Utah Domestic Violence Council aims to help Asian American women


It was common practice for emotional and physical violence to be prevalent among Asian families living in their home country. When Asians started to migrate east to the US, the abuse followed.

“The majority of participants believed that domestic violence against women stems from a legacy of patriarchy and sexism that is widespread in many Asian-American communities,” wrote Sujata Warrier, Ph.D, in the report, “(Un) heard Voices: Domestic Violence in the Asian American Community.

Warrier, who serves on the boards of numerous groups, including the Asian American Institute on Domestic Violence and the National Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant Women, wrote that due to this patriarchy, “Women are socialized to believe and accept that violence in a relationship is acceptable, that male power expressed abusively is part of the cultural milieu, and therefore batterers are not held accountable for their behavior in their own communities.”

According to Speaking the Unspeakable: Marital Violence among South Asian Immigrants in the United States by Margaret Abraham, cultural milieu is a form of control. The victim is isolated from society. Their abuser strictly monitors all of the incoming communication. The information the victim receives by the abuser is limited, if not false, which promotes the cult-like regulation and full subordination.

A consequence of cultural milieu is victims’ self-esteem. They begin to integrate their treatment into their self-worth. They feel less valuable, intellectually inferior and sub-human.

“In the Asian communities emotional control, respect for authority, self-blame, perseverance and the acceptance of suffering are considered highly valued virtues and traits,” said Hildegard Koenig, diversity coordinator at the Utah Domestic Violence Council, in an e-mail interview.

“Those culturally based responses,” Koenig said, “contribute to their unwillingness or hesitance to express their victimization, even to people inside of a close circle of friends or family.”

Linda K. Oda, director of Asian Affairs at the Office of Ethnic Affairs in Salt Lake City, said, “Domestic violence in Asian-American communities places a mark on the family if reported.”

Contacting the proper authorities has shown to be a difficult task for Asian Americans. If these victims contact the proper authorities, it could end up being either constructive or catastrophic.

The decision by the victim to make constructive choices could produce many positive outcomes. The victim would leave a paper trail of the abuse, records of injuries and other documentation, and make authorities aware of the situation. The goal would be for the victim to obtain assistance to safely separate themselves from their abuser, according to the report, “(Un) heard Voices: Domestic Violence in the Asian American Community.” The report offers the victim resources to support her decision to leave her abuser.

The catastrophic effects of their decision to contact the authorities could cause irreversible damage and overall fear of local and federal government, according to the report. The most common would be the racism displayed by the responders.  This act could not only negatively impact the victim, but also the aggressor, possibly adding to the situation.

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