Asian and Pacific Islander Survivors

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Domestic violence in API communities is an urgent problem requiring cultural expertise in formulating system-based responses and community-based strategies. The urgency is compounded by several issues:

Tremendous Diversity

Asian and Pacific Islander (API) populations in the U.S. have tremendous ethnic, demographic, and linguistic diversity.  In addition to API communities’ demographic diversity of LGBTQ, rural, urban, youth, elderly, first- and multi-generation immigrants, and refugees; there is significant variation in socioeconomic status, acculturation levels, depending on education, English fluency, employment, family and community support, health, and well-being. (Learn more about API identities and demographics) Although the richness of API diversity is something to be celebrated, it also means that attitudes towards and dynamics of domestic violence differ across ethnic groups. A once-size-fits-all approach is inadequate, and many programs are not equipped or lack the understanding to respond effectively to survivors.

Unique Dynamics

Unique domestic violence dynamics in API homes, such as abuse by male and female in-laws and/or abuse related to immigration status compound barriers because these dynamics and trends are not well-understood, require different approaches to prevention and intervention, and at times not even identified as domestic violence. For example, there can be multiple abusers in the home (i.e. male and female in-laws) and this can men that a battered woman may need restraining orders against several family members. Another difference is the way API battered women experience “push” factors (“Give me a divorce, I can always find another wife”) more frequently than “pull” factors (“Come back to me, I won’t do it again”). This affects how API survivors make decisions and respond to advocates’ interventions.

Isolating Socio-Cultural Barriers

API survivors, particularly non-citizens and/or those with limited English proficiency face language, economic, cultural, religious, or identity-based barriers when trying to access social and legal services. These barriers are often fortified by cultures of hostility towards immigrants and refugees. Their batterers often further exploit these challenges by threatening women with deportation, loss of children, or tightening control of finances. Cultural competency means advocating despite these barriers, and devising prevention and intervention strategies n response to new trends that further isolate women.

Community Norms and Victim-Blaming

Because patriarchal community norms and leaders prevent change instead of preventing gender violence; survivors and their children contend with community-generated barriers. Community reinforcements that keep gender violence in place utilize victim blaming, silencing, shaming, and rejecting survivors who speak up or seek help. Culturally prescribed gender roles can inhibit women’s self-determination. Because women do not disclose abuse out of fear of being shamed, batterers in effect enjoy covert (or overt) community support and even immunity from accountability. Hence, community organizing requires programs that use a range of approaches to educate families, promote help-seeking, and change norms.

Resources on API Survivors

Census Data & API Identities

Definitions In the 2000 U.S. Census, the Federal Government defines “Asian American” to include persons having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent. “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander” includes...

Other Resources

AAPI Data: infographics, demographic data and policy research on AAPIs

PEW Research Center: Factsheets on Asians in the U.S., 2017 provides a wealth of demographic data on 19 Asian ethnic groups.