ty of ridicule and rejection (Yamamoto, 1978), the probabil i ty of personal blame (Littlewood & L ipsedge, 1997), the humiliation of being seen as chi ldish for having admitted to emotional problems, particularly for the males - a mature person can control expression of personal problems (Littlewood & L ipsedge, 1997), and the ultimate shame of losing 23 face for the individual and the family (Zhang, 1995). To have a mental i l lness is shameful , but then to seek help for it outside of the family is a further d isgrace on the individual, the family and the community (Lee, 1989; Root, 1985; Yee & Hennessy, 1982). Communica t ion methods. Open and direct communicat ion generally, and to outsiders particularly, is neither valued nor comfortable in many As ian cultures (Cheung, 1984; Chu & Sue , 1984; Jenkins, 1988; Kinzie et a l . , 1980; Root, 1985; Zhang, 1995). Examples of direct communicat ion include cha l lenge, confrontat ion, interruption, asser t iveness (Chu & Sue , 1984). Furthermore, s i lence in many cultures is cons idered a sign of respect (Root, 1985), the emphasis being on humility and modesty (Leong et al . , 1995). For instance, the Japanese have traditionally preferred to express themselves through act ions and attitudes, not through words, resolving few problems through open d iscuss ion (Yee & Hennessy, 1982). According to Beiser (1988), some As ian cultures prohibit public express ion of feel ings because it draws attention to the self which is considered a lack of humility. These sys tems of communicat ion are contrary to expectat ions of western psychotherapy which value open discussion of feel ings and behaviours. Moreover, because of the absence of emotional expression by As ians , cl ients are often misd iagnosed by doctors, resulting in referrals to mental health professionals not being made (Beiser, 1988). W o m e n . Little has been written specif ical ly on immigrant women in the area of help-seeking. General ly, the research has focused on immigrant populations as a whole or on one particular minority group, 24 again not specif ical ly to the women within that group. Most of what has been addressed with regard to women concerns their role in the family. The traditional role of a woman in many cultures is very specif ic and focused mainly within the home, caring for the children and her husband. Her role is to be and to feel responsible for the health and happiness of her family members (Beiser, 1988). However, with immigration often comes a change in the dynamics of the family. This change has an impact on the role of the woman. She is often isolated due to language barriers (Beiser, 1988; Manitoba Employment service, 1987). Moreover, the woman usual ly moves to the host country without her extended family and , therefore, without her traditional sources of support (Beiser, 1988). The language barrier coupled with the isolation from family members often puts her in a state of extreme dependence on both her husband and her chi ldren, as they become educated in the language, norms and values of the host sys tem, and she remains isolated and uneducated (Manitoba Employment Serv ice, 1987). Manitoba's Immigrant A c c e s s Serv ice reported that over thirty percent of the women seeking help had been victims of abuse. The cause of the abuse is attributed partly to these dependent relationships since the likelihood of abuse in any culture increases with relationships based on dependency. A l so common is the immigrant woman's inability to participate in educat ion programs due to constraints from her husband and other family members. The result is further isolation, feel ings of lonel iness and use lessness in her role as caregiver which often requires the use of the host language (Beiser, 1988; Manitoba Employment Serv ice, 1987). If a 25 woman is faced with problems within her family, she is often unaware of how to remedy them since the language barriers and isolation prevent her from learning about her rights and responsibi l i t ies in the host country (Mani toba Employment Serv ice, 1987). When an immigrant woman does work outside of the home, she may be faced with marginal employment opportunities and usual ly works with other immigrants experiencing a similar plight. Highly educated women are often under-employed due to government requirements and regulations (Beiser, 1988). This further exacerbates the problems of language improvement and information access . In summary, the immigrant women's group of Pr ince Edward Island (cited by Beiser, 1988) wrote: "We are from societ ies where men and dogs roam, while women and cats remain at home. Unable to communicate fluently, the woman's apartment soon becomes her pr ison" (p. 76). Help-seeking behaviour among Indo-Canadian women This sect ion of the review of literature will address the issues of professional help-seeking among Indian women; both hindering and facil i tating factors will be cons idered. This review has been divided into three sect ions. The first looks at reasons for Indian women's concerns in seeking help which is further divided into three sub-sect ions: the role of Indian women within the family structure; the st igma attached to help-seeking in the Indian community; and the lack of knowledge of help providers outside the community. The second sect ion addresses the cultural constraints which hinder an East Indian woman from seeking help within and outside of the 26 community. The third sect ion offers preferred counsel lor attributes of Indian women who do seek help. In t roduct ion. In d iscussing the help-seeking attitudes of Indian women, it is first important to make clear that this is a very large and diverse group which is not often attended to in the psychology literature (Bhatnagar, 1985; Jayakar , 1994). Within the group there are many dif ferences to consider: country of birth, country of last res idence, religion, mother tongue, length of residence in the host country, educat ional background, bicultural att i tudes, personal i ty factors, soc ia l c lass , and the nature of the problem. A lso important with regard to help-seeking attitudes is the psychosocia l development of Indian women. A s will be addressed in the following sect ions, psychosoc ia l development "occurs in the context of a compl icated and often paradoxical culture, about which little is known by Westerners" (Jayakar, 1994, p. 161). For the purposes of this review, help-seeking attitudes of Indian women will be general ized to the entire group. South As ian , Indian, East Indian, and Indo-Canadian will be used interchangeably. Due to the dearth of information on the subject of Indo-Canadian women, research has been examined from British, Amer ican and Canad ian sources. A lso included are interviews with East- Indian women and other individuals working within the helping field with regard to help-seeking attitudes. 1. Reasons for not seeking help This sect ion is divided into three sub-sect ions. The first outl ines the role of Indian women within the family; the second considers the s t igma at tached to he lp-seek ing, speci f ical ly with regard to marital 27 discord and mental i l lness; and the third section addresses the issue of insufficient knowledge about help-seeking avenues for Indian women. 1.1 The role of South As ian women within the family structure The cultural boundaries which prevent or discourage an East Indian woman from seeking help are numerous. One of the strongest is that of the well-defined role of women in Indian culture, which p laces them in a precar ious posit ion with regard to seeking help outside the family structure. Of utmost importance to South As ian culture is the family. Interdependence and collective lifestyle are highly va lued; independence, especial ly in females, is considered unimportant and irrelevant (Assanand, Dias, Richardson, Waxier-Morr ison, 1990; Rack, 1982; Wi lson, 1978). A person is expected to follow the path already laid out; preoccupat ion with personal needs or desires is cons idered self ish and unacceptable (Jayakar, 1994). This is especial ly true for the women in Indian society, who become, in effect, the property of their husbands and his family (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Jayakar, 1994; Rack ,1982; Wi lson, 1978). Obed ience is highly valued and it is expected that the woman will subordinate her individual needs to those of her spouse and to her extended family (Agnew,1986; Assanand et a l . , 1990; Wi lson, 1978). In return, she receives the economic, social and emotional support vital in the lives of South As ians (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Bhatnagar, 1985; Wi lson, 1978). Reflecting on the emotional support women often have among one another, Wi lson (p. 7) wrote: The warmth which sisters and sisters- in- law may show for one another can cushion a woman against the harshness of her life. This support is particularly vital, though not 28 always present, for the newcomer who is often dependent on her husband's extended family to facilitate her adaptation to the host culture. Although this dependence can be debilitating with regard to individual f reedoms, it does provide Indian women with a sense of security and cultural identity. G iven the often hostile environments of some host countries, the idea of abandoning social networks to adopt new cultural va lues and norms can cause enormous emotional and psychological tension for the individual. Rac ism can destroy a person's conf idence and se l f -es teem, attributes already weakened by the loss of contact with family and c lose friends who are still residing in the home country (Women Working with Immigrant Women, 1988). Maya Angelou (cited in McGoldr ick & Giordano, 1996) wrote: "Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccess ib le" (p. 1). This can be true for minority groups within the mainstream culture and to individuals or famil ies within a part icular cultural group. Interethnic interaction and socia l networking can help al leviate some of the pressures of lonel iness, al ienation and racial discrimination (Agnew, 1986; Rack, 1982; Wiebe, 1991; Wi lson, 1978). This socia l networking is often done in temples and other rel igious venues; these are culturally acceptable p laces for social gatherings and help for those who do not have access to other resources for information (Assanand et a l . , 1990). The East Indian community is a close knit group. Because of the st igma attached to perceived failure, a facet of South As ian culture to be d iscussed in the section following, women often do not confide in anyone 29 for fear of goss ip . Conf l icts are usual ly resolved within the family, with the bulk of the pressure being placed on the woman to adjust and adapt to the needs of the family (Assanand et al . , 1990; Bhatnagar, 1985). "In general, a South As ian man does not expect to make any changes or adjustments when he marries because it is his family and life that his wife is entering" (Assanand et a l . , 1990, p. 152). This, then, puts the woman in a seemingly impossible position when she is in need of help. S h e is seen as existing solely for the comfort of her family and, if she raises her voice against this situation, she will be severely chas t ised. If she asser ts herself, she will disturb the equil ibrium of the family structure, running the risk of ostracism from the family and along with it, her often sole support system and her sense of identity (Das Gupta , 1986; Jayakar , 1994; Wi lson, 1978). Additionally, because the male is seen as the major decis ion-maker in the family, he and often his family must approve of the decision to seek outside help (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Wi lson , 1978). The precar iousness of such a situation is self-evident. A s already stated, the role of a South As ian woman is wel l-def ined. Her place is traditionally in the home, taking care of the needs of the family. "More than anything, women produce the labour force - sons" (Wilson, 1978, p. 3). If she must work, her nurturing and household duties are still her own (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Jayakar , 1994; Rack, 1982). Therefore, integrating a full-time job with language c lasses can be extremely difficult, and language barriers can keep a woman isolated and power less (Wiebe, 1991). Wi lson wrote of the exper ience of immigrant East Indian women in Britain: 30 Isolation is seen from the outside as a result of women not speaking Engl ish, or of their being forced to stay at home for cultural reasons. But it is much more than this. It is a state of mind, one of shock and withdrawal. Weakened by the separat ion from their famil ies, suffering often the loss of mother, sisters and c lose fr iends, these As ian women find themselves in a strange unknown society (pp. 20-21) . Consequent ly , she becomes dependent on her spouse, her extended family and the community for her needs, and she is limited to outside interactions which could provide important socia l serv ice information if a cr isis ar ises. A s a result, women immigrants tend to acculturate later than their male counterparts (Gune, 1994). If a woman works with others in the same position, which is usually the case , they, too, do not have a c c e s s to outside information. Such reliance on family and community not only reinforces the South As ian woman's dependency, but it makes her indebted to those who offer help, obliged to follow their advice (Assanand et al . , 1990; Wiebe, 1991). And, even if an Indian woman were in a crisis situation, the lack of language fluency could make her that much more reluctant to seek help outside her family or community. 1.2. The st igma attached to help-seeking There is a great st igma attached to any sort of discord within the South As ian family. This undoubtedly stems from the emphas is the culture p laces on the family as a unit as opposed to the western emphas is on the individual members within that unit. A separat ion or divorce would st igmatize the whole family, not just the couple involved (Assanand et a l . , 1990). Family members of both husband and wife will become deeply involved in a case of marital d iscord, making every attempt to reconci le 31 the couple so as to save face within the community. If the couple cannot be reconci led, the daughter- in-law's place remains with the extended family, for once betrothed, she is the family's possess ion . A soc ia l worker in Vancouver related a case illustrating this phenomenon: a South Asian woman had stabbed herself in the abdomen because of her unhappiness with her marriage. All the men from her side began to arrive at the hospital, sui tcases in hand. They came from both India and the United States. The men of her husband's family also gathered at the hospital. The decision was made that she would return to her husband, without question. It was made clear that the problem was of no concern to the social worker, and the family would look after the woman, even if it meant living with the extended family instead of with her husband. There was no consideration of her wishes, nor of her possible independence from her in-laws. Although the woman's own family came to act as her support system, they did not argue the reality of her place within the extended family. If someone within the Indian community seeks outside help, it is an admiss ion of failure, that something has gone wrong (Balgopal , 1988). Gi ta , a Punjabi woman interviewed, explained that there is a strong desire in the community to be seen as "normal", anything less is taboo. "...India... is proud of its accompl ishments and is eager to display a successfu l picture" (Jayakar, 1994, p. 180). A s with divorce, mental i l lness carr ies a great st igma (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Rack, 1982). For this reason, a South As ian exper iencing emotional d istress will try to sort it out first within the family. Admiss ion of any kind of mental i l lness 32 could not only jeopardize the family's reputation within the community, but more importantly, it could jeopardize the chances of marriage for the chi ldren. Hence, these problems are kept hidden (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Jayakar , 1994). If the problem is attended to, it is often done so at temples or shr ines, or through the explanations of palm readers, astrologers or other healers; many South As ians bel ieve that mental i l lness has supernatural causes (Assanand et al . , 1990; Jayakar , 1994; Rack, 1982). If help outside the community is deemed necessary, it is usual ly in the form of a medical practitioner, with symptoms presented in somat ic form; these are the symptoms acceptable to the patient (Krause, 1989). Emotional aspects of the condition are omitted or denied (Assanand et al . , 1990; Rack, 1982). 1.3 The lack of knowledge about help providers outside the community An important reason for East Indian women not seeking help from outside their community is their lack of knowledge about the soc ia l serv ices avai lable (Balgopal, 1988). They do not know where to turn for help when it is needed. Several reasons for this have already been addressed : the lack of social interaction due to isolation; the lack of f luency in the host culture language; the lack of trust within the Indian community to keep whatever is said confidential. Goss ip , if heard by the wrong people, can be used to effect social control within the community (Assanand et a l . , 1990). One sexual abuse therapist reported that several clients had requested not to have South As ian therapists nor South As ian pol ice involved in their individual cases for fear that word of the sexual abuse would spread in their community. In addit ion, government-33 sponsored social serv ices in India are non-existent (Assanand et a l . , 1990). Therefore, South As ians have little if any exper ience with such serv ices (Assanand et a l . , 1990). G iven their lack of trust within their own community because of family reputation and pride, it is not surpr is ing that little trust would be bestowed upon government serv ices such as socia l workers or community health nurses. Al l of the people interviewed for this sect ion of the review of the literature commented on the problem of lack of knowledge about help avai lable within the community for South As ian women. The soc ia l worker cited previously blamed the woman's desperate and violent cry for help on her lack of knowledge as to where else to turn. This is not an isolated incident; many Indian women end up in the emergency wards of hospitals. At least there, reported the social worker, they are able to learn about avai lable resources and about their rights to "go it a lone" with the help of avai lable support systems. Another woman interviewed confirmed that much of the lack of knowledge in the Punjabi community is because many of the women are not permitted to leave the house. Many Indian men fear the loss of power should their spouses interact with the women of the host culture, so they prefer to keep them at home and isolated from western inf luences (Assanand et a l . , 1990). 2. Reasons to seek help Although traditional values have a profound impact on the help-seek ing attitudes of South As ian women, there are c i rcumstances under which they do seek outside help. It is, however, general ly a last resort, after all other sources of ass is tance such as family, fr iends, respected 34 community leaders and physicians, have been exhausted (Assanand et a l . , 1990). A s already indicated, the Indian community is not exper ienced with social service systems and so, women in need of ass is tance do not a lways know where to turn for help. Human service agencies tend to come into contact with these women through schools or physic ians, not necessar i ly through self-referrals (Balgopal , 1988). If a physician is able to recognize the symptoms of depression or anxiety hidden beneath the somat ic complaints, he/she may alert socia l serv ices to the patient. However, Phil ip Rack (1988) reports that indicators of depress ion are not a lways taken ser iously by psychiatrists and psychiatr ic nurses because of the abundance of somatic symptoms reported by the South As ian patient. "The more hysterically a person acts, and the more somatic ai lments he produces, the less they are convinced of the genuineness of his depress ion" (Rack, 1982, p. 104). This so-cal led hysteria often esca la tes because of the patient's stress of having a culturally unacceptable i l lness. Schoo l counsel lors and multicultural workers in C a n a d a are important in drawing out Indian women to seek help in coping with their teenage chi ldren, especial ly their daughters. Although parents are reluctant to take advice from those outside their community, many real ize the need for understanding in dealing with children who, having grown up in the host culture, are pressured by their more liberal peer groups (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Rack, 1982; Wiebe, 1991). Indian girls have two identities, one for home and the other for school (Assanand et a l . , 1990). 35 Such a dual identity often results in feel ings of guilt and depress ion, which in turn can lead to suicide attempts. It is not uncommon for outside help to begin there, with a crisis involving an adolescent girl. This is especia l ly prevalent when the crisis is about dating or marr iage. If the parents panic about their daughter's rebellion regarding these issues , it may end "with the girl cl imbing out of her bedroom window and running off into the night, to turn up in due course on the doorstep of social serv ices or the police station, or in a hospital...after attempted suic ide" (Rack, 1982, pp. 77-78). With so much pressure placed on the East Indian woman to maintain equil ibrium in the family, disturbed family relat ionships could accelerate mental i l lness. Because outside help has already been initiated for the chi ld, some women may, at this point, go for psychiatr ic help themselves (Assanand et a l . , 1990). Marital conflicts among South As ian couples can also influence a woman to seek outside help. With the changing role of women in western society, South As ian women, too, are becoming more assert ive, unwill ing to give in to male dominance or traditional in-law conduct (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Balgopal , 1988). This western influenced behaviour which threatens the traditional male-dominated socia l hierarchy, can be threatening to the male, who may react by trying to exert still more control over his wife. She may then respond by rebelling; this could be in the form of seeking outside help to either resolve or d issolve the marriage. If the discontented wife does not rebel by seeking help, she may do so in other ways. A s in the case already cited, the woman who stabbed herself did so because she wanted a change in her situation. She sought 36 outside ass is tance through the doors of the hospital emergency room. Similar ly, "a teenage girl who exhibits s igns of madness is certain to get the family rushing about in alarm and paying a lot of attention to her needs, which they might not have done if she had merely sat in a corner looking gloomy" (Rack, 1982, p. 143). Indian women do want to change and they do react (Bachu, 1993). Their methods of reacting may not be acceptable to western ways of thinking, but it is unfair to label all South As ian women as pass ive and power less. Bhachu (1986), in d iscussing the way Indian women have strengthened their independence with regard to the dowry sys tem, states that "their (Indian women's) ethnic cultural va lues are represented as repressive - traits they must accept - rather than as va lues they cont inuously adapt, choose to accept, reproduce, modify, recreate, and elaborate according to the c i rcumstances in which they are si tuated" (p. 239 ) . Final ly, in consider ing c i rcumstances which bring Indian women in search of help, it is important to consider those women fortunate enough to have individual support systems along with famil ies and husbands who are themselves aware of the difficulties of assimi lat ion. These women may be encouraged to find sources to assist them in their struggles to adjust to the host country and culture (Jayakar, 1994), sources such as mental health serv ices . 3. Preferred counsel lor attributes of East Indian women In keeping with the values of South As ian culture already outlined in previous sect ions, East Indian women tend to look to their own 37 ethnocultural group to meet their social and emotional needs (Agnew, 1986). Trust issues and the belief that Westerners do not understand Indian culture or values keep them from seeking help outside their community. Feel ings of racial discrimination a lso inhibit them from approaching western counsel lors (Agnew, 1986). If women wish to extend their soc ia l networks within the community, there are organizat ions set up in some communit ies which provide such opportunities. In Ontario, for example, there is the Associat ion of Women of Indian Origin in C a n a d a (Agnew, 1986). Through this kind of organization, Indian women are able to receive support without jeopardiz ing their cultural identity (Bhachu, 1986). A lso avai lable in some communit ies are language c lasses for women; these can include informal group counsel l ing (Women Working with Immigrant W o m e n , 1988). When seeking help from professionals such as doctors or counsel lors , the patient or client general ly expects the doctor or counsel lor to have the answers and to make the decis ions (Assanand et a l . , 1990). Speci f ica l ly with regard to counsel lors, c lear and authoritative adv ice is preferred to the interview-style approach of western helpers. The counsel lor is seen as in control of the situation. South As ian women do not necessar i ly understand the concept of finding their own solut ions to the problem. This probably stems from their lack of social izat ion in this sort of decis ion-making. Indian women are brought up to do as they are told, not to think for themselves and not to take on the responsibil i ty of making decis ions. They are a lso taught that self-sacri f ice is required by them to keep the family together. How then can they be expected to 38 suddenly look within and seek self-serving solut ions to their problems, which are usual ly connected to their expected role within the family? In addit ion, because of the value placed on family and its position within the community, it is not acceptable for a counsel lor to delve into the family c i rcumstances. Any discord within the family unit is a matter of pr ivacy, not to be d iscussed outside the family, let alone the community. Although most of the research literature examined and persons interviewed support the preference for a helper to be one within the East Indian community, there are some who have reservations in seeking out a South As ian therapist (Jayakar, 1994). Their reasons relate to the matter of family pride within the community. S ince mental i l lness in a family is strongly s t igmat ized, cl ients and their famil ies worry about maintaining their anonymity and privacy. A multicultural worker with the Vancouver Schoo l Board reported that the issues d iscussed in relation to teenage girls are sensit ive in nature; they are often about dating and sexual relations. If word got out in the community that a particular family was having problems with their chi ldren, it could result in the family 's shame and loss of face. Another East Indian woman interviewed stated that it is eas ier for the youth to seek help outside the community, for it ensures confidentiality. Chi ldren often do not seek help for fear of parental d isapproval , or for fear of being judged by the Indian community. For them, seek ing outside help is safer, less threatening. C o n c l u s i o n Severa l commonal i t ies can be found within the research on help-seek ing behaviours of the mainstream populat ion, in immigrant minority 39 groups as a whole, and in the East Indian community. Even more similar i t ies are found within the help-seeking research of immigrant minority groups as a whole and that of the East Indian community. Indicative of this outcome is that both bodies of research pertain to immigrant minority groups. Included in the commonal i t ies of the mainstream population, the immigrant minority groups as a whole, and the East Indian community are: 1. People generally seek help for comfort, reassurance and advice first from family members. Fr iends are looked to for such help in the mainstream population, but with immigrant groups, possibly because of issues of stigma and shame, are not included as main sources of support. 2. Professional help is most often ultil ized for severe emotional distress and when ass is tance from the soc ia l network is not avai lable. For immigrant groups, the lack of a social network is often the result of immigration and having to leave behind family members. 3. Family doctors are often the next preferable helper resource to family and fr iends. 4. Similar coping strategies are used to work problems through, such as distraction and thinking of ways to overcome di lemmas. 5. People in need of help fail to use helping resources because it means openly admitting to inadequacy or failure. 6. Causa l factors, either internal or external, can have a significant effect on help-seeking behaviours. Commonal i t ies of help-seeking found in the research on immigrant minority groups as a whole and the East Indian community include language barr iers, f inancial barr iers, serv ice accessib i l i ty , a lack of information and misinformation regarding serv ices , the separat ion of medical and mental health care, lack of knowledge with regard to rights 40 and responsibi l i t ies, racial stereotyping, distrust of the counse l l ing process, anxiet ies around breaking a cultural barrier, culture shock, inappropriate or ineffective care, degrees of acculturation and ethnic identity. In addit ion, feel ings exper ienced by both groups were similarly reported: homes ickness , insecurity, depress ion, loss and grief, lonel iness, anger, frustration, self-doubt, and confus ion. Because so little has been written on help-seeking behaviours of South As ians as a cultural group, research on immigrant populations as a whole was necessary in order to fully appreciate the barriers that confront an Indo-Canadian woman as she considers the possibil i ty of seek ing professional counsel l ing help, often outside the boundar ies of her commun i t y . 41 Chapter 3 Methodology In t roduc t ion The purpose of this study was to document the subjective, lived exper ience of Indo-Canadian women in their struggle to decide on counsel l ing help. It was further meant to explore the personal , cultural and societal barriers which may hinder Indo-Canandian women in the decis ion-making process. A narrative approach to gather and organize data was util ized as a means of retaining context. A mult iple-case study methodology was then used to analyze the data. Design of the Study The study involved the use of narrative research as outlined by Cochran (1989), whereby the journey of each participant from needing help to the final decis ion of seeking out counsel l ing help was fol lowed. Accord ing to Cochran (1986 ): W e live in story whether we like it or not. We exper ience life as a narrative flow. We work in story. Our lives are punctuated by over lapping but identifiable units with beginnings, middles, and ends. The human mode of existence simply is narrative, from transient encounters to lifetime projects, from inward symbol ic dramas to outward performances. We are born to drama, to the experience of a meaningful gap between what is and what ought to be, that directs our striving for a suitable complet ion. W e portray ourselves in story (p. 3 ). Narrative then, was used to enhance the meaning of each woman's 42 journey. Their stories give r ichness and provide a deeper, more human understanding to their decision making process. In addit ion, this study used a mult iple-case design which al lowed for a case compar ison to identify commonal i t ies in the decis ion making process . Within this des ign, Each individual case study consists of a 'whole' study, in which convergent evidence is sought regarding the facts and conc lus ions for the case ; each case 's conclusions are then considered to be the information needing replication by other individual c a s e s (Yin, 1984, p. 57). The purpose of this study was two-fold. First, it was to explore the decision process of seeking counsel l ing help as exper ienced by the seven participants. Second , it was to explore the degree to which the exper ience was a common as opposed to a unique process. The main steps of this study were as follows: First, this study used an open ended interview format to gather initial data and to elicit the stor ies from the part icipants. Interviews were t ranscr ibed and individual narratives were constructed from the transcriptions. S e c o n d , these narratives served as the basis for common analys is. P a r t i c i p a n t s Part ic ipants were recruited by word-of-mouth. My network of fr iends and acquaintances were informed of my intent to study Indo-Canad ian women in the realm of help-seeking. Two of the participants were contacted through friends, one through a counsel l ing agency, two at an Indo-Canadian women's group meeting, and two from personal contact. 43 The participants who were referred to me were provided with a letter outlining the purpose and participant expectat ions of the study and my phone number. Once a participant phoned, I reviewed the nature and purpose of the study and set up a time to conduct the first, taped i n t e r v i e w . Part icipant select ion was based on the fol lowing criteria: First, participants were to have been born in India or raised in a traditionally Indian family. Second , individuals had to have made the decision at some point in their l ives to go for professional counsel l ing help. Other individual factors were not controlled for and as a result, ages var ied from twenty-one to forty-eight, p laces of birth var ied from India, Punjab, Malays ia , and Canada , and length of time lived in C a n a d a varied from four years to a lifetime. A further descript ion of each part icipants' background was included in the individual narratives. A point of interest with regard to participants was that six out of the seven women interviewed had worked or volunteered in the area of counsel l ing support after having gone for personal counsel l ing. Interview P r o c e s s The intent of my interview with the first participant was to hear a chronicle of the her decis ion making process. This intent, however, was abandoned shortly after the interview began as it did not allow the participant to free flow her story. It prevented her from telling her story as she had exper ienced it, with all its intricacies and steps forward and backward to finally reaching her decision to seek help. It el iminated the emotion and turmoil of the decision process. She was ready to tell her 44 story as it came to her in all its mess iness , not as a ser ies of c lean, clear cut s teps to a tidy finale, "...if we are beings who live in story, represent in story, explain through story, understand through story, and have our meaning in story, then chronicle leaves out the most essent ial part. W e must seek ways to go beyond chronicle to fuller, richer narratives" (Cochran, 1989, p. 78). From this initial exper ience, the interviews that fol lowed took a more open format, al lowing the participants to tell their stories as they remembered them. All interviews began with pleasantr ies such as the researcher express ing gratitude toward the individual for participating in the study. This was followed by a reminder of the nature of the study, a comment on the researcher 's desi red outcome of the study, to facilitate other Indo-Canad ian women in seeking counsell ing help, and a reminder of the participant's role in it. The d iscuss ion included concerns regarding confidentiality and anonymity. The participants were given the opportunity to both delete sensit ive material and to withdraw from the study without prejudice. In addit ion, they were invited to take an active role in the evaluation of analyses. Most participants expressed concern around the issue of confidentiality and were assured that their stories would be made confidential and all identifying detail would be removed from the narratives. For this reason, a sample transcript has not been included. In addit ion, participants were asked to sign a permission form which addressed the issue of confidentiality and outlined their rights as a participant. Each women was offered a copy. Three turned down the offer for fear of its d iscovery. 45 In order to orient the participants, to establ ish rapport, and to ensure the feeling of respect and regard as the experts in their own culture, each woman was first asked to speak about Indian culture as she knew and understood it, focussing on aspects of the culture that could facilitate or hinder an Indo-Canadian woman from seeking counsel l ing help. The interviewer used active listening skil ls to clarify and add detail to the participants' d iscuss ions. Perhaps due to the way in which individuals were se lected, or to their interest in helping out South As ian women, participants showed no s igns of hesitancy in providing information about their culture. They were particularly forthcoming in articulating the hindrances of help-seeking in their communi t ies. This information was included in the commentary at the conclus ion of each na r ra t i ve . The second part of the interview was concerned with the part icipants' individual stor ies. Each participant was asked to talk about her life from the time the conflict began to the time she went for professional counsel l ing. The stories general ly included past detai ls of growing up in an Indian family which, though not a part of the actual time frame of the decis ion making process, were directly related to the personal struggle of whether or not to take the problem outside of herself or the family. A s in the first part of the interview, the researcher used whatever attending, l istening, paraphrasing and empathy ski l ls that s e e m e d appropriate to clarify and encourage the participants to tell their stor ies. The overall strategy was to establ ish a level of dialogue that might occur between two friends. Once the participants started telling 46 their stor ies, the researcher would join the dialogue in whatever manner seemed appropriate. Sel f -d isc losures were at t imes offered. There were also t imes when tears were shed by both participant and researcher. Fol lowing the cultural d iscuss ion, participants seemed ready and eager to tell their stories. However, as will be d iscussed in reference to the second interviews, two of the women revealed details not d isc losed in the initial meeting. Interestingly, one of the participants began the interview on the premise that she had not sought counsel l ing help. A s the story began to unfold, however, it became clear that she had, although she never openly admitted to it. The final part of the interview was concerned with how the part icipants saw themselves as different from other Indo-Canadian women who do not seek counsell ing help. Some of the variables included the level of acculturat ion, ethnic identity, personal i ty factors, support sys tems, and avai lable resources. The participants responses were included in the commentary at the conclusion of each individual narrative. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and then for the purpose of ana lys is were presented as "straightened" stories (Cochran, 1989). Establ ish ing rapport and conduct ing initial interviews required varying lengths of time. Some interviews were conducted within an hour while others required three to four hours to complete. The two shortest interviews were from the two youngest participants, and both were born in C a n a d a . The follow up interviews were no longer than one hour in length. These were not taped. One of the participants was unwilling to follow through with a second interview and another could not be found due 47 to extenuating c i rcumstances. The lack of desire on the part of one of the participants could be attributed to the one and a half year lapse between the first interview and the requested follow up. This was the fault of the researcher who was unable to continue the work at that t ime. Const ruct ion of Narrat ives The construction of the narratives was done in a fairly systemat ic way. Once the interviews had been completed the tapes were transcribed verbatim. I then sat down with each transcription in hand and l istened again to the tape, putting a sense of order and unity to the story. I highlighted events, thoughts, feel ings, cultural comments which I bel ieved created meaning to the story. Following Cochran 's (1989) d iscuss ion of the role of the bard, "who does not merely report, but straightens the story, sets things right..." so as to "grasp the meaning of what has happened clearly" (p. 75), I was not only putting together the p ieces of the story, but "straightening" it to enhance its meaning. Re- l is tening to the interview and re-reading the transcriptions enabled me to dwell on and famil iar ize myself with the individual stor ies. From the highlighted transcript ions, I created the narratives, using the first person pronoun and the participants' own words as much as possible. I added my own words only to add clarity to events, make connect ions between events, or make implicit mean ings more explicit. Va l idat ion of Narrat ives Upon complet ion of the narratives, I consul ted an external validator to check the narratives to the transcriptions to ensure I had not distorted or left out any significant detai ls. Apart from minor detai l , the external 48 val idator found the narratives to accurately reflect the original accounts of the participants' exper iences. Quest ions that emerged were verif ied by the author of the narrative, namely the participant in quest ion during the second interview. Narrative drafts were then given to the part icipants to be reviewed. This took place within the second interview as earl ier referenced. These second interviews provided the opportunity to d iscuss and revise stories so that they accurately reflected part icipants' l ived exper iences. Of the five initial story drafts reviewed, all were sa id to have accurately portrayed the participants' exper iences. A s noted earl ier, two of the participants, upon second reading, added information not included in the first interviews. One participant's comment after reading her story was, "Wow. It's like reading someone 's autobiography. What a sad story. That's my story. Good thing it ends on a happy note." The part icipants all expressed appreciat ion in see ing their stor ies accurately portrayed in the narrative account. Accord ing to the participants, no distortions or omiss ions had been made. Narrat ive A n a l y s i s When the seven stories were completed, they were systematical ly compared to identify common factors which may hinder or facilitate in the decis ion-making process of an Indo-Canadian woman in seeking counsel l ing help. The main concern in analyzing the narratives was that the researcher truthfully ref lected the part ic ipants' expe r iences . A s each narrative was completed, factors of facil itation and hindrance were colour-coded. For example, all thoughts, events, comments , feel ings related to the hindering factor ' immaturity' were 49 underscored in blue on the narrative. And , all thoughts, events, comments, feel ings related to the facil itating factor 'maturity' were underscored in green. Once the narrative had been carefully sifted through, factors were written on cards by category, facilitating factors and hindering factors. This procedure was followed for each of the seven narratives. New cards were added as new factors arose, and the identifying initials of participants who shared common factors were added to the cards. A s the researcher went through the card pi les, similarit ies of factors emerged and meanings were defined by an appropriate term. For example, all the factors related to the term ' isolation' such as lonel iness or family in India, were grouped together. The eventual outcome was a list of common bipolar factors. For example, the hindering factor, ' immaturity' is directly opposed to the facil itating factor, 'maturity'. Th is process of sifting through the stories and identifying hindering and facilitating factors helped the researcher to see commonal i t ies among the stor ies. These so-cal led commonal i t ies were not compared from a perspect ive of similarity of detail but rather for similarity of impact on the decis ion-making process. From this more abstract point of v iew, broader categories started to emerge. For example, the hindering factor 'fear' was common among all the stories, though its source was very different in each of the narratives. Once a compilation of the factors had been complete and individual stories had been rechecked to ensure each factor adequately captured individual exper iences of decis ion-making, a meeting was held with the researcher and her supervisor in order to refine and clarify the identifying terms and categories. The final step was to have the factors verified by the part icipants. In the second interview, after reading through their individual narrat ives, part icipants were asked to verify the truth of the factors el ici ted from their told stor ies. Al l participants involved in the second interview conf i rmed the validity of the factors pulled from their individual stor ies. The participants were then asked if any of the factors pulled from the other narratives fit with their own exper iences of dec is ion-making. If an affirmative response was given, the participant was asked to give detai ls of explanat ion. It was more the norm than not for the factors of others' narrat ives to fit with the exper iences of the verifying part icipant. The following chapter contains the participants' stor ies. Each narrative is fol lowed by a commentary which reflects the researcher 's understanding of individual stories. Discuss ion of the results has been limited to the lives of the participants. 51 Chapter 4 Resul ts and Ana lyses : Narrat ives. Researcher Commentar ies. Common Factors First Narrat ive It took me a really, really long time to make the decis ion to go for professional counsel l ing, at least 10 or 15 years after I came here. There were a lot of fears, thinking about it, talking it over with my husband. He was very reticent about it. He still doesn't think I should have gone. He says it didn't do anything; I was fine before and I'm fine now. In India, people believe things happen and then you just get on with your life. I guess I still believe that to some extent. In a way it makes sense , but some things happen which just stay on, like sexual assault , and you can't get on with things. My husband said, "You're in a totally different p lace. G o on from here." I thought I could do it, but I couldn't. I started watching TV and reading books, and as things came up, like memories from the past, and my daughter went to high school , she needed me more then, needed me to be there for her, I decided I had to do something about myself. The past was pulling me down, affecting my marr iage, affecting my life. I felt I should go and get it out, because it was nagging at me. At the beginning though, I felt I needed to listen to my husband, and he was saying, "No." He wouldn't let me talk to my doctor and he wouldn't let me talk to a counsellor. When I grew up in India, everything was done for me. Even at 18 years of age, my mother was spoon-feeding me while I was studying. I had to listen to people tell me what to do. I couldn't make any decis ions on my own. I come from a family where my father had eight 52 brothers and sisters; twenty people lived in one house. When I had a problem or I wanted to do something, everyone jumped in. The grand-parents' main role was problem-solving. If I had a problem, I would go to them. It was a sign of respect. I was shocked when I first came here and my husband expected me to do things on my own, like go to get my own social security card. I thought, "You are my husband and you're not going to do these things for me?" He had already been living here, so he saw the difference, and he knew I could do it myself. He is 15 years older than me and when he real ized what I was like, he started to think of me as his chi ld, like he had to teach me certain things. That's the way I think women in India look at their husbands. It's changing, but only a little. Women still ask their husbands what they are to do about this and that. I think this is what held me back. I couldn't make the decision on my own. And going for counsel l ing was a big decision. And then too, I had no idea what to tell this person. I didn't even know what counsel l ing was until I came here - at least not the kind of counsel l ing we are talking about. If a person goes to a counsel lor it means s/he is mentally sick, like going to a psychiatrist. I thought, "I don't know her. If she asks me a question, how much do I tell her? Do I tell her the whole thing, or do I hold back? Do I tell her as much as I told my husband? My husband didn't believe me, why should she? " Fr iends have told me that they cannot go for counsel l ing because what would they do if the counsel lor told them to leave their husbands? That is the biggest fear for a woman. And what would their famil ies say if they went back to India? People look down on you if you leave your 53 husband. No matter what, it is your fault. Your husband can beat you up or say mean things a hundred times, but it's still the woman who is married and she should stay with him. Divorce has a kind of st igma; it's not okay. That was another concern for my husband. He didn't want anybody in India to know that I was going for counsel l ing. When I finally told him I was going he made me promise not to tell anyone. So , all those questions and concerns held me back for a long time. It was difficult for me to even tell my husband at first about the past. I don't really know what made me decide to tell him. I just kind of blurted it out. I guess I felt that something was holding me back from growing up and I wanted him to understand why I was doing immature things. For example, once someone asked me to go to the beach and I just went without leaving a note, and he worried so much. Of course that kind of thing affected our relationship. I felt that s ince I was marr ied, away from my protective family, I could do whatever I l iked. But at the same time I needed him to say that whatever I was doing was right, but he wasn't saying that. In fact, he was mad. Somehow things weren't in balance. And then I wanted to have a baby. The doctor told me that something was wrong with my uterus and if I waited I might not be able to have a baby, so I wanted to have one. But when my daughter was born, I didn't know how to raise her. I was so childish. I thought she was a doll that I could play with. It took me about a year to feel anything towards her. I dropped her when she first came home and after that I never wanted to pick her up. And three months after she was born, we had a car accident 54 that left me paralyzed from the waist down. I was in hospital for quite a while and when I came out I didn't know my daughter or how to care for her. S o my husband took control. He would take her to work and leave her with a babysitter nearby. He would go at lunch time to feed her and then bring her home after work. He would give her her baths and change her diapers. I never needed to learn to do anything. Anyway, one day I was reading something about abuse and it t ipped my mind that this was what had gone on in my life; this was what had happened to me. At first my husband didn't believe me. He said, "No, I don't think so. It cannot happen in a family." Because the abuse went on from when I was a child until just before I got married, my husband couldn't understand why I didn't tell anybody. S o , when he questioned me like that, I felt like it was my fault. But people don't talk about those kinds of things in India. If a family is having a problem, they don't tell the children about it. Parents fight behind c losed doors. Who could I have told? Who would have bel ieved me? Although I kept thinking of going to counsel l ing, I still didn't go. I had such a low self- image. When your self image is low you can find all kinds of excuses why you can't go." And, because of my husband's job, we didn't stay in Vancouver all the time - more excuses. W e were in Indonesia for quite a few years, and in Sri Lanka for a few years. Things like counsel l ing didn't happen there, in an overseas job, out in the jungle. The past was needling me, but I kept trying to go ahead with my life and forget about it. My husband kept saying that I should forget about it; I had survived. S o , I would put it away until something brought it out again. I had to cope somehow. 55 It wasn't until we had settled in Vancouver and I felt confident enough to make a decision on my own that I eventually made the decision to go for counsel l ing. I started working with specia l needs chi ldren and I saw famil ies that went through counsel l ing and the children who came out with all kinds of drug abuse problems and sexual abuse problems. In India, people used to hide the special needs children. If someone knew it was a family shame. The whole family would be ashamed and shamed by the community, so nobody wanted to talk about it and nobody knew. That 's what makes counsel l ing so difficult in the Indian community. A couple of years ago, when I was back in India visiting my mother, she said something about her father and her brother that made me so angry that I sa id , "Your father did it to me and how come you never ..." She didn't say anything, but I knew she knew, yet she hadn't done anything. She just couldn't face up to it. Then, I began to fear for my daughter. You see, one of my biggest problems was I didn't like people touching me. So , I never hugged her. When my husband had a heart attack, I was so scared. I didn't know what to do. She needed to be hugged at that time, but I couldn't do it. She had so much pressure on her. My husband had told her that if he were to die she would have to be responsible for everything because I couldn't handle things. He still thinks of her as more mature than I am. She told the school counsel lor that she needed someone to help her. I knew then that I needed help. My friend Josephine, kept hammering at me that I had to go and get help, for my daughter's sake if not my own. I slowly began to take some control. I quit taking the courses my 56 husband was insisting I take, and one time when my daughter got a C+, and my husband totally freaked out, thinking his child was a goner, I took control and decided that I would take him on to give my daughter some time by herself. I felt an instinct to protect her. In Sri Lanka , a chi ld once came to school with bruises all over. When I saw how the teacher helped, I began to see that it wasn't all right. Getting hit by your parents was normal in India, and sometimes there were bruises. But once you see the other side of the coin, that it is not okay, you start to change. My husband was never physically abusive with my daughter, but there were moments when I thought he could be. He'd get so angry and I had to step in and save the situation. S o all these things snowbal led and I started to mature and take charge of myself. And that's when I decided to go for counsel l ing. Commen ta r y This narrative was the most chal lenging to create. The story-teller was removed from her story and therefore struggled to piece together her decis ion-making process and to find meaning in the thoughts and feel ings. This may be partially attributed to J ' s age at the time of the interview as compared to her age upon arrival in Canada . Almost thirty years had lapsed. Moreover, J had been the victim of sexual abuse from chi ldhood to early adulthood, an experience which would have greatly impacted upon her life and sense of continuity. Initially, she avoided shar ing with me difficult aspects of her story. A further barrier to shar ing certain parts of her life story may be attributed to the presence of J ' s husband during the interview. He was never in the actual room, but at t imes he would 57 enter the room nearby in passing through to the back yard. J was frequently distracted by these interruptions. Just as she had gone for counsel l ing without his approval , perhaps, too, she was participating in this study without it. At the end of each of her story sect ions, J made the comment, "And that's why I decided to go for counsel l ing." There seemed to have been many reasons for this decis ion, many of which culminated at the cl imax of the story which was her final decision to go for counsel l ing. The reasons included her lack of maturity which she attributed to her protected upbringing, and the hierarchical system of the Indian community; the shame and repercussions on the family if someone were to find out about the counsel l ing due to the st igma attached to counsel l ing; the lack of stability in her life s ince she and her husband l ived in severa l different countr ies; her low sel f -concept which she attributed to the effects of the abuse and the sense of self b lame that went along with it; her belief that her problems were her own, to be dealt with inside the family boundaries. A s she matured, took control of her life, settled into a home and a job, and became more aware of the effects of sexual abuse and the help available, she slowly made her way to the door of the counsel lor 's office. J ' s perception of why Indian women do not seek counsel l ing help. These comments are not meant to be general ized to all situations. They are J ' s observations and perceptions of the Indian community. 1. People in India are brought up in homes with extended family. If help is needed, it is sought through a family member, particularly the grandparents. This is a sign of respect. In J ' s chi ldhood 58 home, there were 20 such people to go to for advice. 2. No one outside of the family should know about personal problems. Even within the extended family people don't know others' problems. J remembered her parents fighting behind c losed doors but never bringing their problems into the rest of the family. 3. There is a hierarchical system in the Indian community whereby the grandfather is at the top and the others follow. The decis ions are control led by the extended family by way of this hierarchy. To get permission to go for counsel l ing would take the approval of all those above the one asking. Furthermore, married women are dominated by their husbands and must ask them before doing what they want. This, too, is a sign of respect. 4. In India, the concept of counsell ing is not understood. Counse l l ing is about psychiatry which implies mental i l lness. Another misconcept ion and fear for a woman is that counsel lors in C a n a d a promote women to leave their husbands. 5. There is the fear that an Indo-Canadian counsel lor will know someone in the community and tell others about the woman seeking help. 6. A second fear is that of retaliation by the husband or his family. A man fears that he will be blamed for the problem which would threaten his mascul ine identity and result in repercussions on his family's name and respect in the community. 7. Indo-Canadian women lack freedom. If the woman is at home, it is difficult for her to leave the house without someone knowing. Quest ions would be asked no matter where she went. "You went shopping? 59 What did you buy?" Even if the woman is working it is not a lways easy to get time off to go for counsel l ing. And after work she is expected to be home to take care of the cooking and the children. J ' s perception of how she is different from others who do not go for c o u n s e l l i n g . 1. J was the only girl in the household in which she grew up. She played with the other boys and was al lowed more freedoms in that regard from other Indian girls. 2. J started to work at a day care centre where problems and counsel l ing were d iscussed openly. Moreover, J was exposed to the effects of abuse and the idea of counsel l ing through the television and other readings she pursued. 3. J had a c lose Canadian friend who encouraged her to seek counsel l ing help. S e c o n d Narrative I'm from Southern India. There aren't many people from that part of India in B .C. ; most are from the North, like 99%. When I came to C a n a d a I was 21 years old. It was hard because I was very c lose to my family. I came because my husband had come to India to find a wife. He had been living in Vancouver for 5 years before that time. It was an arranged marriage. Actually, my father had gone to see another boy, but he wasn't happy with his background, so my husband's uncle suggested his nephew. My father checked him out, his educat ion, f inancial status, his family background, their status in the community and then sent him a picture of me, and we got one of him. The following year he came to my home and I 60 served him tea and snacks. In the end, we both agreed to the marriage. When I first came to Canada I was scared but excited, too. I was going to see a foreign country. My family and I were under the impression that he and I would only be staying in Canada for a few years, but once I was here my husband was never ready to go back. In fact, he had lied right from the beginning. He said he had a big business in Canada , that he lived in a house and had many cars, and he had lots of pictures to prove it. Because in India he is quite well off, my father thought that even if he wasn't okay in Canada , we would go back to India and things would be okay. Even his education was not at my level. In reality, he lived in an apartment and he did not have a job. So , I was stuck when I came here. The worst part was that he had a common-law wife living with us. They were always fighting; she would fight back with him. He would throw things at her and beat her up. She was smal l , so he would pick her up and throw her out into the snow. He would do awful things to her. I was terri f ied just watch ing them. I had nowhere to turn because he had stopped all real communicat ion between my father and I; he didn't want me to tell my father what was going on. He would read all the letters that went out. They had to be very simple. But, in the beginning I didn't know what was really going on. Once we got the house, he told me he needed to qualify for the mortgage, so he wanted to have a boarder. He said I would be lonely in such a big house and his friend's sister had offered to rent one of the rooms - I bel ieved him. I never even suspected anything was wrong until our first anniversary when I decided to come home early and give him a 61 card. That 's when I saw them sleeping together. I was devastated. I quietly wrote to my dad. I had no money in those days. He would just give me enough money to go to work and come home on the bus. But my friend had given me a ride a couple of t imes, so I had enough money to buy a stamp. I was going to commit suicide after I sent the letter. I wrote my dad that I didn't know what to do, how to handle this situation - I was not going to be alive to deal with it. I didn't want to go back to India to tell everyone that I had messed up in my life. I just sent it off and then took lots of Excedrin. I took so many. I couldn't believe it when I woke up to my husband slapping me in the face. I guess it wasn't meant to be. I tried once more later on, but I survived that time, too. When my dad got the letter he was so terrified that the first thing he did was go to Bombay and tell my husband's family what had happened. They phoned my sister-in-law in the States and told her to go and check things out. S o she phoned and my husband found out that everything was out in the open and that's when he started abusing me, going against me. Before that he thought I was so dumb, so he could hide it all from me by being really nice to me. S o , I took it upon myself. He would blame me that I had messed up his name. If I hadn't done that maybe things would have worked out. The abuse and the blame went on for years. But I was not prepared to just accept the abuse because I'd never had anyone yell at me before. I came from a very peaceful home. S o , I would just walk off, and he would come after me, sometimes with his car as if he were going to run me over. I didn't know where to go without any money and I was not 62 ready to talk to people. I wouldn't tell anybody that things were wrong; I always kept a nice, smiling face. That 's what Indians are like. W e can't tell other people about our problems. That would be shameful . You keep it to yourself or in your family. The society is such that if you tell other people, they will laugh at you or look down at you. But nothing will actually happen if you tell. I was under the impression at age 21 and my youngest sister at age 13, that if I went back to India, nobody would marry her. My husband would say that people wouldn't accept me as a woman running away from her husband. S o I stayed. I didn't go back to India for 2 years. My husband had taken all my birth control pills, and he wouldn't let me go back to India until I conceived a child. My son was 2 years old by then, and my husband said I had to leave him there because he was too cheap to pay for day care. He made me work 2 jobs and he wouldn't let me go to col lege. I had already got my Masters in Publ ic Administration in India before I got married. He didn't want me to be anything. He wanted to marry an educated person, but once I was here he put me down all the time, saying I was no good and stupid. That year was the worst because I was all alone with him. One time my husband throttled my neck and I was left for dead. When I woke up the next morning and looked in the mirror, I couldn't recognize my face. It was bruised completely. I cal led my old boss who had always been so kind and said I wasn't okay. He told me to take a cab, he would pay for it, just get out of the house. I went to his home in Surrey and stayed with them. He wanted me to go to a shelter, but I was not ready to go, so I asked for a ticket home to India. He bought the ticket, knowing I would 63 pay him back. But everything was going wrong in those days. When I reached Bombay there was a train strike or a plane strike or something, so my dad couldn't come. He phoned my in-laws and told them. I hadn't told my dad about the throttling because I didn't want him to worry. S o , my in-laws came to the airport to pick me up, and they asked if my husband knew I was there. I said he didn't, so they phoned him and the next day he was there. There was a big meeting, everybody sitting around deciding our l ives, and in front of everybody he said he'd change. Everyone felt sorry for him. They believed he would try because he had come this far. It's not easy for men to breakdown and admit that they are at fault. The family pressure was there, his family and my family, so I thought I would give it a try. S o , I went back to Canada . But he was like a circle. He would say he would do this and that, and then he would fall back into the same routine. He was very manipulative that way. The next time I went back to India was for my brother-in- law's marriage. I couldn't believe he let me go, though he didn't want me to go to my dad's house. That time I decided I wouldn't come back. I just kept quiet and waited for my turn. When I finally went to my dad's place I s tayed, for 3 years. I had given up by that time. I would sit there and my hands would shake so badly. I couldn't complete my sentences. I had lost it al l . I was not a person. I felt like I hadn't even gone to school . The thought p rocesses were not there. I thought I was the ugliest, most stupid human being. You lose your mind. People who haven't gone through abuse can never realize why a person doesn't get out of it. It's just you have no 64 brain left. You are completely numb. I used to sit and cry and cry for no reason. S o many people questioned it; "She 's married and you (my father) shouldn't be there for her." There's no way I would have been okay if it weren't for the support of my father. My mother had always been a good friend, but she would just cry. She didn't know what advice to give me. After the three years, I had come out of that nervousness and worrying about everything. We had filed for a divorce, but when we sent him the papers he was not ready to sign. In the meantime, it was 1980 and the Punjab situation came around and there was a big fight about the S ikhs in India, so the Indian government wanted any foreign nationals, which was my son born in Canada and myself being a Canad ian cit izen, to have v isas to live in India, so we were stuck up in that bind too and my son's passport had expired. S o we sent it to the Canadian embassy to get a new passport, but they said we couldn't have one unless his father s igned for it. My husband was playing games here, too. He had checked up with the consulate, and they said unless I had custody papers I had no rights to the chi ld. He wouldn't agree to the papers. And then my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law were bugging us in those days, saying that he was trying and my husband was contacting them, saying that he would change and this and that, writing all these beautiful letters, saying how sorry he was and that for his son he would change. S o at age 85 my mother-in-law said that this time she would come with her son and I to Canada and stay for a while to make sure he kept his promise. He was very nice while she was there, and I had changed myself. I was not ready to accept certain things from him, and my son 65 was getting a bit older. S o , after my mother-in-law went back, he acted up really bad. He had a knife. I was not going to take it with my son around and I think for myself, too. I was extremely frightened. I thought he was going to come up the stairs and kill me. He wouldn't let me come down the stairs or go to work. I was a nervous wreck, but I was stronger inside this time. He used to hold a knife just touching my throat, threatening me. But I was not going to let it happen again. My father had told me I didn't deserve this and I didn't have to put up with it. S o as soon as he went out, I cal led the cops. I was terrified. I knew how to handle him when I was at home, but I didn't know what he would do if I left. Maybe he would get desperate, knowing he had finally lost me, and actually kill me. They came and they took me to the shelter. In the meantime they came and took him to the police station, he was arguing with them in the house that they had to take off their shoes. He is always trying to be in control. They told me he was scary and that he would never change. The prosecutors were ready to file charges against him, but I was worried it might go against my son, if his dad were a criminal. After 3 months at the shelter, I moved into an apartment. It was the same apartment building where another woman from the shelter had moved. But my husband wouldn't let me go. Even though there was a restraining order for him to stay away, he would follow me around. When I was at the bank he would follow me and circle the bank. He would go to my son 's school . We were terrified of him. He figured out that this woman was my friend, and then he figured out which apartment she lived in, and he would bother her, buzz her apartment and things like that. I 66 didn't want her involved. Even though I did it, I went to the police and got the restraining order, I was still terrified that he might just take my son and then take off. My son was my everything, my life line. S o , he took some anger counsel l ing and then he ended up in the Lion's Gate Hospital with chest pains. S o , we got back together and now things are good. My father said I had to stop worrying about my life now, maybe it was fate that a life got wasted, but I had a good son and I had to make sure I was there for him, to give him a proper education. I had to make him a better person than his father. I didn't want him to turn out like him. S o I changed my whole focus, turned it towards him. I couldn't have run away without money. I didn't want my son to go through poverty. My life had been extremely privileged and I wanted him to have the same privi lege, but not with the pain when I look back now. I had very good people come along in my life when I needed them. They were all supportive at work. I left G o d for a while during all of that. I thought, "How could he be so mean to a person who has not done anything to anybody?" Then finally I thought that there must be a reason. I had a little card I carried with me that sa id , " G o d , where were you when I needed you?" "I carried you." I have it on the wall now in a big picture frame, so whenever I feel sad or certain things come back, I look at it and feel like somebody is there. You have to have meaning. C o m m e n t a r y This was the first interview and the most emotional. S u was very open and honest in the telling of her painful story. A s in the case of J , the decis ion -making process had taken place 20 years prior to the interview, 67 so the telling of the story did not follow sequential ly. P iec ing it together to make meaning took a good deal of time. Although S u did not actually make the decis ion to go for counsel l ing help, she was aware that by call ing the police she would end up in a shelter where counsel l ing was provided. At the conclusion of the interview Su showed me a card her son had recently given her, thanking her for having been there for him. I felt honoured to be al lowed into her life through such an intimate gift. S h e also shared her dream for the future: to live alone in a cabin in the woods, filling her days in peace, painting, reading, and listening to the s i lence. It was this interview that decided my study design. S u ' s story could not have been told in any other form. Su ' s reasons for not having sought help sooner than she did included her inability to comprehend that such things were actually happening to her for she had not heard nor been exposed to such things before; her sense of paralysis or numbness as a result of the abuse she suffered; her fear of repercussions on herself and later on her son should she leave the situation, for she was alone in the country and had no f inancial resources; her adherence to the hierarchical system and the role of the extended family in solving private matters; her decis ions to return to India to escape the situation which only ended in her return and the repercussions that ensued; her belief that this was her Karma, and she should accept the life she was given. Su ' s perception of why Indian women do not seek counsel l ing help 1. Indian people don't talk about their problems to outsiders for fear 68 of goss ip . 2. There is a sense of shame in the failure of life not going well . 3. There is the fear of abuse if someone finds out about the c o u n s e l l i n g . 4. Everything is the woman's fault if things don't go wel l . Su ' s perception of how she is different from other women who do not seek counse l l ing help 1. She had a very close relationship with her father who supported her throughout. 2. In India, she had had time away from her husband to regain her strength and mental state. 3. Her fear for her son's well-being enabled her to rally the strength she needed to call the police. 4. She had a job and support from her col leagues. 5. She had a strength of will to walk away from the abuse temporari ly, and then to finally call the police. Thi rd Narrat ive I was born in Malays ia . My mother is third generation Malays ian , and my father was born in Punjab. We came to Canada when I was three, so I would say that I am more Canadian than Indian in my ways of thinking. However, I was brought up in quite a traditionally Indian family insofar as many of their values and beliefs go. It's interesting. I am very immersed in my culture, but at the same time I feel so withdrawn from it. I am excluded from some of the Indo-Canadian systems, like the Punjat, for instance. New immigrants or very traditional Indo-Canadian fami l ies still 69 have this as their system of counsel l ing where they pull together some family members, some elders in the community, and they sit down with a couple that is threatened by a possible break up, for example, and they do the counsel l ing. It is all done quite informally. Nobody in my family would ever do that; we are not very traditional in that way. In India I have heard that the girl's side of the family will go and rough up the man, go and beat him up and teach him a lesson. The shame is in your wife's side having had to come and teach you a lesson. Everybody in the vil lage would know. I remember when I finally split up with my husband and people in the family started to know, one of my uncles sa id , "Wel l , should we go and beat him up?" He was serious. Of course I sa id, "no." We're smack in the middle of our divorce now. My husband is not traditional in his way of thinking either, but he has been taking full advantage of being a male in our community, like the favourit ism and the power that goes with being male. My parents are very traditional is this way, so they have always supported him over me. They still do. He 's in Malays ia now, as is my mom. She keeps in touch with him, and my father corresponds with him, too. I don't speak with either of my parents. It makes me sad , but in our community you should stay together at all cost. It's amazing at what cost you get freedom in our community. I had to let everything go. I lost everything. Yet, once I took the risk I real ized that what I really had wasn't as valuable as I had thought. There is always the threat that you might not have your family, you might not have respect in the community, you might not have anything. That is the deterrent from doing anything 'bad' . But now that I have taken the plunge, I realize that the people who love and care for me will always be there, and the people who object to me aren't worth having around. If somebody wants me to stay in a relationship that hurts me and is not good for me, then obviously they have the problem, not me. I lost the perception of being the 'good' person who stays in the marriage, but I still have very high respect in the community. But then I also did what a lot of women don't do; I didn't go back and forth. Initially, people stayed away from me because I was bad news. My parents were very upset; they didn't help me out. My father is a very wealthy man, but he didn't give me one cent. I moved out on my own. I did everything on my own. Wel l , one of my brothers came to help put a shelf up in my home and in his van he had boxes full of food for the kids, like cookies and juice and school stuff. He just quietly went in and filled up that shelf. Before I left my husband I had asked both of my brothers how it would affect them, especial ly s ince they were both getting married and had new famil ies; it would have been a big shame. Both of them sa id , "Look, it's your life. If you make a decision and can stick by it, it doesn't matter to us. We don't care what your in-laws say." They both felt that way. That was scary, too, that if I made the decision then I had to stick by it. If I changed my mind, my position of respect would have been lost f o reve r . I was in grade ten when I got married, so I didn't finish high school . W e weren't meant to get married so soon. I just went to Ma lays ia to meet him. Actual ly, my father sent me there because of the trouble I had got into at school . I had a boyfriend at the time and that was a huge taboo. I 71 never even kissed him, but we had been seen holding hands and that was it. "Go to Malays ia and meet the man you are to marry when you finish school . " I was the one who decided to get married right away, to get away from my father, his str ictness, his controll ing. He would humiliate me in front of people, bring me down. My father wanted us to get engaged, and then in a few years I would go back to Malays ia and we'd get married. I stayed there for a month and my father found out that we were shopping together or something like that, so he came on the next flight to take me back, because something like that can bring your marriageabil i ty down if my husband and I didn't end up getting married. I didn't want to go back to my father, so we got married instead of getting engaged. Actual ly he isn't my father, he's my step-father. My father died when I was three, so it was my father's brother's duty to marry my mother and take care of the chi ldren. He was the youngest brother; all the others were already married. I guess that's why he is so mean and controll ing. He lost his cho ices in life when my father died. My husband was in medical col lege in Malays ia . He always wanted to finish medical school here, so when he came to C a n a d a with me after our first year of marriage, we made an agreement that he would go first and finish and then I would go. But he didn't finish. He had a drinking problem. I didn't really register it as a problem until about three years into the marr iage. But I think what I was really dissatisf ied with was his lack of work ethic. Work is very important to me; I was brought up to bel ieve that you don't just sit around. And he was constantly not going to work, taking time off, and not bringing home his pay cheque. That really irked 72 me. And then he was drinking a lot, spending a whole day with his friends, going off and me not knowing where he was. He wouldn't cal l . He crashed a couple of cars. It's surprising that a lot of people, especia l ly my family, were very shocked when I left him. They didn't see his drinking as a problem. They didn't have to live with the daily nonsense that he put me through. At one point my father got involved and he wanted me to leave him right away, but only to punish him. I wasn't ready at al l . To me that was the scariest thought, to leave him and go back to my dad. My father kept blaming me for everything that was wrong with the marr iage; I wasn't doing things right. It didn't matter who I was, what my character was, but the fact that I was the wife meant I should do everything under the sun to make sure my husband was happy. I was to fix him up. And my mother is very subordinate. She gets wrapped up in what my father says and can't stand up to defend me. She was always worried about how my father would perceive everything. My husband took full advantage of that. Once he told them that I was preparing to leave, that I had probably already found somebody else. So , I got a phone call from my father and he threatened to kill me. And then I remember he said, " Wel l , I have no qualms about shooting myself right after I do that." I just laughed and told him I really didn't care. I knew he wouldn't. It was just a threat. I thought a lot about going for counsel l ing during all of that. I guess it took a while to figure out that we needed it. And then, my family was telling me it was all my fault, and my community was telling me it was all my fault that I couldn't keep my marriage happy, so if it's all my fault how could I convince my husband to go for couples counsel l ing? And then 73 the process of finding a counsel lor was another big deal . I remember looking in the phone book and seeing a lot of Christ ian counsel lors. What would they understand of my situation? And my family found out that I was subjecting my husband to counsel l ing because I couldn't keep things together it would cause even more problems for me. This is what did in fact happen in the end. Of course my husband told them. They were always on his s ide, ready to defend him. I finally gave my husband an ultimatum to either go for alcohol counsel l ing or lose me. He went to stop me from nagging but he never bought into it. He didn't see that he had a problem; he still doesn't. I think he kept going because he didn't want to lose face in front of his counsel lor. Of course he didn't tell anybody that he was going. In fact, there was an Indo-Canadian person who used to go to the same place and he felt very embarrassed that somebody in the community knew that he had to go for some kind of alcohol help. That always struck me as odd because here he would be with a bunch of people and he would be drunk and staggering around, but he didn't think that was embarrassing. Yet , going for help was very embarrassing. Whi le he was going, his counsel lor told him about a psychologist who was doing some research on Indo-Canadian couples and was looking for some couples who would participate in going for counsel l ing. He agreed because of the encouragement from his counsel lor. We went for six or seven sess ions , but once the psychologist started to ask me about myself and what I could do about my situation, he didn't want to go anymore. A s long as he could complain about me, he was happy to be there, but when it 74 came to the opportunity of acknowledging how I was feel ing, he didn't want any part of it. Initially, I was very cautious of what I sa id and how much I d isc losed because I knew that I would get in trouble once I got home. He was verbally and physically abusive. I was toward him also. His physical abuse is what drove me to leave him. One day, quite out of character really, he picked me up by the throat. He looked different, so enraged. I couldn't stay any longer. But before that, in counsel l ing, I did begin to open up. I clearly remember feeling empowered, step by step. After that I started going to school , and then I got my degree. I wrote the G . E . D and then registered for col lege; I took six courses in the first semester and six in the next - I failed them all. Lucki ly, I was given the opportunity to try again. I didn't have any support at home. Nobody in my family wanted me to go back to school . My father had the same fear about women getting empowered as my husband did. That 's why my husband had a lot of support from my family. I just think that nobody said anything but everybody had the feeling that something was wrong, and they didn't want to encourage me to go out and do anything; they didn't even acknowledge me for going to school until I had my diploma. S o , they put many demands on me. They didn't want me studying, so I always studied at night from midnight to four in the morning. That 's why I failed my whole year. I would have to make all the arrangements for dinners and for the baby-sitt ing, and on the weekends I would have to do all the family stuff and I could never say that I had homework to do. When I started to demand more time, he would say things like, "Yeah right, you're not going to schoo l , you're going somewhere else." Somet imes he wouldn't show up 75 to pick me up from school. We only had one car because he had smashed up the other one. It would be eleven or twelve o'clock at night and I'd still be waiting for him. My friends would have to take me all the way home. They were unbelievably supportive, so were some of my professors. They all bel ieved in me and encouraged me. They were saying the opposite things to those which I was raised with. I was always told, "You can't do anything. You' l l never get anywhere." When I failed the first year it was like, " S e e , you can't do it." But in school they were telling me, "We know you can do it." For the first two years my husband paid for my school ing, but after that I had to get a job. I guess he paid initially because he didn't think I'd keep going. He was wrong. Somehow I juggled work and school , which actually gave me a little more freedom. By insisting I pay my own way, he and my father actually showed me how to be independent. It was very hard, though. I remember in my last semester I had eight fourth year c lasses and I had thirty-two hours of work a week. But I knew that I had to get the degree done as soon as possible because I could feel the pa t ience running out in everyone. And now I am on my own and my father is very isolated from all of us. I think what I did sprouted a lot of discussion among the sibl ings. W e are now talking about things that we never talked to anybody about before, like about him meddling in our l ives, controlling our l ives. He was like the Godfather. He was on top of everybody's bank accounts, everybody's movements. My sister doesn't talk to him anymore, and although he lives in the same house with my brothers, they don't let him get involved in 76 their l ives; they don't care what he says . My mom is in Malays ia with her ill mother and she doesn't feel like coming back. He made sure she didn't keep any relationship with her mom, dad, brothers or sisters, so when she is there she doesn't feel like it's her home. She is very lonely there. She also says that nobody likes her in Canada , either. I think she feels that she doesn't have a place anymore. And my father has isolated himself from my chi ldren, which is surprising because he was really at tached to my daughter. But the last time he saw them, the first thing he said to them was, "You know your mom is a bad person; she is not good and you should listen to your dad and your grandfather." I phoned everybody and said that if he is going to that to my children then I don't want him around them. He denied everything and refuses to meet with me to d iscuss it. The perception in my community is that if you go for counsel l ing, and especial ly for women like us, they are going to corrupt you and they are going to tell you to divorce. They think that counsel lors are ruining everybody's famil ies. But what is really happening is the women are getting empowered. That is what happened to me. C o m m e n t a r y When I met K for the second interview she expressed surprise at how much she had told me. She also added some details which I have included in the narrative. She hadn't told me initially about her father being her step-father because she said it wasn't something that was admitted to openly in the family until just recently. S ince our first meeting her husband had been killed in a car accident. K was still suffering from its effects at the time of the second interview. On the one hand it was a 77 relief. Up until his death he had been living down the street from her, watching her every move. She kept the blinds c losed at all t imes and felt afraid of what he might do. He would constantly question their chi ldren about their mom and whom she was seeing. On the other hand, her children were suffering over the loss of their father. Her step-father continues to 'spy' on her. He continues to spread rumours about her to the family and the community. He is well l iked and respected in the community. K thinks this is due to his agreeing to marry K's mother. Although I did not include it in the narrative, K also told me that her grandfather had killed himself two years prior to our first meeting. S h e bel ieves the harassment of her step-father towards her grandfather — his father — to be the cause of this suicide. The disclosure was emotional for both of us. When I asked her why she thought her grandfather had been so supportive of her even though many of her actions went against the traditions in which she was brought up, K said it was because, unlike her other sibl ings, she had spent a lot of time during her first three years with her paternal grandparents and her birth father. Her personality was a lot like that of her father and she reminded her grandfather of his deceased son. K said that one reason for her not having sought counsel l ing help was due to the time it took her to accept that there was a ser ious problem in her marriage. She was young, naive and unsure of herself and her beliefs which were constantly put into question by her step-father. Included in her reasons were her fear of isolation from her family and the Indian community; her belief that her husband would not go for couple 's 78 counsel l ing s ince the problems in the marriage rested on her shoulders; her belief that the family and community would put the onus on her as the problem, not on her husband; the fear that counsel l ing would confirm her belief that she was the problem, as she had been told continually from a very young age; the feeling of shame in going and admitting that something was wrong; a sense of dependency on her husband, this was 'her man, ' forever and he was in control; a lack of information with regard to access ing counsel l ing help. K's perceptions of why Indian women do not seek counsel l ing help 1. There is a barrier in the Indian community about d isc losing personal information, particularly outside of the family. That information should be kept at home. 2. Ma les have certain advantages in the community, like favourit ism and power. Women are not to have power. 3. In the Indian community, couples stay together at all costs . 4. Many Indian women believe that counsel l ing will lead to divorce. "Counse l lo rs will corrupt them and tell them to divorce. 'They are ruining every bodies ' l ives'. And if there is a divorce, the st igma attached to you prevents a second , good marriage. A lso , if the counsel lor is not Indian, the woman will have to sit and explain the intricacies of the culture which would take weeks , intricacies such as a slight comment from a mother-in-law can devastate a woman for weeks" . 5. If a woman goes for counsell ing and it is found out, the repercussions can be quite severe. 6. By going for counsel l ing, a shame is put on the family. If the 79 counsel l ing results in temporary separat ion or d ivorce, it's very difficult in the community to keep it a secret because of all the community gatherings. People would notice that the husband wasn't there. This comment presupposes the result of counsel l ing as divorce. 7. Having a problem brings bad luck to the woman involved and to the extended family. K's perception of how she is different from Indian women who do not seek counse l l ing help 1. S h e has a personality that gave her the wherewithal to fight for what she bel ieved in. She believed her husband needed counsel l ing and she had the courage to give him an ultimatum to either go for help or lose her. 2. She had a very strong support network through friends, sibl ings and her paternal grandfather. 3. She is very personable and expressive. Once she began to open up to the counsel lor , she was able to get out all that was troubling her. Fourth Narrat ive I was born in India, but my family moved to C a n a d a when I was four and a half years old. I didn't grow up in an area where there were many other East Indian, S ikh , people around me. I lived in two different worlds and trying to combine them was really difficult because I wanted to do the things that my Canad ian friends were doing, but there were limitations because of my culture. My parents are very traditional in their ways of thinking. It was very confusing for me. At school I was an individual; it was up to me to do this, this and this. But at home, everything surrounded the family and the community. It's always what's good for the community, 80 what's good for the family, is what you do. S o , if you have to sacri f ice yourself, you do it, like what you believe in or what you want. For example, in Canadian culture, you date, you go out for as long as you want, you get to know the person, you fall in love, you marry them or live with them, whatever you want. With us, we're not al lowed to date. Our parents are supposed to pick a person that we are going to marry. You really have no say in it, except to say yes or no to the person they pick. They introduce you to someone and either you like them or you don't, and you either say yes or no to them. With many people, they don't even have a choice between saying yes or no. I was lucky that my parents understood that s ince I was going to have to live with the person I married, I should have some choice. But even so, they don't let you get to know that person. You can't go out on a date with him. They give you a profile of his education and what he does for a career, and that's how you are supposed to decide. At the time that my parents were trying to find me a match, they didn't know that I already had a boyfriend. I was scared to tell them because I thought they would reject him. He wasn't from the same cast as my family. Our family clan descends from kings and his from farmers. But here, his family is far wealthier than we could ever hope to be. It's not a wealth thing, it's a c lass thing and we are in a higher c lass . It's about tradition, really, not about relationships. What other people think is more important than how their daughters or sons or whoever are feel ing. S o , to keep my boyfriend and keep them from finding out, I would just say no to all the men they found for me. When they eventually did find out, things changed a lot in my life; life became hell. They cut off my tuition 81 for university, so I had to get a student loan. They cancel led my car insurance. You see , my parents would give me the world as long as I to followed their rules. Everything I did was monitored: I couldn't be on the phone; I couldn't go out by myself, somebody had to be with me at all t imes. Al l I could do was go to school and to work. They knew when my c lasses ended and what my work schedule was. It was very stressful. I was depressed and I became quite paranoid. I couldn't s leep, but at the same time I didn't want to get out of bed. I didn't have any energy. I couldn't eat; I lost fifteen pounds during that time because I was so stressed out. I had started drinking a lot of coffee and smoking cigarettes to try and deal with the stress, which of course didn't help, and then my parents found out about the smoking which is a big no no for South As ian girls, so I couldn't do that anymore because everybody was around me all the time. The only place I could smoke was at school , and I would need tons of perfume to cover up, which didn't actually work. They simply didn't trust me anymore. I couldn't do anything. Life was being watched; everything was watched. Yet, I couldn't move out; I didn't want to move out. I didn't want to lose them. If I had moved out, my family would have disowned me and my culture would have disowned me. My Caucas ian friends would tell me to just move out, but they didn't understand what moving out meant for me, to lose my family, to lose my cousins, to lose everybody that I knew. It wasn't like when one of them would move out. They could still go and visit their mom and dad, aunts and uncles; I wouldn't have been able to. I would lose everything. There is a lot of love in my family, and no matter how much I wanted to be 82 my own person, I didn't want to lose them at the same time. It was like a catch 22; I wanted to do all this stuff and do it my way, but at the same time, I wanted them there. A lso , just before my parents found out about my boyfriend, I had left him. He was giving me ultimatums. It was either we get married or forget it - he was going to go and find someone e lse. I was too afraid to tell my parents about him because I didn't know how they would react. S o , I told my parents it was over between us and for a year we didn't see each other. With all that was happening, I couldn't concentrate on school and my grades were falling. I would be reading something but my mind would be somewhere e lse. That was the biggest thing for me. I wanted to do well in school and I felt that I was losing everything and I didn't want to lose that, too. It felt like my family didn't care anymore, that they didn't love me. My boyfriend was being difficult. The one thing that was keeping me going was the idea of finishing school and getting a good job. I wanted to be something. That's when I realized that I needed to get some help. My Caucas ian friends had tried to get me to go for counsel l ing before that but I didn't believe anything or anyone could help me. I figured other people wouldn't know what I was going through, they wouldn't understand where I was coming from, with my values and my culture. I bel ieved my problems were my problems and I had to deal with them. But school was really important to me and I knew that I had to do something. Counsel l ing was an option, so I thought well it's better than nothing at al l ; maybe I could learn different ways of coping with my life. I had no great i l lusions about her fixing everything for me because I knew that was up to 83 me. I just felt so hopeless, like I had no other choice. I couldn't talk to my Caucas ian friends because I didn't want them to think that my family was bad or that my boyfriend was an asshole. S o , everything I told them was very limited, very general , very nothing. And , I couldn't talk to my East Indian friends because they would know my family and they would talk to their moms or dads or cousins or sisters and then it would be everywhere. You see , that's the thing, it goes everywhere, like a plague. And anyway, they were scared of the same things. They would say, "That's how it is with everyone. You are no different." But what I was going through was hell for me. I couldn't talk to my boyfriend either because he was frustrated and I really don't think that he would have understood anyway. There was just nobody for me to talk to. Even though my friends had told me to go I didn't tell them when I went. I was so afraid someone would find out and wonder what was wrong with me. I thought that if I went for counsel l ing somehow everybody would find out. I was thinking that it was going to go on my record that at university I went for counsel l ing; it was a drop-in place on campus . I was really scared. The first time, I walked in, looked around and walked out. I thought, "I'm okay. I don't need this. I'm not like those people in the waiting room." I went back two days later, made an appointment, and was able to see someone right away. I'm not sure I would have gone back if I had had to make an appointment for the following week. I don't know, though. For a long time I bel ieved everything was my fault, that I was to blame for what was happening. If I had just gone to school and been a good 84 girl and done what my family had wanted, none of this would have happened. I wouldn't be in this predicament. But then, through counsel l ing, I started to realize that I wasn't fol lowing the rules from the beginning. I wanted two different things. I had been living in two different worlds and it wasn't my fault that I wanted something e lse . A n d , to want something else isn't really bad. After about a year, my boyfriend and I started to see each other again. My parents saw us together and then finally I told them about us. By then we had already got engaged. They got the idea that they were either going to lose me or they were going to have to accept him. I was so scared. His grandmother cal led my mom and said that she wanted her grandson to marry me; they said they would have to think about this. S o , eventually they met him and they liked him and everything was fine. Now we are married. Now they love him. And I still live in two different worlds. We are very equal when we are on our own. But, with my in-laws it's different. I have to give them the impression that he is the person in charge. I have to ask him permission to do this and that. It's just a part of being in our culture, and even though we never d iscussed it, I think he expected me to do this so that he's not looked down upon. I'm so used to it. I've done it all my life, so it doesn't really bother me anymore. C o m m e n t a r y S ince our first interview I have learned that G is d ivorced. Her in-laws told me they didn't know how I could reach her. When I finally reached her family home, I was initially treated with suspic ion and was eventually told that she was not living there and could not be reached. A second interview, therefore, was not held. Although G had lived most of her life in C a n a d a , her belief system was very much embedded in traditional Indian culture. Yet, she spoke of her struggles as she was confronted with traditional ideas on the one hand, and western ways of living on the other. Even in a marriage which she had chosen, her values were put in conflict with those of her extended family. She was forced to live two l ives. G 's personal struggle in making the decision to go for counsel l ing included her belief that her problems were her own and of her own making, to be dealt with on her own; her fear of being discovered by either those who were watching her at all t imes, or by someone in the community should the fact of her counsell ing appear on her school record, and then losing her family because of the st igma and shame attached to the concept of taking problems outside the family; her lack of faith in counsel l ing as a helpful p rocess. G 's perception of why Indian women do not seek counsel l ing help 1. The Indian culture is very family oriented and the whole community is a part of each individual and family. 2. It is difficult in the Indian culture to ask one 's parents for help with emotional problems. There is the fear that they will look at the person as if something is seriously wrong with them. Ask ing for help means deal ing with more problems. 3. If a person goes for counsel l ing, it is a shame on the family and on the community, because having a problem is a shame and taking it outside of the family is an even greater shame. 86 4. Indian people don't believe that counsel l ing can help solve problems. Counsel lors are from a different culture and they have different va lues. "They would not understand what an Indian woman is going through". 5. Indian people think that this is your life. "All women go through the same things and you just have to accept it." G ' s perception of herself as different from women who do not seek counse l l ing help 1. G had been brought up in Canada, so she had been exposed to the concept of counsel l ing. 2. Although G feared losing her family, she was prepared to take the risk and have a boyfriend without their knowledge or permiss ion. 3. G had many Caucas ian friends who supported the idea of her going for counse l l i ng . 4. Counsel l ing was convenient in that there was a counsel l ing centre at the university. She didn't have to make the effort to find someone on her own. She was also able to see someone right away, so her decis ion could be more easi ly adhered to. 5. G had a strong desire to make something of her life. She wanted to finish school and pursue a career. To this end, she got a job when her family refused to continue support ing her educat ional pursuits. Fifth Narrat ive I was born in Punjab in 1947. We came to C a n a d a when I was forty-five years old, three and a half years ago. Life here has been very hard, but at the same time I have felt liberated since I've come. In India, many 87 women (like myself) are not al lowed to do anything once they are married but be a mother and a wife. They keep banging into you that you are a mother and a wife and you have to look after the children and the husband, everything in the house, and you don't have anything to do with outsiders. Most women take it because it is hammered into them, I think. Their mothers have suffered and even their grandmothers. They think that this is the ultimate, that there is nothing beyond that. They just can't imagine that if they are not happy that they can just leave and go some place e lse. It is emotional blackmai l . "If you leave, if you go out, your chi ldren will suffer. No one will marry your daughter. People will make fun of the children in that their mother wasn't a good woman." A woman will do anything to safeguard her chi ldren. They are the most important thing in her life. When you lose the children, you lose yourself and your identity. The moment you are married you are known as someone 's wife and then you are known as the mother of the children. That is your identity. There won't be anything for you the moment you go. In India, everyone made me feel that s ince I wasn't getting any money and I wasn't working, I was not worth anything. I was just to look after the man and his house. He was everything, and I had no identity, nothing of myself. My parents' money went to my brothers, my father-in-law's money went to my husband and his children, but no one ever thought about me. He (my husband) kept on telling me, "everything is yours," but what? I couldn't access the bank accounts; it was a joint account, but most women, like myself, are not al lowed to get into it. Slowly, I started to bel ieve that I really was worthless. The moment I came here I found 88 out that I am capable of everything. I am even capable of earning more than my husband. I guess you could say that that is our (South As ian women's) oppression. I feel bad, but then again I had the best education. I was from the upper c lass of society where everything was avai lable to me, and not avai lable. My father was not like normal people; he bel ieved in equality for the boys and the girls, so he gave us equal education. But there were a few things which were not al lowed, like making my own cho ices , deciding for myself what I wanted to do. It was very subtle, but somehow I was not al lowed to. You grow up and you have a father or some main person and then a husband to guide you. When I finished my Masters, I became a col lege professor. Even that money I made wasn't really considered mine; I was never given the option to spend it the way I wanted. But that job was for only six months, until I got married, and then my husband made me quit my job. And then I had children, and everyone kept telling me I was supposed to look after my children, not work. My husband made enough money so why should I work? They make you work only if you don't have money or if your husband is hurt or something. There is no freedom in the world for women, really. I had some freedoms like when my children started school I got a part-time job in the same school , but the pay wasn't very good. My husband let me keep it for pocket money. It was not substantial enough to help me survive for a month or anything like that. If you don't have economic freedom... Anyway, I never tried that. That was what was expected of me, and I just gave in. I gave in. When I used to feel bad, my sisters would tell me it was only in my 89 mind, that I was just putting on a show, making a big issue out of nothing. They didn't want to think that something wasn't right with me. S o I stopped telling because I was afraid they would judge me. In my culture most of the women keep everything to themselves because there is a st igma attached to that. They don't want to tell anyone. They want to paint a very rosy picture outside of the family, a picture that says , "Nothing is wrong with me." A man can go and tell anything about his wife but a wife is not supposed to do this. And it's inbred in you because there is no concept of divorce or anything over there. When you are married, they keep on telling you, this is your home and you can only get out of it when you die. There are not many choices available to women. I think there are no choices for women. In our society, if something is not working it's because the woman isn't trying. It is because she is not all right. But I knew I was all right. When I was depressed in India, no one thought of taking me to the doctor. I didn't openly tell them that I was depressed, but the symptoms were there, like crying. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't s leep. I would just walk around, wanting to just run out. I felt empty, like I was nothing. My father would come to my house and try to talk me out of it. My brothers used to come and say that this was the way to happiness, to be a mother to my chi ldren. If I went out to work they wouldn't have so much of me. I felt good about that, but no one told me I was doing a good job. I had never cooked or c leaned in my life until I got married. I would just tell the servants to do all that. I had no skil ls or interest in household chores, even now I don't. So , I would feel like I knew nothing, that I was doing 90 nothing. My husband would tell me that if I couldn't cook, I couldn't do anything, so that made me feel worthless, too. He used to tell me that I was unwomanly because of all that. Yet, somehow I still didn't bother to do any of that. I just didn't want to develop any of those skil ls. Even now I'm not bothered. I feel so liberated here. No one here would tell me I should worry about those things. A man can be as interested in the house as a woman. S o , I just waited for someone to take me to a doctor, but no one did. That is the sort of education we are brought up with in India. You don't take your troubles outside, not to anyone. In India, they don't have counsel lors , they have psychiatr ists, and they only work with extreme cases . There is a sort of st igma attached. People don't take it lightly that someone has gone, so it doesn't occur to anyone to go. I mean, no one thinks that in our situation we have to get counsel l ing. The concept is not there. Finally though, I went to the doctor myself and told him that I was not able to s leep. He couldn't think of anything that was wrong, so he gave me some sleeping pills, but I didn't take them. Then my mother came and stayed with me for some time. She always told me that if I needed help then I should just go and stand in front of the mirror and that was the person who was going to help me. You have to come out to a solution yourself. She taught me how to pray for myself. She shared her own exper iences and taught me how she handled things when my father was always away in the army; she took charge of things. You need someone to pray to. That gives you strength and courage to help yourself. S o , over a 91 period I had to come to the decision that whatever happened, I could help myself. I had to find the strength in myself to get over that problem. It must have helped because I prayed and then I went and found myself a job. Somet imes, even now, I go into a depression thinking about all we gave up in coming here, our house and property and everything. We are living in an insecure posit ion, with no house, having to work for everything we have and no security. But, my son reminds me that over there, I had nothing. It was all my husband's. But, I had a comfortable life and security. When I get depressed I tell myself not to be because there is no way out. After coming to Canada , our total situation was depressed - my husband had no job, no place to live, and he wasn't trying. S o one day I got up and didn't tell anyone and took the bus and went to the col lege to get myself a registration book. I enrolled in a six-month training course and I got a job. I took action; I didn't depend on my husband. Now I have stopped depending on him for everything. It's amazing. I amazed myself. Now I wonder, I a lways had this strength and I let people tell me I was noth ing. After we came to Canada , I thought that there was no reason for us to come here and go through all this humiliation. I mean, if my in-laws had told us that they were not going to look after us... maybe my husband had misinterpreted. They never had any inclination of helping us. A n d , looking at the Canad ian situation, I don't think that anyone is so comfortable that they can look after anyone else. But we were living in that crazy net and didn't realize that people were having problems. And when we came here there were no jobs. My husband has a high education, but he couldn't get a job. He doesn't have the attitude. He brought that with him. It was harder here to find a job. You have to go back and learn new ski l ls. Y o u can't just get into society. It's totally different from where we have come. We had to start all over again, and I thought I would start from wherever I had to. When I went to col lege, one of my teachers noticed that I was really depressed, so she sent me to a German doctor, her own doctor, and she said that he was a sort of counsel lor doctor. I didn't want to go but she kept asking me if I had gone and telling me that there was no harm in my going and talking to the doctor. Then I figured that I had nothing to lose now that I was here and everyone knew my situation. W e used to talk about our troubles in the c lass and the teacher would always say we could talk to her. They gave me the feeling that they understood what I was going through, that they understood how I felt, and they showed it. They said I was not alone; everyone who went there went through the same cycle. It was a mistake to come here but then we have to try and fix the mistake and put it right. I felt safe there. And I didn't mind telling them because they were not going to go and talk to anyone else. I was desperate. I had to find a way to go on and I had no one else to talk to. I was totally on my own.. I am not supported by my husband. I would never consider my husband a support after coming here. S o , all those barriers were not holding me anymore. In my country I would not have told anyone that I was on social assistance. But, I was desperate. S o I went to see that doctor two weeks later. I saw him two or three t imes. After talking to him I really felt better inside. What he said to me 93 was right. He told me that the things I was feeling were real. He also gave me a prescription for my migraine headaches. These headaches increase in intensity when I am depressed. I always think that you can talk to anyone, you can talk to a counsel lor, but it's your own strength which pulls you out. No counsel l ing will help you if you are not ready to help yourself. I have seen so much insecurity since I have come here. I found out that no one stands beside you. I worry for my children and for myself and don't give a damn about any other thing, just my work and my money, what I'm making. I don't think about my husband, I don't talk to him, I just get up at 7 o'clock and go to work, twenty-four hours I worry. I am just surviving. If someone were born and brought up here that person would think about counsel l ing, but I think it's not for me, I think it's my inbred insecurity. I have the responsibil ity of being someone to take act ion, to rectify things. I had an idea in the back of my mind that I wanted a better life for my children, to see the new world. S o I should stand beside him (my husband). I don't want to leave him. We have gone through so many things together and I have come to a sort of understanding now after so many years that it's not important to look towards him for everything. He 's not capable of providing everything. We are brought up to bel ieve that he is the sole purpose of being. We have to look to him for everything. Even small decis ions you can't make for yourself. And that can be frustrating. And it's frustrating for the man, too. Somet imes even the man can't make all these decisions for everyone else, but he doesn't like being told that he's not capable. I'm feeling quite rel ieved now that I understand that. He 's taking it quite hard though. It's not easy for him to 94 get used to. C o m m e n t a r y This interview was interesting because the participant, S , had only been living in C a n a d a for four years. Her story was rich in insights about Indian culture and bel iefs, particularly those pertaining to the Indian culture in India as opposed to that in Canada . She maintained throughout that she did not go for counsel l ing help, though she referred to the recommended doctor as a "counsel l ing sort of doctor" with whom she visited two or three t imes. The idea of somatiz ing emotional problems has been referred to in the review of the literature. S insisted that she went to this doctor for her migraine headaches and not to talk about her depress ion, though she did in fact talk to him about it, and reported feel ing much better thereafter. S included in her story several reasons for not having gone for counsel l ing help. Some of these were a part of her explanation of the Indian culture. She had two stories of her help-seeking process, one in India and the other in Canada . Her reasons for not getting help in India were that no one had taken her for help. She waited for a family member, someone high on the hierarchical ladder to give her permission. Family members offered counsel and suggested physical exerc ise to help her conquer her depression. When she did go to her doctor, he could find nothing wrong with her, so he provided her with sleeping pills. S spoke about ingrained beliefs, ideas hammered into Indian women. At t imes she spoke of women in general, but my sense was that she was referring to herself as well . She talked about the consequences a woman might face if 95 she were to leave her marriage. This coincides with K's comment that many women believe counsel l ing will lead to divorce. Other reasons S gave for not going for help included the belief that people in India don't take problems outside the family; women are responsible for the happiness of the family, particularly that of their husbands; generat ions of women have suffered, so it's a woman's karma to suffer too; the feel ing of wor th lessness because she had no f inancial security, no ski l ls in the domain of household chores, and no ability to make her own choices; the belief that counsel l ing was for ser ious mental i l lness and if she went for counsel l ing she would have been judged as such. Because it was difficult to distinguish general reasons for an Indian woman not seeking counsell ing help and her own personal reasons, I have combined the two in the above sect ion. My perception of how S differs from women who do not seek counsel l ing he lp (This participant did not acknowledge going for counsel l ing.) 1. She had an education and had had a good job in India before gett ing marr ied. 2. S had a side to her that was non-conformist - she refused to learn cooking and cleaning ski l ls, she didn't take the s leeping pills prescr ibed to her, she went to the doctor for depression of her own volition, she bel ieved in taking action to solve problems. Perhaps her mother 's own strength in this regard can be attributed to this trait. 3. When she came to Canada she was forced to take charge and she d iscovered her true capabil i t ies which raised her self concept cons iderably . 96 4. She had support from her teachers and fellow students, who normal ized her feel ings of depress ion. 5. Upon coming to Canada and having to take charge, the barriers that previously held her were removed - she began to talk openly about her situation, she had to support her husband and family, extended family was not there to comment on her act ions, positively or negatively. S ix th Narrat ive I was born in Canada in 1968. I'm the youngest of five and the only one not born in India, but everyone says I'm more Indian than the rest of them. My parents moved here from the southern part of India in 1964. While I was growing up, my parents put my sister and I into everything that was going - music lessons, gymnast ics, all the sports you can imagine, book c lubs, Gu ides, Brownies, you name it. Their expectation was that we could do everything and anything, and we did. Of course it's nice to be proud of your kids, and in my family my brothers weren't really accompl ished, so I think there was more responsibil i ty for my sister and I to be everything. In Indian families I find very much that it is what you have accompl ished that dictates your worth. It's about how you look reflecting back on how your family looks. South As ian people have more of a family identity than a single person identity. A lso , in Indian famil ies, and certainly in my family, boys are treated much better than girls; the boys are almost out of control. I remember my mom putting aside food for my sister and I, but the boys could eat as much as they wanted. My sister and I had a very prescribed role in the family. If my parents had a party, we had to take the trays of food to the guests and serve them and smile 97 and talk to them. My mom would say, "Oh, you're not shy, go." I remember my mom kind of pushing me, "Go , it's okay, it's okay- go, you know these people." And really I did not want to be there. I wanted to be with my brother who was in Mom and Dad's bedroom watching T.V. I am very c lose to my family. I mean, I really identify with the family. It gives me strength in that I see myself as being one of many people, and what I do is very important to them, and what they do is very important to me. S o , even though I was born in this country, I think I am quite different from people of European decent; I am more Indian in that way. When my parents moved away, it was like I lost my right leg. It wasn't the same when my sister left, though. She had left years before. I was really hurt that she would leave me, because we're very c lose and I was shocked , almost in denial for the first five months. I was really angry with her. But, when my parents left it was different. I was just very sad because they were my best friends and I had lost them. Just before I got married I remember thinking, "Oh my G o d , my parents are the only source of external validation that I value." It scared me because I thought, "One day they will not be here and what will I do?" I was very dependent on them emotionally. Actually, with my dad it was a lso the reverse. He depended on me a lot, to bounce ideas off of and to talk to about the rest of the family. That's part of it, too. He was always very disappointed with my brothers, so it was up to me to make them proud, to do what I knew was right. When I think about what it took for me to finally go for counsel l ing, a lot of those expectations played a part in my struggle. I guess the 98 trouble started in my university days, after my parents had moved away, which was a huge loss for me as I have said. I started doing really irresponsible things, things that were not good for me. I would go out a lot and I drank a fair amount. Things would happen and I would end up just scraping by, not quite getting into ser ious trouble. I was scar ing myself more and more each time, and whatever I did became more and more extreme. I was also in a really bad relationship. And then I kind of reached the lowest point that I could reach and I real ized that I was very unhappy and quite depressed, but I would hide it with friends and get myself really involved in school . I was the busiest person. And then when I'd come home at night, and I'd be alone, everything would stop, and I'd realize I was just not happy. I was really a mess. I can't even descr ibe it in words: I didn't know what I was going to do with my life, I was in a really bad relationship, my whole family was removed, I got busier and busier to the point where I just couldn't keep up anymore. I would drag myself around and I got sick quite a bit. I couldn't talk to my parents about it because I knew it would have embarrassed them to even think... I always had everything together, or I was really good at making it seem that way. I didn't want to disappoint them or worry them unnecessari ly. Even though we were really c lose, there were things we just didn't d iscuss. It was just, " Y e s , you're al lowed to this, no, you can do that, or you should have done this", and that was it. It wasn't really a touchy feely emotional relationship. And if I had done something bad, I would just say, "Dad, this is what I did." If it was a big problem, a really big problem, that would cause a lot of 99 heartache for a lot of family members, I wouldn't even bring it up. I would just suffer in s i lence. That is common in Indian famil ies. A n d , if someone does end up going for counsel l ing, it is done in a way that not a lot of people know about it. It's not talked about - just get it over with and that's it. "It's all done? Oh , that's it, you're f ixed? Okay fine. I don't want to know the details." I think if I had told my parents they would have sa id , "No, no you're fine, or you're just being irresponsible, grow up or something." It would have been a real judgmental thing. The message would have been, "You're embarrassing us." Actual ly, I did write them a letter at one point and I told them about it. They didn't acknowledge that they even got the letter. Later, I told them how upset I had been and my mother sa id, "You know, when we got the letter, we thought you were on drugs, because you are the last person anyone would expect to have any kind of problems. You can do everything, you do well in everything, you have no problems, you have lots of friends." This is months later! I had been such a mess, and here, they didn't even acknowledge it. That's one strong reason proving you can't be open about things. And of course, they blamed themselves. "What is it? We've done everything for you that we could. You have a strong family and all the support. What is the problem? What is miss ing?" I was raised to honour my parents. And what you do and what you say and who you are all goes back to them. S o by sharing things that were negative, it was like I was blaming them for how things turned out somehow. Anyway, finally I decided in my mind that things didn't have to be that way, there were things I could change. And I made a few minor 100 adjustments and the results were huge. I got rid of my boyfriend, I told people, "No, I can't do this, no, I can't do that" and started setting some boundaries. A lso , school had finished which was a big thing for me and I had done well . S o within a few weeks things went on this big upswing. And then I made a huge move, a geographical move. I had found something that I could study that I felt really passionate about. And I met someone new. But, somehow things were still not great. I think the most obvious symptom was my temper. It was getting really, really out of control , like scary. I would wind up getting really angry and then feeling so bad about it that I would feel guilty for days on end. I was really sad and then I'd get really angry and I was rarely happy. Things had been looking up for so long, and then it started to plateau and then to go back downhil l . I was out of control. And I had met this man, who is now my husband, and he was becoming very important to me and I was beginning to realize that I would probably lose him if I didn't do something. I real ized I needed to start to figure some things out, but when I thought about going for counsel l ing I thought, "Oh my G o d , if I take the responsibi l i ty of going to counsel l ing, that might mean I figure out what it is, and how much will my life change, and will it get any better?" It had been on my mind for a long time and that wasn't easy. One hour I would be going and the next hour I couldn't. Why? Because it would look bad. It would look bad on me and on my family. What would it all say about my family? Why had I messed up? Was it because of my parents? Wou ld it reflect badly on my family? I didn't want to lower their posit ion in my mind. That would have been so destructive for a person like myself 101 whose sense of self is dependent on her sense of family. I thought, "My G o d , if I find these things out, is it going to be worse than it is now? Which is worse? Should I just try to deal with this and let the unknown be unknown?" But I had read that behind anger is pain and I had to find out where the, pain was coming from, for my sake and the sake of my relationship. I guess you could say that my whole personal identity was coming up very strong and I needed to reconcile things for myself. In the end, it was me who mattered here. I remember going back and forth for about ten days - "Should I cal l? Y e s . No." Then I remember making the phone cal l ; my hands were shaking. I was really nervous because I thought, "Oh my G o d this is a total stranger and what if they know someone I know or someone my parents know? What if they're Indian?" I don't think I would have gone if the person was Indian because I thought they would have judged me somehow: "Oh my G o d , what have you been doing?" Somehow this person would judge me as being less of an Indian woman than I should have been because I should have been stronger and able to deal with all that inside myself instead of needing outside help. Or, they would let someone know who I knew who was Indian - that whole confidentiality thing. I wouldn't have wanted our Indian friends to find out because they gossip a lot. It is a very grapevine- ish community. I remember when I was younger there was an Indian girl who had a nervous breakdown. She was thirteen and I tell you, ever s ince that, her whole family was seen very differently by that Indian community, like something was wrong. They made comments about the mother, never the father, now that I think of it. The family totally withdrew. I think they 102 were ashamed. I was a kid at the time and I knew people were judging them. I didn't tell my parents I was going for counsel l ing. I didn't tell anyone in my family, because I didn't think they would be all that posit ive, and it would really worry them: "Oh my G o d , she 's a psychiatric patient! She ' s depressed! Is she on medicat ion?" I'm sure that's what they would have thought, so I never told them. And I never told any friends, either. I've never p laced much importance in fr iendships, because they've never been all that supportive of me - nothing like family. Nothing is constant. My boyfriend, now my husband, was my closest friend and he was really supportive. That was a huge part of my decision to go. A lso , there was one woman with whom I worked who went for counsel l ing. I would see her the day after her sess ions and I was really watching because I was trying to figure out what it was like, what she was like after her counsel l ing sess ion . She 'd be really reflective, but she'd always say that it was really good for her. It was difficult but she was figuring things out. I never asked her for the number of her counsel lor, but I took her positive comments as being, "Oh, I can do that too." And after I had gone for counsel l ing, I thought, "Oh my G o d , now what do I do? What is going to happen when I see them again? What will they think?" Just by making the decision on my own to go for counsel l ing I had changed. I ended up telling them over the phone, before I saw them. I didn't want to shock them all at once. I was doing everything I could to ease the blow. I was feeling responsible for them. And , it wasn't bad. They just sa id , "If you feel better that's great." I guess going for 103 counsel l ing was so big for me because I hadn't involved them in the decis ion. My parents had quite a few problems with my brothers, one was withdrawn and the other outspoken and rebell ious. That was very difficult for Indian parents to deal with. S o , they arranged for them to see a social worker. But the difference was that they had arranged it. They were saying, "We have a problem," and because it was coming from the top down it was okay. But I went out of my own need and my own decis ion. That seemed huge for me. It's funny because my dad is a medical doctor — doctors are like gods in India — and in his practice he does a lot of counsel l ing and really sees the benefits of it. He says things like, "Why don't you bring in your husband and we can talk. It doesn't really sound like you need these anti-depressants - it sounds like there is a problem with your relationship and if you talked that might help." And my uncle is a doctor in India who does a lot of counsel l ing rather than prescribing drugs to his patients. And my aunt is a counsel lor in Canada , but I would never have told her about my problems. I wouldn't trust her keeping things confidential. But as far as my dad goes, I guess I just figured he would be open to it as long as it wasn't in his own family. I'm not convinced I am wrong on that point even though they were okay with the news. C o m m e n t a r y A second interview was not granted by this participant. Although A was born in Canada she feels she is more Indian than her sibl ings who were born in India. This could be attributed to her c lose relationship with her parents and her sense of identity as being very much 104 connected to them. Though she made the final decision to seek counsel l ing help without including them in the decis ion-making process, she felt a lot of guilt about it. She had not been raised in a family where she made decis ions on her own, without the input of the hierarchy of the family. In fact, her depression seemed to have stemmed from the loss of her family. She felt alone and lost and so acted out in the form of risk-taking behaviours and by involving herself in a destructive relationship. The grief and shock A suffered from having her family move away could possib ly paral lel that felt by the other participants who left India to come to C a n a d a . It could also give insights into the intense fear an Indian woman might feel at the thought of losing her family over a decis ion to go for counsel l ing help. The collective identity is very apparent and strong in the Indian community and in the world view of all seven part icipants. The reasons A gives for hesitation in going for counsel l ing are her fears around disappointing her parents and bringing shame to them and to herself as an integral part of them; her low self-concept before taking some initial control of her life; her past exper ience when she experimented by being open in a letter to her parents which resulted in them ignoring the problem completely; her fears that counsel l ing would mean blaming her parents for everything, or would fail to improve things; her fears of being judged by an Indian counsellor or being identified by a counsel lor who knew her or her family; her belief that she should be strong enough to deal with her own problems; the st igma that is attached to counsel l ing and mental i l lness as illustrated by her earl ier exper ience with the girl down the street. 105 A ' s perception of why Indian women do not seek counsel l ing help 1. By going for counsel l ing, one must admit there is a problem and there is shame in that, both on the individual and on the family. 2. Problems are kept and dealt with inside the family unit. A n d , if the problem might cause 'heartache' for a lot of family members, the problem rests with the individual. "You suffer in s i lence." 3. There is a patriarchal system which dictates from the top down what the family members can say and do. 4. If a person needs counsel l ing, the perception is that she/he is unstable. This will reflect badly on the family should anyone in the communi ty find out. A ' s perception of how she differs from other Indian women who do not seek counsel l ing help 1. A had made some changes in her life when she felt she was losing control and those changes had made a positive impact. 2. She had started a new relationship which she feared she would lose if she didn't get some help in dealing with her anger. 3. She had done some reading about anger and wanted to get to the source of the pain beneath it. 4. She had a lot of support from her boyfriend. 5. She had seen the positive effects of counsel l ing through the exper ience of a woman at her work place. 6. She was well educated. 7. Because of the community work her father had done through his medical practice, "somewhere inside me I knew my parents were 106 general ly amenable to counsel l ing." 8. She had lived on her own for a period of time, away from her parents. "I really began to know myself on my own." 9. A had heard her parents say that "ultimately, you have to decide what is best for you." Seven th Narrat ive I was born in Punjab in 1963. We moved to England when I was three, and seven years later we moved to Canada . From my parents point of view, our home was very traditional, but I didn't want it to be traditional. S o the culture c lash was always there. They did ingrain a lot of traditional ideas into me at a very early age, but I a lways had different ideas for myself because I saw so many different things outside of that. P lus , I grew up in an isolated small town where there were no other East Indian people around. All I saw was what I saw in my Caucas ian friends, and their way of living was a lot different from ours. The traditions that their parents were teaching them were different from those my parents were teaching me. S o there was this constant battle all the time. When I made the decision to go for counsel l ing, I had already left my marriage. That I did of my own free will, not because of counsel l ing help. I guess I was lucky because I had an education, I have a Masters degree, I had a career so I was financially independent, and I had a car, a means of escape. Things had become so unbearable in that marriage, the emotional and mental abuse of both my husband and my mother-in-law, that one morning instead of going to work, I just drove to Vancouver where I had relatives. I didn't pack anything, everything was left behind - it was that 107 bad. Actual ly there were two abusive marr iages, back-to-back. S o basical ly, I've been to hell and back. With the first marriage, I went to India to meet him. I didn't know him well. We just knew of him and his family. I knew something was wrong when I came back to C a n a d a after marrying him and he didn't ever write to me. He cal led me once a month, but he was quite distant over the phone. When he finally came here he sa id , "You don't mean anything to me and I don't mean anything to you." Wel l , it was obvious why he had got married - to immigrate here. From the very beginning there was physical , emotional and verbal abuse. It was really bad. We spent one week in Vancouver with his family because things were so bad. His family sa id, "Come here and join us. We' re going to try and fix things." This is common for the family to get involved in "fixing things." S o we came here - it was my Spring Break at school - and then after my break was over we both went back. And then my mom and my brother came and stayed with us because the whole thing was such a mess. But the abuse was bad - I won't go into any of the gory details, but it was bad. What he did and said were pretty horrible. And then he left me at the end of two weeks of being in Canada . I was devastated - I didn't know what to do. I was pretty shaken up to say the least. But I had a good lawyer who was able to show the judge what had happened and the divorce was granted to me on the grounds of mental abuse. And then a few months later I was introduced to the second man. His family had met me at an Indian function and were really interested in having me marry into their family. I don't know why. Maybe they thought, 108 "Wel l , she looks nice and vulnerable, let's take her." He had been married twice before. He told me about that, but he only told me half the truth. Of course he always blamed the women for the problems. But later I found out that those girls were actually very nice and the same thing that happened to me had happened to them. But I didn't know that at the time and his family was always telling me what a great guy he was, and I thought that because I was divorced nobody would ever want to marry me. My family a lso worried about my marriageability. That 's the way Indian people think. It all goes back to that idea of women being a commodity, being a liability and not really being a person in her own right. From the time an Indian girl is born the only thing that comes into the parents' minds is, "She 's not ours. Some day she is going to leave." S o they never make that bond with their daughters. They think, " G o d , we've got to get her married off." That is a big burden for them. And that goes into the whole dowry thing. Maybe if I had been given some more freedom and been given the opportunity to know him better things might have turned out differently. It wasn't exactly an arranged marriage since I'd met him and the decis ion was basical ly up to me, but not really. I mean, we were never al lowed to date or get to know each other, really. And he gave me only a month to decide. He lived in the States, so we were only able to talk on the phone. Somet imes on the phone things didn't seem quite right. He wasn't the affectionate type - he just didn't seem like he was really interested, not very car ing. But in spite of my misgivings, we got married and I moved to the States. We were only married a couple of months. The abuse started 1 0 9 right away; it was there all the time and I just didn't see it right away. Maybe I didn't want to believe that this could be happening a second time. It was a lot of emotional abuse, a lot of name-cal l ing, swear ing, putting me down, putting down my family - it was both him and his mother. I was totally a l ienated, which often happens in these situations with Indian marr iages. I was crying all the time, crying, crying, crying. I'd be on my way to work and I'd be crying. I had just started working then, but I couldn't concentrate on my job. You can't work when you're in a situation like that. I would also cry a lot on the phone to my parents and my sisters. They knew that something was wrong. My sisters would say, "You don't sound happy." And my parents were kind of in denial about it. They didn't want to accept it. My mom kept saying, "You're married into that home and you have to stay there." That is a common belief. Indian people think that if you are married into a certain family you stay there, regardless of what happens. You will live and die there. I remember my mother teaching me at a very young age that my in-laws would be my real parents. And finally I decided, "This is too much for me, I can't take this." I probably would have done myself in, or they would have done me in. The tension was so bad that I was really scared. He had quite a temper. Although he never actually hit me, I think it was just a matter of t ime. His mother would tell him all the time that I wasn't good enough for him. She was really angry that I hadn't come with a big enough dowry. They had expected a lot of money to come with me. My parents didn't have that much and they don't believe in the dowry so much. My parents sa id , "I'm giving you my daughter; that's enough." But Indian people want dowries. 110 It's a really big problem in our culture. I didn't figure it was going to get better. That never c rossed my mind. When I got into my car all I thought was, "I want to get out of here, now! I just want to leave, I don't want this." It's almost like I didn't really think an awful lot about the leaving part - it was just, "This is it, I've had enough, I'm not going back to that house." I knew that what was happening was very very wrong and that was it. I didn't even have a toothbrush. It was pretty horrible. I remember checking myself into a hotel, because I was very tired. I slept for a while and then I got into the car and drove. At first I was afraid he might follow me, but I knew there was no way he was going to find me out on the highway. He phoned just when I got home, so we had contact once or twice, but that was it. It was a pretty c lean break. I hope and pray that I never have to talk to this man a g a i n . But that was not the end of it. Y e s , he was out of my life in a physical way, but I found myself not dealing with things very wel l . I hadn't actually got past what had happened. I was not happy. All the time I was reliving in my mind the things that had happened, and I just couldn't stop thinking about them. I was getting a lot of f lashbacks. Al l of a sudden I'd be sitting somewhere and something would trigger a memory. Or, an incident would happen and I would remember what my ex-husband would have said to me. It would have been pretty horrible what he would have said or done at that time. That made me feel really horrible and sad . And I had a lot of fear about ever getting back out there and trying again, as far as a relationship went. I guess the big push came when the 111 opportunity came up for another relationship and I real ized I wasn't okay. I was really terri f ied. One of my sisters actually said that I should go for help, but at first I was reluctant. I think I was living in denial , that I hadn't actually been living in an abusive relationship. I didn't think that I would ever get myself into another abusive relationship. I thought I knew better than that. I didn't really realize the impact that it was having on me. But my sisters saw it. I was kind of withdrawn. So my sisters kept encouraging me to go for help. I didn't know if I was ready for it. I didn't want to face up to the fact that this had actually happened. I wanted to block it out of my mind. But it doesn't work that way. It keeps popping up every now and then. I guess I knew that I really needed to get things off my chest, but I also I knew it wasn't going to be easy. And counsel l ing was hell. There were a lot of tears. Before I went, I didn't know what to expect. It was a bit scary to think of opening up to a total stranger and telling her things that had happened. I shared some very intimate details of the abuse and the type of abuse that had happened. Tell ing her was pretty horrible. And before I went, there was a part of me wondering what it was going to be like reliving the whole thing over again. I didn't really want to do that. I hadn't told anyone about it before. My sisters knew that my relationship had been really abusive, but I didn't tell them the details. I told one of my sisters a little bit about what had happened at one time, and she started crying. S o I thought, "I don't want to put my family through that." It was gross stuff. And I didn't tell my parents at all about the counsel l ing. I 112 don't know if they would understand the purpose of it, maybe because they don't know what really happened to me and what the long-term effects of the emotional hurt can be. Indian parents have a tendency to think that if you have a problem, you should figure it out and solve it yourself. They also think it's your fate. If something goes a certain way, it's your fate. That 's just the way it's meant to be and there's no trying to do anything about it. My parents would have thought that. They are very traditional. I thought that being in a really bad marriage was my fate and I b lamed G o d for everything. You know, "Why isn't this working?!" But staying in the marriage wasn't my fate. I knew that leaving was in my control. Bes ides the memories of the abuse, another thing was bothering me when I started being on my own. I would wonder if what I was doing was acceptable. This Indian girl having all this freedom is not really considered right. I really questioned whether I should be doing that. Going for counsel l ing was part of that, being independent and making that decis ion on my own. Indian girls don't grow up with choices or control. A s a young girl I wasn't al lowed to go over to my friends' houses. I was basical ly told that no matter what I wanted to do, I couldn't do it — no matter what it was. "You just can't do it." That was all there was, no explanation. One of the reasons that Indian girls are so protected and brought up with a certain naivete is because their parents don't want them to have independence. They don't want their daughters to walk on their own, to do their own thing for the fear that they might end up being with somebody that the parents don't want them to be with. The parents are afraid of losing control. They don't want their chi ldren, especia l ly their 113 daughters, to marry someone out of the culture, somebody they don't approve of. They just don't want women to have that kind of power over their own lives and their own destiny. Even when I moved away to col lege, wanting to be on my own at the age of twenty-four, the idea of arranged marriage was so deeply ingrained in me that I was still not able to have the courage to choose my own relationship. I grew up believing that my parents would find somebody for me. Now, at thirty-five I have the courage. These things take a long time to get out of your system. Other people who I have met, especial ly Indian men, still do not accept this in me, but I accept it now and that is what matters most. When I finally decided I wanted to get some help, I remembered a magazine article I had read about abusive relationships and leaving abusive relationships. It was in an East Indian magazine, Mehfil. They had listed five or six organizations that gave help to East Indian women. I really wanted to find someone that would understand things from an Indian perspect ive. Anonymity wasn't really a concern for me because I wasn't vulnerable to being physically hurt by anyone. The only thing I wanted was confidentiality, because I didn't want other people to know about this. I was lucky that I was living alone and didn't have to worry about someone finding out and trying to prevent me from getting help. It was really nice to have somebody listen and validate how I felt, somebody who didn't make me feel like it was wrong to feel this way. C o m m e n t a r y S J spoke about having been brought up in a traditional Indian home, 114 yet she did not always agree with those traditions, having been exposed to western ideas in England and in Canada . However, she also said that many traditional beliefs are ingrained in a person and "things take a long time to get out of your system." She said in the interview that she was always aware that counsel l ing existed, but it never occurred to her to go for help in the time between her first and second abusive marr iages. She al lowed her family and her first husband's family to try and work things out for her. She also spoke often to her family over the telephone during her second marriage, and no one suggested she leave or go for help. Sympathy and cultural advice were all she received. Although S J said that the decis ion process to go for counsel l ing didn't begin until after she had left her second marriage, the decision not to go seems bound in cultural traditions. I have already noted the idea of the family fixing whatever problems a couple might have and the fact that S J did not even think about counsel l ing as a way of coping with what she had endured. She also remembered her mother's comments that a marriage is for life, no matter what, and a woman's in-laws are her real parents. Perhaps these ingrained beliefs kept her from consider ing other alternatives until she finally real ized that she would either kill herself or her husband would kill her if she didn't leave immediately. Once S J had left her second marriage, she began to actually think about counsel l ing. She talked about various factors which caused her hesitation. These were her sense of denial that she couldn't possibly have been living in a second abusive marriage; her numbness to think or act after what she had endured which showed itself in the form of withdrawal 115 from life; her low self-concept in that she blamed herself because she should have 'known better'; her fear of reliving the past in counsel l ing; her fear of facing up to what actually happened; her fear of opening up to a stranger; her belief that a person's problems are her own to be figured out on her own; her ingrained belief in fate and therefore, acceptance of her problems; her self-doubt around being an Indian girl and acting independently by making her own decis ions. S J ' s perceptions of why Indian women do not seek counsel l ing help S J prefaced her comments by saying that these factors depended on the acculturation level of the woman. She also said that help seek ing has a lot to do with the upbringing of the woman and how much her parents have instil led certain values and what kinds of va lues they have insti l led. 1. The family should get together and solve the problems. 2. "Once an East Indian woman gets married that is her p lace. She goes there, she lives there, and nothing different can ever happen regardless of the situation that she might be under". 3. Indian women are protected as children because their parents don't want them to be independent. They are afraid of losing control of what kind of people their daughters will be and whom they will marry. 4. Women are repressed. The men don't want them to have power over their l ives and their dest inies. 5. "Marrying off a daughter is a burden on the family from the day she is born, so to divorce after all that effort would be very disrespectful and a burden on the family to find another match". 6. People in India are naive about abuse, so they don't know how to 116 cope with it when it happens. "They just ignore it and hope it goes away." 7. The idea of a woman leaving her marriage is not a possibil ity that Indian people consider because of the st igma attached to divorce. "If a woman goes for help, she will undoubtedly leave her marriage. In the western world they know that there is a way out (of the abusive situation). They can leave. There is counsel l ing avai lable" (to help women leave). This again confirms the previously mentioned belief that counse l l ing results in d ivorce. 8. A woman is raised to believe that she has no right to express her own opinions or feel ings. S J ' s perception of herself as different from Indian women who do not seek counse l l ing help 1. She was brought up in a western culture; she left India at the age of three. A n d , she lived in a small community where no other S ikhs l ived. 2. She had an education. 3. She was tormented by the memories of the abuse. 4. She had begun a new relationship and was afraid of not being able to handle it. 5. She had strong support from her sisters. 6. She had no one else to turn to since she could neither tell her sisters nor her parents about the details of the abuse. They had proven unable to cope, and S J felt bad about burdening them. 7. She had information about Indian counsel lors from a South As ian magaz ine . 8. She was not worried about anyone finding out s ince she lived 117 alone and her parents were living out of the province, and she didn't fear repercussions from her husband since he was not living in the same prov ince either. 9. Even though she adhered to many Indian traditions, she has a lways cons idered herself independent and strong-wil led. Common Factors Whi le each of the seven participants' stories of their dec is ion-making process in seeking counsel l ing help constituted unique individual exper iences, nine common bipolar factors of hindrance and facilitation have been extracted. The factors do not always stand separate from the others. Their interwoven relationships are d iscussed within the given factors. A factor in this study constitutes any condit ion that helps or hinders an Indian woman from seeking counsel l ing help. In reflecting on the factors that hindered their decis ion to seek counsel l ing help, each of the participants commented in some way on the fol lowing: isolat ion, fear, low sel f -concept, lack of maturity, st igma and shame, denial of the problem, the influence of a male hierarchical structure, the daunting process of finding a counsel lor, fate. The opposing factors of facilitation commented on by each participant were support, preservat ion, an increased sense of self-worth, maturity, acquired information about counsel l ing, acceptance of the problem, rejection of the hierarchy, easy a c c e s s to counsel lors , rethinking fate's place in life. Each of the factors will be d iscussed in relation to each of the seven narratives. Each of the hindering factors will be fol lowed by its opposing fac i l i ta t ing fac tor . 118 I so l a t i on Isolation, whether actual or anticipated, emerged in each of the seven narratives. J , S u , A and S were isolated from their famil ies and were unable to d iscuss the possibility of counsel l ing with them. They did not have the guidance or support readily available from a family member. G , J and K were afraid that they would be isolated from their famil ies and the community should they pursue counsell ing help. S J and A indicated that isolation worked as a facilitative factor in that they were not as worried about their famil ies discover ing that they had sought counsel l ing. Suppor t Support was an essential component in all seven stories of deciding on counsel l ing help. J and A had support from friends and co-workers, G had support from friends, K had support from friends, teachers and sibl ings, S J had support from sibl ings, Su had support from co-workers and her father, and S had support from teachers and fellow students. The support took the form of encouragement to seek counsel l ing help as in the cases of J , A , G , S J and S , in the form of help in finding a counsel lor as in the case of S , or in the form of modelling as in the case of A who observed a co-worker in the process of counsel l ing and the positive effects it had on her life and sense of well-being. Fear Fear took on many forms in the various stories. There was concern of losing familial and community respect in the cases of J and K. For J it was those in India where her family still resided, and K's worries were tied to the community in which she was an active member. K was also 119 afraid of losing the respect of her sibl ings should she have left her husband and then had to renege on the decision as is often the case with Indo-Canadian women. The fear of going for counsel l ing was expressed by K, A and S J . Having to relive the past was a foreboding thought for S J , and K and A were worried about the 'truth' being revealed. S u and K, both in physical ly abusive marr iages, were afraid of further abuse. S u feared for herself and her son and K for herself, though I suspect she felt concerned for her chi ldren as wel l , even if it was that of having them witness the abuse as opposed to actually enduring it physical ly. G 's consternation was about the repercussions she would face should her family d iscover she had gone for counsel l ing help. She had already exper ienced their wrath when she chose to have a boyfriend. She knew what losing their trust meant f inancially and emotionally. Both A and S J talked about their dread of never being able to have a healthy relationship; for A it was around her anger and being unable to control it, and for S J it was around her previous exper iences with abuse by her two ex-husbands. These were factors around fear which actually facilitated A and S J ' s going for counsel l ing help. P r e s e r v a t i o n The participants' fears seemed to have been overcome due to their feel ings of desperat ion to preserve that which they stood to lose. J felt a sense of sudden responsibility to go for help when she real ized how much her daughter needed her to be strong and supportive after J ' s husbands heart attack which they all feared would be fatal. S u reached a point of hope lessness when her husband held a knife to her throat and wouldn't 120 allow her to leave for work. Her son was present at that time. She real ized then that she was no longer prepared to risk either her own or her son 's wel l-being. It was as if her fear had cl imaxed and then moved beyond to "I have no choice but to call the police." K reached her saturation point when her husband's frustrations with her drove him to grab her by the throat and raise her above the ground, preventing her words from leaving her mouth; however, this incident happened after the counsel l ing decision process had begun and ended. S felt compel led to act when she found herself reliant on social ass is tance, depressed, and without support from her husband. In addition, she had d isc losed intimate details about her life to outsiders, thus feeling she had already broken several cultural rules and wanted help desperately. G ' s point of action seemed to evolve rather than take a sudden turn. She was failing her c lasses ; she was miserable at home; she and her boyfriend were not speaking; she was smoking too much, drinking too much coffee, and she didn't feel she could talk to her friends. G needed to find new coping skil ls because she was determined to make something of herself in the way of a career. A ' s final decision came with her rage which was often explosive and would end in feelings of guilt and depression. She was certain she would lose her relationship if she didn't act. And S J , like A , felt a yearning to put her life back together and find happiness or she, too, would lose a potentially good relationship or the ability to ever have another. Low se l f -concep t The low self-concept of each of the participants at the time of their 121 decis ion-making process were attributable to several factors. For some it was a feel ing of wor th lessness stemming from the cultural belief that the woman is responsible for keeping the family happy and intact. This was true for K, S , and S J . It was also a sense of self-doubt about whether or not their feelings and actions were acceptable, as in the cases of J who had suffered ongoing child sexual abuse, K who had been repeatedly reprimanded for her spirit and social interactions, S u and S J who had both suffered from physical and emotional abuse, and A who was feeling so low and ashamed of her coping strategies that she did not feel worthy of asking for help. Su said that she had lacked confidence from a a very early age because she was 'too skinny and tall for an Indian girl'. G expressed a sense of worthlessness as she watched her grades drop due to her inability to concentrate on school work when her family was so angry at her. Because of this sense of low self-worth, all were unable, for varying periods of time, to muster the energy to seek counsel l ing help. S e l f - c o n f i d e n c e Just as a low sense of self had hindered their decis ion-making p rocess , so too, had an increase in self-worth facil i tated the part icipants' going for counsel l ing help. J ' s confidence increased as she became less isolated from the community and began working. Su ' s time away from her husband contributed to her sense .of strength, both emotional and physical , and helped to increase her self confidence. K gained conf idence by returning to school and receiving positive feedback at school and in the community. When she offered to participate in her chi ld's daycare, a man in the community expressed pride in her wil l ingness to be an active 122 member in the community. S gained confidence when she real ized all the things she was capable of doing now that there was no one to do them for her, such as go back to school and earn a good living. Her husband was taking no initiative in doing either of those things so the responsibi l i ty fell on her shoulders and she thrived on it. G gained conf idence first through the support of her friends and then later with the help of one or two counsel l ing sess ions . A gained confidence before she moved to Vancouver when she successful ly made a few small changes on her own to try and take back some control. S J gained confidence through the encouragement and support of her siblings. She had had the strength to leave her marriage, and she would have the strength to get through c o u n s e l l i n g . Lack of maturity Lack of maturity for all the participants was about having been brought up in a traditional Indian family where the girls were highly protected. In all seven of the narratives the women talk about their lack of independence to make decis ions, take on any sort of responsibil i ty, choose friends and boyfr iends, question the male hierarchical structure. (This did not apply to S u and A. Su explained this as a phenomenon of the South where there is a matriarchal as opposed to a patriarchal sys tem. However, the protectedness was still a factor for both women.) A s a result of this protected chi ldhood, when they were on their own and away from family support sys tems, they were i l l -equipped to handle problems of any magnitude. The decision to go for counsel l ing was a significant decis ion for all of them, and not one that they felt easi ly prepared to make 123 independent ly . M a t u r i t y An increase in maturity can be attributed to several factors - age, acculturation, and the need to take responsibility. In the cases of J , S u , S , and K their decis ion-making process took several years. During that time they would have naturally matured. Both J and S u had arrived in C a n a d a in their late teens and both had been brought up in the traditionally protected environment of an Indian girl. Both marriages had been arranged and they were leaving their famil ies and their homeland for the first t ime. A s they matured in age, they were also becoming increasingly familiar with western culture and the concept of counsel l ing. Furthermore, both were parents of young adolescents by the time they made their final dec is ion. They had the responsibil ity of taking care of another, less capable being. Similarly, K was only 16 when she returned to C a n a d a after her marriage and one year in Malays ia . It wasn't until three years later that she began to think about counsel l ing and how she would get agreement from her husband. And it was her fear around his irresponsibil ity in providing for the family that drove her to insist on his going for drug and alcohol counsel l ing. This step led to couples counsel l ing without much effort on K's part. However, it is clear that her increased maturity and her sense of responsibi l i ty towards her chi ldren played an important role in the decis ion. S also matured in that she was put into a position of responsibility where she had never had to take on any before. She had to a s s e s s the situation and take action to remedy it quickly. That meant going to school , learning English and getting a job. G began to mature as 124 she had to take on the task of f inancing her school ing by working part time. S h e also began to see the destructive aspects of her relationship and so ended it for a time. She decided to stop taking risks and start taking some control over her life. A was forced to mature when her family which she was dependent on, moved away from her. There was no one but herself to rely on at that point. S J began taking control when she made the decision to drive away from her home and never return. She began a life of independence by living alone and changing the ways she v iewed dating and relationships. At that point she decided to leave behind some of the traditions with which she had been brought up. Shame and st igma These two factors are combined because each is an integral part of the other. The shame of having to admit there is a problem that needs to be solved outside of the family is one component, yet the shame is ( a lso embedded in the st igma attached to counsel l ing, mental health and in some cases divorce, commonly thought of as a direct result of counsel l ing. Because the structure of East Indian society is based on a col lect ive identity, when a member of the family is shamed, so too, are the other members of her family and extended family. Al l seven participants underscored st igma as a part of their reticence in seeking counsel l ing help. J worried what others would think, particularly those in India. S u ' s family was forced to maintain a lie for three years as to why she was then living with them and behaving so uncharacterist ical ly. The concern based around the family being shamed by the community was great. K felt shame within herself for not being able to make a success of her 125 marriage, but she did not worry about the st igma. It was more to do with her family's concerns and the effects such news would have on them and the other unmarried sibl ings. The repercussions on the family which would translate into repercussions on themselves were concerns for both G and A . G and A also worried that people might think they were 'crazy' . In India, S was told by her siblings that she was just trying to get attention through her depression. Her explanation was the st igma attached to mental i l lness. S J did not feel the impact of st igma since she lived alone and didn't worry about anyone discovering her. She was, however, very concerned about confidentiality during the interview process. St igma is only an issue if someone learns of the individual's act ions. Unlike the other participants, S had no one c lose by to observe her behaviour. Within this factor is a lso the issue of confidentiality. There would have been no need to fear others' finding out about the counsel l ing if the women had felt safe to tell their stories to a counsel lor. Al l seven of the part icipants battled with their fears around facing a counsel lor who might know them or someone in their community, or who would in some way let the word out that this person had been under counsel l ing care. K referred to the Indian community as 'grapevine- ish' , a metaphor with which all part ic ipants would undoubtedly concur. Knowledge about counsel l ing A s indicated above, the issue of confidentiality is connected to that of shame and st igma. Although the shame did not subside until the counsel l ing began, and the st igma in the community around counsel l ing and 126 mental i l lness did not go away, the women's fears about being d iscovered were dissipated as they learned about confidentiality, and as they grew accustomed to the concept of counsel l ing. Counsel l ing became more normal ized for many of the participants. With J ' s work, she was exposed to counsel l ing regularly because of the children in need of counsel l ing serv ices. S u was first told about battered women's shelters by her boss , but it wasn't until her fear became acute that she reached for the telephone. At that point she had been reminded of the shelters from a community member who told her that the abuse would not stop until she cal led the police and left the house. The more information she gathered the more likely it was that she would make the cal l . She had to make a second call a year later, and this came with no need for advice. She knew then what serv ices were available to her. G overcame her concerns by talking to others, walking around the counsel l ing centre and preparing herself to go. This was for her a normalizing process. A , S and S J did the same things. They listened to others talk about counsel l ing as a way of normalizing the process and accepting it as a means of viable help. K did not need to normalize counsell ing for herself. She gave her husband an ultimatum because of his substance abuse. She had no control over the issue of confidentiality s ince he told her parents about the counsel l ing to gain their sympathy and support. Den ia l This factor is based on the accounts of the participants in their struggle to come to terms with what was happening in their l ives. J convinced herself that the sexual abuse hadn't actually been abuse s ince 127 she hadn't told anyone about it at the time. This was confirmed by her husband. S u didn't want to believe what was happening since she had agreed to marry this man and he had been so wonderful at the beginning. K said that it took her several years to really see what was happening in her marriage. She had been trying to negate the instances of abuse and drunken ep isodes. S was told that what she was experiencing was just an act, and so she tried to believe this for herself. She tried to deny her feel ings through the use of meditation and thought repression. J a lso talked about her attempts to push out her thoughts as a means of coping. G tried to convince herself that she was okay and didn't need counsel l ing help. A tried to remedy minor discomforts in her life to avoid facing what was really bothering her. And S J didn't want to believe that she had got herself into a second abusive marriage. A c c e p t a n c e With denial followed acceptance that help was needed and necessary. Al l seven women came to face the reality of their individual si tuations and to take action to solve their problems. Most of the factors already dealt with contributed to the acceptance: support, preservat ion, self-worth and belief in themselves, maturity, and counsel l ing information. The influence of a male hierarchy The belief in and acceptance of the dominance of a male figure was another common factor in all seven narratives. An Indian woman raised in a traditional family is brought up to respect and abide by the demands of the male figures in the family and community. J could not go for counsel l ing without the permission of her husband. Su needed the 128 guidance from her father to help her out of her situation. K bel ieved that she was responsible to take care of and please 'her man' , and she attempted to do so by trying to make her marriage work in spite of all the abuse. She was further controlled by her step-father who cont inues to exert a good deal of control over her life. S was brought up to bel ieve that her husband should take care of her financially, and in return she should take care of his needs. Her father and brothers supported this idea and tried to make her understand her role in the family as cook, housewife and care giver. G had to put up a facade in her home when her in-laws were around. Although she and her husband had an equal marriage, there was a show to be made so as not to shame him as the man in the house. A was very dependent on the advice and acceptance of her father, more so than on that of her mother. She also talks about the privi leged lives her brothers led while growing up. S J was advised to remain in the home of her husband under all c i rcumstances. She was responsible for the marriage and its success . There was no way out but death itself. This was conf i rmed in S ' s narrative as wel l . Reject ion of the heirarchy To give themselves permission to go for counsel l ing help, the participants were forced to break away from some of the constraints of the hierarchical system. J , S and G had to risk telling their stories to a counsel lor without the permission of the men in their l ives. S u had to make the decis ive phone call without the immediate guidance or feedback from her father. Likewise, A and S J had to let go of the cultural inf luences that dictate a woman's place in the community; a woman does 129 not make these kinds of decisions independently. K had to insist her husband go for counsel l ing help, risking repercussions from him and her f a m i l y . Finding a counsel lor This daunting task delayed most of the participants from seek ing counsel l ing help. J , K, A, and S J didn't know where to begin to find someone who would understand them from their cultural perspect ive and who would be non-judgemental and assure confidentiality. A was worried that she would be looked down upon as a 'bad' Indian woman. K remembered seeing Christ ian counsel lors advert ized when she began to think about counsel l ing and wasn't prepared to explain all they would need to understand about her culture. J and S J didn't have the energy or conf idence to begin the search. G went back and forth to the university counsel l ing centre, afraid of being misunderstood or exposed by way of her school records. S u didn't even consider counsel l ing help until she was given the name of a doctor. She had only been in Canada for four years. Her desire to go for help in India was not met with attention. S h e had to take the initiative and go on her own. The results were disappoint ing. She was given a prescription for s leeping pills. I n fo rma t ion Information about where to find suitable counsel l ing was the factor which helped the participants overcome the overwhelming feel ing of being isolated in their situations. J found the information through her job by way of the parents looking for help for their chi ldren. S u was told to phone the police by a respected community member. Consequent ly , the 130 second call was made easily since she had already been to the shelter and felt comfortable there. K was able to access couples counsel l ing through the study being done that was recommended by her husband's drug and alcohol counsel lor. Her husband's desire to please his counsel lor opened the door. S was given the name of a 'counsellor type' doctor. This enabled her to go because counsel l ing help was provided through a medical doctor for a physical problem, not an emotional one. G had the convenience of a counsel l ing centre on campus, and where she was able to see a counsel lor at the time she got up the courage to walk in and make an appointment. S J found the name of an Indo-Canadian counsellor through a South As ian magazine. A could not remember where she had located the name of her counsel lor. Fa te Fate was cal led different things by the different part icipants, but whatever it was ca l led , fate played a signif icant role in their help-seek ing decis ion. For al l , it was a matter of accept ing that they could bel ieve in fate, karma, or Kismat and still take some action to better their l ives. Their reasons for taking things into their own hands have been covered in the preceding facilitating factors. All continue to bel ieve in the concept of fate while still seeing a place for counsel l ing in the l ives of Indian people. Abs t rac t Narrat ive The following is an abstract narrative of an Indo-Canadian woman 's decis ion-making process in seeking counsel l ing help. It is derived from the seven narratives and the extracted factors already presented in the 131 chapter. It's purpose is to bring the commonal i t ies of the individual stories together in order to present a picture of the struggle that could be faced by any Indo-Canadian woman in deciding on counsel l ing help. Al though there are commonal i t ies among all seven individual accounts , this abstract narrative can only be general ized to those seven par t ic ipants. The Narrat ive The woman has spent several months coming to terms with the problem she is facing. She has tried to keep life happy for her family, fulfilling her role as wife and mother. She has tried strategies suggested by her grandparents, her parents and other members of her family. She has been reminded that this is her fate and she must endure this life she has been given. Yet, nothing is working for her. She feels desperate for help. She has heard on TV and read in the community paper about counsel lors in the community who can help Indian women, but she has also hear rumours of their hidden agenda to break up families and advise divorce. Her family is very important to her, and she feels hopeful that these problems can be worked out with a little help. She loves her husband, her chi ldren, her family. Which brings her to another thought. What would her family say to counsel l ing? She knows they would not approve. Taking one's problems outside of the home is not okay. It is shameful. What if someone in the community were to find out she was having emotional problems? There would be talk, talk behind her back and talk behind her parents' backs. How could they continue to feel apart of and respected in the community? Who would marry her sister or her own children after that? They would 132 say she brought bad luck to the family and would bring bad luck to anyone who married into the family. How could this possibly be kept confidential? Everyone knows everyone in her community. And if she went to a Caucas ian counsellor, what could she know of her culture? How could she begin to explain all the things that cause her pain and heartache? A look from her mother-in-law can bring her to her knees in shame. She would stand to lose her family and her place in the community. No, she is fine. This is life and she must go on as those before her have done. Her Caucas ian friends have been encouraging her to go for counsel l ing. They say it's a good thing, nothing to be ashamed of. They have seen a downward shift in her mood. They don't understand why she hesitates. They don't understand what it would mean to her, what she stands to lose. But, then again, she is losing now. Her husband is losing patience with her, her children and parents are worried about her, and people are probably starting to talk behind her back. Maybe she should take the chance. Maybe a counsellor can bring some life back into her, so she can face the days and face her family again. She will lose it all if she cont inues in this vein. Perhaps they will come to understand her decis ion when they see she has returned to her old self. 133 Chapter 5 D i s c u s s i o n In t roduc t ion In this study the researcher interviewed seven part icipants individually, and reinterviewed five of the seven . Two of the participants were unavai lable to attend a second interview. Part icipants var ied in age from twenty-one to forty-eight. The research product was twofold. First, it resulted in seven stories of decis ion-making which captured individuals' l ived exper ience of the process of deciding on professional counsel l ing help. Narratives provided a context for the numerous factors involved in the decision making process of an Indo-Canadian woman. S e c o n d , a comparative analysis of the seven stories engendered nine bipolar factors of hindrance and facilitation in the decis ion making process of the seven women: (a) isolation vs support (b) fear vs preservat ion (c) low sel f-concept vs increased sense of self-worth (d) lack of maturity vs maturity (e) st igma and shame vs acquired information about counsel l ing (f) denial of the problem vs acceptance of the problem (g) inf luence of a male hierarchical structure vs rejection of the hierarchy (h) process of finding a counsel lor vs access to counsel l ing (i) fate vs rethinking fate's place in life. Limitat ions of the study This study generated and clarif ied nine factors which could hinder an Indo-Canadian woman from seeking counsel l ing help. Further, it effectuated nine opposing factors which could facilitate the same woman in deciding upon mental health care. The degree to which these factors 134 fully encapsulate the decis ion making process warrants further investigation. More research is required to corroborate, expand, or revise the factors. The study was additionally limited by the number and source of participants. A larger participant s ize would be more desirable in order to make greater the general izat ion of the factors. Furthermore, five of the participants were recruited through researcher contacts, and the other two recruited via the researcher herself. Al l spoke fluent Engl ish and all had had positive counsel l ing exper iences. Moreover, all were recruited from Vancouver , British Co lumbia . How representative their stories of decis ion-making are of the general Indo-Canadian population is yet to be e s t a b l i s h e d . Another l imitation was part ic ipants ' abi l i t ies to art iculate their individual exper iences. Some were able to articulate clearly this portion of their l ives, while others appeared to find it difficult to remember detai ls of thought-patterns and act ions during the time of the dec is ion-making process. Moreover, there may have been some details participants held back because of an unwil l ingness to d isc lose. The information was extremely personal and often emotional in nature. Converse ly , all seven part icipants s e e m e d forthcoming in the telling of their individual exper iences. A fourth limitation is the possibil i ty of the researcher having misunderstood something that was revealed in the told stories. The narratives and factors were, however, verified with five of the seven participants and no major changes were necessi tated. Naturally, all 135 narrat ives were affected by part icipants' b iases , levels of self-awareness , and memory. A lso limited by the researcher 's perspect ive and understanding are the extracted factors. Someone else might have drawn out other factors. The research tried to address potential b iases by use of the fol lowing procedures. Transcript ions were reviewed by an external reviewer to verify that the narratives were representat ive of the told exper iences of each participant. Five narratives and sets of factors were then reviewed by the individual participants, and all seven were reviewed by the supervisor. Through this process stories were verif ied as accurate portrayals of the individual l ives. Impl icat ions for he lp -seek ing The nine hindering factors drawn from the exper iences of the part icipants' decis ion making process confirmed prior work in the area of he lp-seek ing. Ac ross the seven stories there is ev idence linking help-seeking behaviours to isolation (Agnew, 1986; Assanand et a l . , 1990; Gune , 1994; Jayakar , 1994; Rack, 1982; Wiebe, 1994; Wi lson, 1978), fear (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Das Gupta, 1986; Jayakar, 1994; Wi lson, 1979), low self-concept (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Agnew, 1986), lack of maturity (Gune, 1994), st igma and shame (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Balgopal , 1988; Jayakar , 1994; Rack, 1982), denial (India Mahi la Assoc ia t ion , 1994), influence of a male hierarchical structure (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Jayakar , 1994; Rack, 1982; Wiebe, 1994; Wi lson, 1978), finding a counsel lor (Assanand et a l . , 1990; Balgopal , 1988), and fate (Jayakar, 1994; Rack, 1982). 136 A l so found in the literature were the fol lowing facil i tating factors: support (Agnew, 1986; Assanand et a l . , 1990; Jayakar , 1994; Rack, 1982; Wiebe, 1994; Wi lson, 1978), access to counsel l ing serv ices (Assanand et a l . , 1990; India Mahi la Associat ion, 1994; Women Working with Immigrant W o m e n , 1988), and rejection of the male hierarchy (Dhruvarajan, 1993; Bachu, 1993). This study extended prior research to find other facil i tating factors which could serve as help to an Indo-Canadian woman struggling with personal and cultural inf luences around the utilization of counsel l ing serv ices. These were factors which moved the participants beyond the barriers of help-seeking. Included were the need for preservat ion, an inc reased s e n s e of self-worth, maturity, acquired information about counsel l ing, acceptance of the problem, and rethinking fate's place in life. Impl icat ions for counse l l ing pract ice This study confirms the need for more culturally sensi t ive and access ib le mental health serv ices as indicated in severa l recent documents on Indo-Canadian women (B.C. Institute on Family V io lence, 1996; Dosanjh, Deo, S idhu, 1994; India Mahi la Assoc ia t ion, 1993; Mehfi l Magaz ine , 1996). Evidence of the need for counsel l ing help in this cultural group is abundant. A s indicated throughout this study, the barriers are considerable but not insurmountable. Indo-Canadian women do want and need to utilize mental health serv ices. Addit ional ly, this study provides insight into how these women have gone about seeking help. Through this, mental health serv ices are provided with insights as to how these women can be appealed to for utilization of 137 serv ices. A critical feature in the decision making process of all seven participants was the high quality of support and encouragement in seek ing professional help they had from friends, teachers or co-workers. Through these soc ia l networks the participants found the strength, the motivation, and in some cases , the referral, to make their final decis ion less onerous. With this understanding, programs designed to facilitate and improve the help that informal helpers provide can begin to address this issue. By integrating counsel l ing help into support ive informal networks, the issue of sel f -esteem might also be partially addressed. The greater the feel ing of acceptance and support, the greater the feeling of self-worth and self-acceptance. Information accessib i l i ty was a lso a signif icant barrier for the women in this study, along with many others as cited in the research (Assanand et al . , 1990; Balgopal , 1988). A change in policy with regard to distribution of literature may be necessi tated. Perhaps information before leaving their home country is a viable solution for those women living in protected environments upon arrival in C a n a d a . Or, information may be needed at the airports with a contact person there to encourage and explain in the woman's first language, the rights and responsibi l i t ies of all Canad ian ci t izens. Cont inued and more extensive public awareness of the cycle of v io lence is another essent ial need in the community. V io lence pervades all sectors of society. It is further exacerbated by relat ionships of dependency (Beiser, 1988) which are frequently a reality in the Indo-138 Canad ian community due to the various cultural factors and constraints d iscussed throughout this study. Many of the participants spoke of the feel ing of desperat ion that led them to counsel l ing serv ices. Information concerning violence against women needs to be access ib le to all women, entail ing translat ions in their first language. Through educat ion, the women in the South As ian community can access resources before they reach the point of desperat ion. One participant in the report on spousa l abuse done by the India Mahi la Associat ion (1994) is reported to have sa id , "These serv ices have to be advert ized repeatedly, even knowledge of Engl ish no guarantee. We live in denial to survive so we are deaf, blind and quite dead to the world" (p. 40). Publ ic education for the male figures in the Indian community is essent ia l . Because women are more often those who seek counsel l ing (Cheatham et a l . , 1987; Gourash, 1978), they are the ones targeted for needs and changes. Men , however, have their own cultural burdens which need to be addressed in the realm of mental health serv ices. The dest igmatizat ion of counsel l ing in this group is of equal importance, for change is difficult without all family members involved in a posit ive way. This is particularly true in cultures whose world view is based on collectivity as is the case in the Indian culture. Counsel lors must also be open to sensitization and change. Once a woman enters the counsel l ing setting, there is no guarantee she will stay. Counse l lo rs must be willing to alter their therapy to meet the cultural needs and values of the culture within which he/she is working. For example, until the relationship has been establ ished, the therapy could 1 3 9 begin with something other than intense feel ings s ince many minority groups are not used to discussing such emotions in a public forum. At the same time, the counsel lor must remember within group di f ferences. She /he must suspend preconceived notions of cultural beliefs and expectat ions until hearing from the client. A s mentioned in the review of the literature, acculturation levels and degrees of ethnic identity play important roles in where the client is in their acceptance of mental health serv ices. The result of a change in perspective and therapy on the part of mental health workers could lead to an increase in referrals by support networks, particularly those coming from the South As ian community. Posi t ive attitudes towards the counsel l ing field are much needed in the commun i t y . The need for multil ingual counsel lors is a further considerat ion for the counsel l ing field. Counsel lors who are able to function in the language of the client can be incredibly affirming to the client. It is an acknowledgement of the importance of the client's culture and of the members of their community who are able to use their skil ls and language in a useful and meaningful way. Addit ionally, first language counsel lors provide posit ive role models for clients who often see only factory and custodial work as options. Perhaps the use of such mental health care workers would address in part the issue of sel f -esteem which emerged in the part icipants' stor ies. Identity and self-worth are tied to one 's culture. If individuals see the members of their culture in a posit ive light, they will a lso see themselves in that same light. Training for first language support workers and counsel lors, therefore, needs to be 140 increased and made more easily available. Moreover, we need to value immigrants who are trained professionals. The counsel l ing field loses many wel l -educated and capable people due to policy constraints. The hope of the researcher is that as Indo-Canadian women gain knowledge and understanding of mental health serv ices, and as mental health service workers gain understanding of the Indo-Canadian va lues and bel iefs, they can work together to encourage East Indian women to utilize the avai lable resources, and to support them in their undertaking thereof. It is further hoped that this process will lead to the dissolut ion of the shame and st igma that surround professional help serv ices within the community. If women feel supported by their community to seek counsel l ing help, the fears around being d iscovered will d issipate. Randhawa (1996) wrote: "If they weren't so afraid of censure from members of their own community, perhaps more people would be able to make decis ions that dignify their hopes and dreams instead of making cho ices that credit only conformity" (p. 16). Impl icat ions for future research Further research is required in order to establ ish whether the accounts of decis ion-making col lected in this study are representat ive of a wider population within the Indo-Canadian community. Women from different parts of British Co lumbia and from the other provinces who have gone for counsel l ing help need to be interviewed, their stories col lected, and a process of decis ion-making articulated. Women at different degrees of acculturation and ethnic identity need to be included in this process. A s well as replication, this study could be extended through survey 141 research. Quest ions would need to gather data about specif ic support networks, meaningful exper iences before and within the counsel l ing p rocess , and individual interpretations of events. If after replication of this study interventions are implemented, field tests will be needed for evaluat ion. These could include interviews with he lp-seekers within the system, mental health workers, and potential he lp-seekers or others in the community who might hear of the serv ice changes through media or word-of-mouth. P e r s o n a l ref lect ions When I began to explore help-seeking in the South As ian community, I was unsure as to how my queries would be met in the community. I wondered if my interest would be met with distrust and perceived as being motivated by voyeurism as opposed to altruism. What I found was an incredible enthusiasm and desire to support my undertaking. The women in the community were willing to provide me with referrals, meet ings and interviews. When I attended the India Mahi la Associat ion meet ing, I was honoured by the proceedings being held in English instead of the usual Punjabi. Many of the women there welcomed me and expressed their appreciat ion of my efforts to help the women of the Indian community. The seven participants were equally affirming. Al l showed eagerness at the prospect of sharing their stories and of their exper iences having an influence for other women in the community. One of the participants had to be reinterviewed because of a malfunction in the tape recorder. S h e did this without hesitancy or s igns of irritation. At the end of the follow-up interview she thanked me for having al lowed her to be a 142 participant. With all of the participants I felt connected to them in a way that was much more than simply a researcher/part ic ipant assoc ia t ion . What has stood out most over the past two years since I began my research is the incredible strength and hope the women of the South As ian community hold. Many have, as one participant put it, "been through hell and back." And yet, they have survived and are now facing life head-on, with dignity and enthusiasm. Severa l of the participants are working within the helping profession while others are volunteering or support ing through fr iendship, those who are presently facing difficult life dec is ions . In my reflections, I speak of the participants as well as of others I have met through my counsel l ing work. I spent the eight months of my pract icum requirement at Surrey Delta Immigrant Serv ices Soc ie ty where seventy percent of the clientele are from the South As ian community. The women I met there had had similar exper iences as those in this study. It is for this reason that I can see quite clearly the commonal i t ies among stories. The stories of isolation, lonel iness, abuse, and desperat ion are not unique in their essence . The details of each story may differ somewhat , the characters may have different names and affi l iations, but the overall theme is that of need and desire to exper ience life without the intensity of sadness , isolation, and prejudice on the part of family, community and society at large. The women were there, in counsel l ing, to learn, to understand, and to find ways of making real changes in their l ives. That is what drives me to work with this community. The women want change. They are not helpless nor are they hopeless. In fact, to the contrary, their hope provides inspiration and encouragement to myself and 143 to the field of counsel l ing psychology. At the complet ion of their report on the Assessment of Needs and Serv ices to South As ian Women in the Lower Mainland Area , the India Mahi la Associat ion (1993) wrote: "We do bel ieve that we have reason to be optimistic about our future as women within the South As ian Canad ian community." The following poem is a testimony of sadness and a thirst for life written by a Bengal i woman in 1960 (cited in Wi lson, 1978): The Pr isoner Shut up tight in a cheap tin trunk hidden under a mountain of musty mattresses and torn quilts cast away in the kitchen's sooty corner, it moans - the prisoner. Its colour - still purple like the waves when the s e a is angry its border - still l iquid gold like the sun in summer its every fold still holds mill ions of petals, russet, which the autumn showers while pass ing. 'Take me out, take me out, wear me,' it cr ies but none hears it cry, no one cares -for she whose it was lies dying, giving birth to her ninth - with luck a son maybe. suddenly a miracle happens someone is stirred in her depth. In one of her count less flittings from the kitchen to the bedroom and then on to the lean-to - where death is vying with birth -she , the sixteen year old, puzzled weary dishevel led, pauses for breath rests her tired head on the torn quilt - when the miracle happens The voice, soft yet persistent goes on pleading, 'take me out, take me out try me on... my angry purple will go so well with your burnished brown, my sunlit border f lashes like lightning on your monsoon cloud hair my russet petals will gather up your l issome body to their hearts of f l o w e r try me on once - on you, sixteen - you are sixteen only once - remember? ' her eyes begin to shine, her mind wanders with desire 144 her body is a flute quivering for the petal strokes of the wondrous lover. 'Where is my r ice?' shouts the father, 'everyday, must it be late?' he m u t t e r s A miserab le lowly, i l l-paid clerk, shr ivel led up untimely with end less worries of making two ends meet. 'Water, a little warm water,' wai ls the dying woman in her lean-to. 'We are hungry,' shr ieks the battalion of young sisters and brothers. Wak ing up with a jolt, ashamed , repentant, the s ixteen-year-old bends down to scold the allurer; 'look what you've done! Not now, not now, not now, this is not the time, later may be - not now-can't you hear the cr ies' . 'I can ' , says the sari sighing, 'I can - she too said the same -'some other time' - she who is lying in the lean-to, dying; the time never came to her'. Days pass - months - sixteen turns seventeen; tongues wag, neighbours s leep less most keen to know what's been happening, what's wrong -for 'Our Lee la was married and a mother of two at her age' . S o to set the wrong right the wretched father pulls his belt tight and sel ls his house outright - "What else can I do? ' he asks and finds no answer - for all know a daughter means disaster. With the dowry money merrily j ingling, the oily priest mantras mumbl ing with the deafening blowing of conch shel ls and burning of insence with the lavish pouring of melted butter, the holy fire benignly glowing - the marriage is so lemnised. At an auspic ious hour of a starlit night the father gives the daughter away to a man he does not know quite knotted to a stranger - the husband to be - just behind him seven seven t imes round the fire, modestly careful, seven smal l s teps takes she bowing her vei led head, she accepts her destiny and becomes his wife and enters new life. In the father-in-law's house under the eye of the mother-in-law queen , in the maddening jungle of inquisitive in-laws - s is ters, brothers, cous ins , easi ly umpteen -days pass , become months, then years - round the clock cook food, serve guests, wash plates, tend the old, nurse the sick on the move from the kitchen to the bedroom to the lean-to the flood is on, sons come, follow daughters -some die, some remain 145 a little joy, more pain -two s lave chained together, whipped by life no time to sit together, chat together, laugh together, know each other - no time to shed tears -Why does the spring come, the cuckoo call and the trees sing - Who hears? 'You fool, the cuckoo cal ls for you to hear', says the sari 'the trees sing for you to laugh, not to fear' says the sari 'the spring has come to fill your heart' says the sari 'You fool, I am here for you to wear' says the sari 'have me on' pleads the sari 'my angry purple grown soft with age will hide your pallor wel l , my border, now like the sun when the day is dying, will hide those st reaks of grey my russet petals yel low tinged with approach of winter will s igh for that l issome body - but s ighing will embrace you - with grace take me out, wear me once, time is passing, ' sobs the sar i . Sighing the busy housewife says 'I know what you say is true yet I must rush, have to go, get ready, have a lot to do My mother-in-law's great Guru will be here in an hour or two and with him will come his d isc ip les, at least fifty-two. S o - not now, not now, some other time, later maybe, you see I must fly, time is pass ing ' . 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Canad ian Journal of Counse l l ing . 29 (3), 227-233. 154 APPENDIX B Consent Form STUDY: T H E FACILITATORS AND HINDRANCES O F H E L P - S E E K I N G O F INDO-CANADIAN W O M E N . INVEST IGATOR: Maria McLel lan S U P E R V I S O R O F R E S E A R C H : Dr. Larry Cochran This research is being conducted as one of the requirements for Mar ia McLe l lan for the masters degree in Counsel l ing Psychology. The research is to determine what helps and what does not help in an Indo-Canadian woman's decis ion to seek counsel l ing help. Participants are asked in a 45-60 minute interview to reflect on their culture in terms of seek ing counsel l ing help and then to recall the decis ion-making process that led them to seek counsel l ing help. Interviews will be tape recorded, transcribed and given a number code to ensure confidentiality. The narrat ives and theme descr ipt ions written from the transcripts will be returned to the participants for comment and revision. The tapes will be erased upon completion of the study. The total amount of time that will be required of each participant should not exceed 2 hours. The research investigator will be happy to answer any quest ions you might have concerning the study either before or after the interview. It is important to note that your participation is voluntary and that you have the right to withdraw from the study at any time without prejudice of any k ind. I HAVE R E A D AND UNDERSTOOD THE A B O V E AND C O N S E N T TO B E A PARTICIPANT IN THIS R E S E A R C H . I A C K N O W L E D G E RECEIPT OF A C O P Y OF THE CONSENT F O R M . Name of Part icipant: A d d r e s s : Telephone Number: Signature Researcher : Maria McLel lan Date APPENDIX A Contact Letter to Volunteer 155 D E A R You are being asked by a mutual contact to participate in my graduate study. This research is being conducted to determine what helps and does not help an Indo-Canadian woman in making the decision to seek counsel l ing help. Part ic ipat ion will involve a 45-60 minute interview. In the interview, you will be asked to talk a little about your culture in terms of help-seek ing. Y o u will then be asked to recall the decis ion-making process that led you to seek counsel l ing help. Interviews will be tape recorded, transcribed and given a number code to ensure confidentiality. The tapes will be erased upon completion of the study. Once the tapes have been transcribed and made into a narrative, you will be asked to read the f inished product? to ensure its accuracy. The total amount of time that will be required of you should not exceed two hours. The purpose of these interviews is to develop a thematic framework of what faci l i tates and hinders the decis ion-making process of Indo-Canad ian women wishing to seek counsell ing help. The development of such a framework may have an indirect benefit to you. In addition to impacting upon the ways in which counsel l ing help is broadcast within the Indo-Canadian community, it could also have an impact upon the practice and training of counsel lors who work with Indo-Canadian women. Your involvement is entirely voluntary and you may withdraw from the study at any time. Al l responses will be kept strictly confidential. A dummy number will be the only means of identification once the interview is comple ted. If you would like to participate in this study, p lease call me to arrange a su i tab le interview t ime. Thank you for your time and interest. R e s p e c t f u l l y , 


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