Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Social Work

First Advisor

Elizabeth Cramer


Studies have shown that not only are clergy members the first persons from whom battered women seek help, but also a great number of clergy counsel battered women every year (Martin, 1989; Rotunda, Williamson, & Penfold, 2004). The role of the church and clergy are especially critical for the Korean immigrant community in the U.S. because Korean immigrants greatly underutilize existing services and rely heavily on their respective churches for assistance with various issues, including domestic violence (Boodman, 2007; Kim, 1997). Korean churches and clergy members have the potential to be active partners in providing intervention services and to serve as a major force for preventing domestic violence, yet there is no study that directly examines Korean clergy’s responses to domestic violence in their congregations and the factors related to their responses. Recognizing this gap in knowledge, this study was designed to examine how patriarchal, religious, and cultural values of Korean clergy members affect their responses to domestic violence in their congregations. Based on the radical feminist theory and intersectionality theory, it was hypothesized that younger clergy, clergy that have lived longer in the U.S., clergy with more pastoral counseling education, clergy with less religious fundamentalist beliefs, clergy with more egalitarian gender role attitudes, and clergy who do not adhere strongly to Korean cultural values will indicate more behaviors that promote safety of Korean battered women. A cross-sectional survey design utilizing mixed methods was used in this study with data collection through mail and online surveys. The sample was drawn from the Korean Business Directory (The Korea Times Washington D.C., 2010) that includes mailing addresses and phone numbers of 388 Korean American churches in Virginia and Maryland. A total of 152 Korean American ministers participated in this study by completing and returning a self-administered mail survey or accessing a web-based survey, yielding a 40.5% return rate. Results from both quantitative and qualitative analyses indicated that many Korean American clergy are torn between safety of battered women and sacredness of marriage in responding to domestic violence cases in their church. They first try to work toward reconciliation of couples through couples counseling and marriage enrichment seminars, and when this effort is not successful, then they refer to other resources such as domestic violence programs and therapists. Younger Korean American ministers, ministers who have lived in the U.S. longer, and ministers who adhere to Korean cultural values less were more likely to endorse behaviors that promote safety of Korean battered women. Religious fundamentalist beliefs, pastoral counseling education, and gender role attitudes did not account for a significant amount of variance associated with Korean clergy responses to domestic violence. Many Korean American clergy considered themselves as important figures who are best suited to deal with cases of domestic violence in their churches and recognized the need to work and build collaborative relationships with other professionals. Only small number of Korean American clergy felt well prepared to deal with domestic violence cases; however, they are willing to attend training on domestic violence, and many of them stressed the importance of clergy training on domestic violence in ensuring safety of battered women. Implications for social work practice and research are discussed.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

April 2011

Included in

Social Work Commons