Advocacy for Pacific Islanders

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Demographics and Identities

The Pacific Islands consists of 14 sovereign states and 11 collectives. They can be classified by three ethnogeographic groupings: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. The Philippines and Indonesia are generally not considered part of the Pacific Islands, although they fall into larger regional classifications such as Australasia, Oceania, or the South Pacific. U.S. territories in the Pacific include Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.

The U.S. Census Bureau groups Pacific Islanders with Native Hawaiians as ‘Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander’ (NHOPI). In the U.S., NHOPI ethnicities include Carolinian, Chamorro, Chuukese, Fijian, Guamanian, Hawaiian, Kosraean, Marshallese, Native Hawaiian, Niuean, Palauan, Papua New Guinean, Pohnpeian, Samoan, Tokelauan, Tongan, and Yapese. As of 2015, there were roughly 1,260,000 NHOPIs in the U.S. (including single-race and multi-race/multi-ethnic NHOPIs). Though NHOPIs make up less than 1% of the U.S. population, they are one of they fastest growing groups, having increased 30% since 2010.

Languages spoken in the Pacific Islands include languages in either the Paupan or Austronesian language families (see Thomas E: Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in the Pacific Islander Community (2017) for more information). In the U.S. most Pacific Islanders are English proficient, with 14% of the Pacific Islander American population having limited English proficiency in 2012.

Gender-Based Violence

The intersectionality of history, colonization, culture, identity, community, systems, and geography in Pacific Islander communities has an impact on the dynamics of and interventions for domestic violence, sexual assault, family violence, and trafficking. Advocacy for survivors and access to resources and benefits depends on whether they are U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, immigrants, or COFA migrants.  Pacific Islander categorizations – with Asians or as Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (NHOPI) – can, and have at times, overlooked or tokenized the richness of their diversity and the differences of their experiences.

Statistics

Resources