A Call to Action to Address and End Domestic Violence

Please read this statement released by the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations in response to recent domestic violence incidents including the tragic murder of Aasiya Hassan in New York.

February 26th, 2009– As community-based organizations that provide services to, advocate for, and organize South Asians in the United States, we are deeply saddened by recent tragic incidents of domestic violence that have affected South Asian families and communities over the past six months.

The tragic murder of Aasiya Hassan, a 37-year-old mother, who was brutally beheaded in Buffalo, New York, is the latest in a series of recent violent incidents that has received community-wide and public attention.  Ms. Hassan had obtained an order of protection against her husband and filed for divorce before the murder, which occurred on February 12, 2009.

This incident comes on the heels of another tragedy that occurred in Clifton, New Jersey last November, when 24-year old Reshma James was murdered by her estranged husband at the church she attended.  And, it follows two murders of family members, including children: one occurring in Novi, Michigan, where the bodies of 37-year-old Jayalakshmi Rao and her two children were found, and the other occurring in Sorrente Pointe, California, where the entire Rajaram family (mother-in-law, wife,  three children, and the suicide of the husband) was found dead last October.

Beyond speaking out and condemning these tragedies, we as community members and organizations must strive to do even more.  As members of the South Asian community, each of us has a role to play in ending violence.

Most importantly, we must move beyond the tendency to reduce acts of domestic violence to culture or religion, or any such characteristic. The epidemic of domestic violence affects families from all backgrounds and religious faiths; in fact, the incidents we describe here occurred in Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities.  We must call domestic violence what it is, and work both within our community and externally, to create safe spaces and environments.

And, we must understand and empathize with victims and survivors of domestic violence.  All victims and survivors of domestic violence face significant barriers in seeking and obtaining assistance, justice, and support. For South Asians, these barriers become even more exacerbated.  Many South Asians feel uncomfortable reaching out to those within their own community for fear of being judged, questioned, isolated, blamed and stigmatized.  When abuse occurs in non-marital or same-sex relationships, it can become an even more difficult topic to broach.  Moreover, a lack of cultural and linguistic sensitivity and tangible legal protections can make survivors feel that they have little recourse in existing laws, the justice system, law enforcement and social service agencies.

Finally, we must be ready to address domestic violence publicly.  Around the country, community members, religious leaders and social service agencies must take significant steps each day to ensure that victims and survivors of domestic violence receive the support and assistance they need.  Our entire community must be prepared to speak out against violence and address it in our homes, places of worship, cultural centers, and social service organizations.

In light of the recent tragic incidents of domestic violence, we offer three concrete steps that you can take:  first, create a safe space to talk about domestic violence with your family, friends, and support networks; second, encourage your religious, cultural and civic leaders to address the impact of domestic violence in public statements, remarks, prayers and sermons, and settings; and third, support organizations that strive to end domestic violence in our communities.

We send this call to action with the hope that community members, religious, cultural and civic organizations, policymakers, allies and media will all take on the task of ending domestic violence. For our part, we remain committed to continuing our efforts to advocate against violence in any form, to create safe spaces for all community members, and to press for policies that support and empower victims and survivors of violence.

The National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of community-based organizations in 12 regions around the United States, seeks to amplify a progressive voice on policy issues affecting South Asian communities.  For more information about the NCSO, please contact South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) at 301-270-1855 or via email at saalt@saalt.org

Endorsed by:

AdhikaarNew York, NY
Andolan – New York, NY
Apna Ghar – Chicago, IL
ASHA for Women – Washington DC Area
Chaya Seattle, WA
Chhaya CDC – New York, NY
Council of Peoples Organization – New York, NY

Counselors Helping (South) Asian/Indians – Washington DC Area
Daya – Houston, TX

Hamdard Center – Chicago, IL
Indo-American Center – Chicago, IL
Maitri – San Jose, CA
Manavi – New Brunswick, NJ
Michigan Asian Indian Family Services – Livonia, MI
Narika – Berkeley, CA
Raksha – Atlanta, GA
Saathi of Rochester – Rochester, NY
Sakhi for South Asian Women – New York, NY
Satrang – Los Angeles, CA
Sneha – West Hartford, CT
South Asian Health Initiative – New York, NY
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund – Washington DC
South Asian Americans Leading Together – Washington DC Area

South Asian Youth Action – New York, NY
Trikone NW – Seattle, WA
Turning Point for Women and Families – New York, NY

Daily Buzz 2.18.2009

1.) Pakistani-Americans in Chicago talk about Obama

2.) Muslim & S. Asian Women’s Groups Condemn Beheading of Aasiya Hassan

3.) Opinions: Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?

4.) Professor Sudhir Venkatesh asks “What Should We Do?” to the South Asian Philanthropy Project: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

5.) Taliban threats reach Pakistani Americans

Daily Buzz 2.16.2009

1.) Pakistani American Charged with Beheading His Wife

2.) India’s Unlikely New Immigrants: Indian Americans Immigrating to India

3.) Hate Crime Charges filed in attack on cab driver

4.) New UC eligibility standards will open college doors, but may change demographics

5.) Rachel Maddow joins the “Consortium of Pub-going, loose, and forward women.”

6.)  Ennis from Sepia Mutiny: Speak Hindi? Join the Army and become a citizen in six months.

A Loss of Life, A Community’s Responsibility

Please read this op-ed written by members of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (Raksha, Narika, Manavi, Maitri) on the recent murder of Reshma James in New Jersey

A Loss of Life, A Community’s Responsibility

As representatives of South Asian community-based organizations working to end violence against women, we are saddened by the recent murder of Reshma James, a 24-year old South Asian woman, just days before Thanksgiving.  The tragic shooting death of Reshma James at the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church in Clifton by her estranged husband has stunned the entire South Asian community. In addition to Ms. James, two other individuals were injured, one of whom also died.

This act of violence – the last in a history of abuse perpetrated by Ms. James’ estranged husband – has affected individuals and the justice systems of three states: California (where the abuse occurred); New Jersey (where the murder occurred); and Georgia (where the murderer was apprehended).    

As community members deal with the trauma and grief of this incident, it is important to broaden our lens to understand the epidemic of domestic violence that affects families around the country from all backgrounds.   

The murder of Reshma James is one incident among many that affect South Asians and other women in the United States.  In fact, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), intimate partner violence claims the lives of three women each day in the U.S., and guns are the weapon of choice.    

Through our direct service and advocacy work with South Asian survivors of violence, we know all too well that domestic violence can affect all families regardless of religion, race, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, age, or immigration status.  Maitri, Manavi, Narika and Raksha are organizations that address domestic violence in the San Francisco Bay Area, New Jersey and Atlanta.  Collectively our agencies receive over 4,000 calls annually from women seeking legal and health assistance, social services, basic information about their rights, and referrals.  

Yet, the messages that we often hear from within the South Asian community are the same: that domestic violence does not happen in our community; that it does not happen within educated families; and that it is not an important issue for an entire community to address.   From non-South Asians, we often hear that domestic violence must somehow be unique to South Asian communities, given our customs, beliefs, and familial relationships, or that it does not occur based on false stereotypes they have about South Asians.

Women are battered in every culture, and the common factor is the social sanction of violence against women, across cultures. Our collective work as a society then is to build safe communities where everyone can live free of fear.   We must bear the collective responsibility of keeping everyone safe.  And that work cannot be done in isolation, by a few community based organizations such as ours. It has to be done by all of us, working together.   

We ask you to support the work of ending violence against women and children in our communities.   We ask that you listen to and empower survivors in your community.  We ask that you look at legislation that compromises survivor safety and speak out against it and to advocate for laws and policies that protect survivors and provide them with linguistic and cultural access to the justice system, law enforcement, and shelters.

 The entire community must be prepared to speak out against violence and address it in our homes, places of worship, cultural centers, and social service organizations.  We ask you to reach out to someone who needs your support.  Only as a community can we prevent the murders of women like Reshma James. 

Maitri, Manavi, Narika, Raksha – community-based organizations working to end violence against South Asian women – are all members of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations.  

Aparna Bhattacharyya, Raksha (Atlanta)       1.866.725.7423          www.raksha.org

Atashi Chakravarty, Narika (Bay Area)         1.800.215.7308           www.narika.org

Maneesha Kelkar, Manavi    (New Jersey)     732. 435.1414             www.manavi.org

Sarah Khan, Maitri               (Bay Area)         1.800.799.SAFE         www.maitri.org