A study of 160 South Asian women (who were married or in a heterosexual relationship), recruited through community outreach methods such as flyers, snowball sampling, and referrals in Greater Boston, found that:
- 40.8% of the participants reported that they had been physically and/or sexually abused in some way by their current male partners in their lifetime; 36.9% reported having been victimized in the past year.
- 65% of the women reporting physical abuse also reported sexual abuse, and almost a third (30.4%) of those reporting sexual abuse reported injuries, some requiring medical attention.
Anita Raj & Jay G. Silverman, Intimate Partner Violence Against South-Asian Women in Greater Boston, 57 J. Am. Med. Women’s Ass’n 111 (2002).
- A study of sexual abuse in the South Asian immigrant community was conducted between 1991 & 1996 found that 60% of the women spoke of being forced to have sex with their husbands against their will.
- 90% of Indian women in chemical dependency treatment are victims of rape and childhood sexual abuse.
Individual women were interviewed to further grasp the context behind these statistics and also to decipher a reason as to why they were so high, and also to understand how South Asian women deal with assault and abuse, and whether their race has a big effect on their reaction.
“Sunita described her being female and undervalued as reinforced by her South Asian family, where her brother’s status was elevated in the family which made it difficult for her to disclose her abuse to her mother. When she did disclose the abuse to her mother, Sunita was told to “it [child sexual abuse] happened, so now you have to try to move on and not talk about it, and not think about it” in the name of family privacy. Sunita grew up with a strong South Asian ethnic identity, which she began to question after she was encouraged to be silent about her abuse.”
There were a lot of results about how the patriarchal culture of the South Asian American community effected the way women responded to abuse, but absolutely no information regarding how racism in the US could have any sort of impact. Most of the questions when interviewing South Asian survivors of abuse were about how their culture, traditional values, and family influenced them, but there was not much room for conversation about white supremacy or sexism stemming from white Americans.
Now here are some things we already know, or should know.
The stereotype normally assigned to South Asian women in the US is quiet, demure, passive, and easy to overpower. When the South Asian women is also visibly muslim, another myriad of stereotypes is added to this and often leads to increased brutality and violence.
South Asian women are also among the least likely to vote, less than white women or most other women of color, and have more or less no political voice.
Depression, anxiety, and abuse are not uncommon in the the South Asian American community whatsoever. In fact, most South Asians will report knowing someone with mental illness or who is living in a turbulent home, if not being in this situation themselves. It’s not at all rare for us to see this in our community, and yet there are very few resources and little data to support this outside of the personal experiences of many people.
LGBT South Asians are also vastly underrepresented with little to no data on them. I made a post about this a few months back and got only one link in return, and even then it was mostly things I could have figured out on my own.
What do I conclude from this data and from my own experience? Abuse and assault against South Asian women is not uncommon, but we don’t have a voice to express this with. There is very little data or statistics, and more often than not, a South Asian women’s first instinct appears to be to be quiet in the face of oppression, harassment, or abuse of any sort, an oftentimes unhealthy reaction that seems motivated from patriarchal values more than anything else.
Of course, the lack of data makes it difficult to paint a clear picture, and there doesn’t seem to be any documentation of how racism affects Asians in the US in general. I think I’ll try hitting up the library or a book store later to see if I can find anything by a South Asian feminist, but from my lack of success finding anything about us on the internet, it seems a bit unlikely.
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