Accepted paper:

Walking a tightrope: Coping and Gender-Identity of refugee women in the residential welfare system


Sabine Tiefenthaler (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano)

Paper short abstract:

As female refugees often were confronted with gender-based violence in their past according to previous studies there is a high risk of re-victimization. Social workers and refugee women in the welfare system are walking a tightrope between power gaps and intersectional processes.

Paper long abstract:

Flight reasons and conditions of female refugees are often different from males. Additionally to conflicts and wars they suffer also from patriarchal oppressing conditions and gender based violence like forced marriage/virginity and/or genital mutilation. Considering their background, refugee girls have a high risk of traumatization (Mazurana 2005) and the development of their gender-identity, as a task of adolescence (Erikson, 1973), becomes an even bigger challenge. Studies (Gahleitner, 2005; Hagemann-White, 2002) showed that coping-strategies are very gender-identity stereotyped as traumatized males tend to develop offender behaviours, females instead often have a high risk of re-victimization. The perception of terms like trauma, violence or identity cannot remain detached from intersectional processes and cultural explanations of symptoms can be very different from Western view. Resettling in a host country female refugees get institutionalized in the welfare service and get confronted with new belief systems and values (Papadopoulos, 2001). Social workers are responsible for the care of the women but at the same time they take part of a significant power gap and value-system. The discrepancy between adjusting to a new belief system of the institutions of the host country and the pressure to conform imposed from within their communities seems to be a walk on the tightrope. The aim of this paper is to show the current state and lack of research and literature about the coping process and the development of a gender-identity of refugee women in the residential welfare.

panel P038
Understanding "FGM" and sexual violence in diaspora: women's journeys through re-creations of identity and discourses on trauma