Advocacy for Pacific Islanders
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.
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.
- An estimated 60-80% of women and girls in the Pacific Islands will experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes, although the rates vary across states, territories, and cultures.
U.N. Women: Ending Violence Against Women and Girls: Evidence, Data and Knowledge in Pacific Island Countries
- Of 741 ever-partnered men (18-49 years old) surveyed in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, 80% had perpetrated physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, 62% had perpetrated physical partner violence, and 59% had perpetrated partner rape.
Partners For Prevention: Why do Some Men Use Violence Against Women and How Can We Prevent It?
- According to a 2016 community needs assessment of Pacific Islanders in Utah, 81% of respondents knew at least one person in their community that needed help with an issue related to violence, most respondents knew of 3-5 people.
Pacific Island Knowledge to Action Resources (PIK2AR): Utah Pacific Islander Community Assessment (2017)
A compilation of statistics on domestic violence, sexual violence, trafficking, and help-seeking.
Erin Thomas, Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP)
An overview of the geographical, historical, ethno-linguistic, and cultural diversity of Pacific Islander communities; historical trauma; and GBV trends.
Erin Thomas, International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICCAD)
A community-needs assessment on gender-based violence in Niue based on a literature review and key interviews of Niueans.
Ending Violence Against Women and Girls – Evidence, Data and Knowledge in Pacific Island Countries, 2011
By U.N. Women
This literature review synthesizes material from the reports on violence against women in Pacific Island Countries and presents analysis of social contexts, challenges in addressing violence against women, the nature and extent of violence against women, accessing support services, access to justice for women and girls, and preventing violence against women.
By Val Kalei Kanuha
This talk explores the connection between colonization and patriarchy, and how this dynamic perpetuates gender violence.
Pacific Islands Knowledge 2 Action Resources (PIK2AR): violence prevention resources and KAVA Talks (Kommitment Against Violence Altogether), a male domestic violence advocacy group
U.S. Office of Minority Health: Profile on Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander resources and Resources on Violence Related Trauma
U.N. Population Fund: Violence Against Women – Regional Snapshot (2017)