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:

Adhikaar- New 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