I ask you to today to please understand how much Asian communities, among so many others, benefit from the existence of the Office of Violence Against Women, an Office supplying invaluable grants that allow for the existence of nonprofit organizations crucial to the protection of women who face sexual and domestic violence. The funding cuts proposed by the Trump administration threaten the existence of these organizations and the lives of the women they assist and protect.
My personal experience with advocating for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence comes from my work with Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa, a nonprofit that advocates for Asian and Pacific Islander victims. Monsoon also promotes prevention by educating communities in the Midwest about gender-based violence. The mission of this organization is to end all forms of gender-based violence, and towards this goal, they bring youth in from Des Moines high schools to learn and act against it.
As a student at Grinnell College, I have had the privilege of working with Monsoon and seeing how much impact they have in all 99 counties of Iowa.
Mainstream service providers for sexual assault do provide support for victims, but they suffer from a severe lack of multilingual and culturally competent services. This is why Monsoon is so important to the Des Moines community.
Monsoon helps that woman from India who is dependent on her abusive husband. She doesn’t speak English well, she is economically dependent on him, she doesn’t have family in the area, and she doesn’t even realize what legal actions she can take to protect herself—but Monsoon holds workshops in her community, and one of her coworkers mentions to her that she can talk with them about her options. They have translators in over twenty Asian languages, including her primary language of Hindi. She soon finds out that their services are entirely free so she doesn’t have to worry about not being able to afford legal help. They help explain to her how US law works, how she can get a protective order to keep her safe from her husband’s violence. They find her some temporary housing, walk with her as she enters a court in front of a judge, assist her with her English so she can tell her story effectively. If this woman had gone to a mainstream service provider, she would not have gotten far in this process, but because Monsoon focuses on issues that are unique to Asian communities, she is able to achieve the basic human right of escaping the violent abuse of her husband.
This individual story does not, however, stand alone. Language barriers are a huge reason for the underreporting of domestic violence among Asian women. The Office of Asian Pacific Islander Affairs reports that approximately 73.4% of the API population in the state speaks a language other than English and 33.7% speaks English less than “very well.” Monsoon’s existence is essential to get support for the significant population of Americans who are blocked from services because their primary language is not English.
And the need for multilingual and culturally competent services for victims is not an issue limited to today. The need for this services will continue to grow, as Asians are the fastest growing immigrant population in the U.S. The 2010 Census records that 55,965
API individuals live in Iowa, constituting 1.9% of the state’s total population. This represents a 10% increase over the 2006 estimate of 45,647 API residents. By 2040, 111,150 Iowans are projected to identify themselves as people of Asian-Pacific Islander descent, according to the State Data Center and the Iowa Department of Human Rights Office of Asian Pacific Islander Affairs.
Nonprofits like Monsoon owe their existence to grants from the Office of Violence Against Women. The Office of Violence Against Women, under the U.S. Department of Justice, provides grants for these nonprofits to do advocacy work for their specific communities. We don’t expect mainstream service providers to fulfill the specific needs of Asian and Pacific communities. But we expect the government to continue to support nonprofits like Monsoon, which are able to specialize their interests and reach out to communities that would otherwise fall through the cracks of unspecialized services.
These nonprofits have been able to protect so many women from violence, and as a result, these women are able to be healthy and perform in their communities. The issue of supporting victims is an issue for all of us. We have seen from history and economics that more working women means richer families and stronger national economies.
I ask you today to stand beside Asian and Pacific Islanders in the U.S., to stand beside victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and behind nonprofits like Monsoon that need funding from the Office of Violence Against Women. Please do not let the administration under President Trump eliminate the Office of Violence Against Women. I am speaking for the population of 17 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the U.S., and I’m speaking for the thousands of non-English speaking victims of sexual assault. Please do not let Trump’s administration eliminate the Office of Violence Against Women.