Guest blog post by Winnie Lee, social worker with the New York Asian Women’s Center (NYAWC).
(NYAWC workshop facilitators with members of Pi Delta Psi during an event with Pi Delta Psi, NYU Chapter, on Thursday, March 13, 2014.)
One in four women have experienced sexual violence during the ages of 16 to 24. So it stands to reason that it’s a problem. But is there sexual violence within the Asian community? Sadly, there is: almost twice as many Asian female students than that of non-Asian female students are affected by sexual violence (19 percent vs. 11 percent). The problem has languished in silence leaving survivors isolated for a very long time. This is why, starting June 2013, New York Asian Women’s Center (NYAWC) has developed a program centered on culturally-sensitive holistic healing and awareness building to assist and advocate for Asian survivors of sexual violence.
As part of its awareness building campaigns, NYAWC had the opportunity to facilitate, by invitation, a workshop on sexual violence and gender stereotypes with the brothers of Pi Delta Psi, NYU Chapter. They were gracious hosts, engaging participants and all around fantastic people. Equipped with over 400 dumplings and some spot-on organizing, we created a space for open dialogue. Some 40 bleary-eyed fraternity and sorority members joined us after surviving midterms. While most were looking forward to spring break and much-needed vacations, these individuals instead decided to spend the evening discussing serious social issues with us.
And what discussion it was. More often than not, the subject of “violence against women” can be intensely polarizing. In addition, addressing sexual violence in the context of Asian culture brings an added layer of defensiveness, silence, fear, especially when one talks to men about violence against women. We were concerned that the audience might get awkward and uncomfortable.
We were so wrong. The young men and women were frank, engaged and engaging, and authentic. That authenticity is what made the workshop a success, and it taught me and my colleagues to check our own assumptions about how we anticipated the men might behave around this subject. We ended the night with the theme of accountability. We live in a world where violence against women is acceptable and it’s up to us – Asian men and women – to keep each other accountable.
At one point during the night, one student said: “Not going to lie, I thought it was going to be a male bashing session.” It speaks to the openness and frank honesty we tried to foster in one night. We’re glad to be changing stereotypes, building accountability, and participating in authentic conversation.
At the end of the day, the work we do is only as powerful as the individuals willing to partner with us. It is a direct contradiction to reality when we don’t address sexual violence in our communities and our schools. Our continued hope is that those we interact with are committed to being advocates for the underdogs and the under-served in the Asian community. Will you join us?
The New York Asian Women’s Center (NYAWC) is the largest Asian American-focused domestic violence agency in the country, a premier human trafficking serving organization, and a national demonstration project that provides model services to survivors of sexual assault. If you would like to volunteer or invite us to your campus please contact Vineeta at firstname.lastname@example.org