By RYOKO NAKAMURA, Rafu Japanese Staff Writer
As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Los Angeles County Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Task Force hosted a discussion event, “iCare: Standing Against Domestic Violence,” on Oct. 17 at USC’s University Religious Center.
Over 70 people, from students to professionals, gathered to watch “Mandevilla,” a short fictional film about domestic abuse, and discuss how to stop violence in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
“Mandevilla,” directed by Andrew Oh, was created as a part of the campaign against domestic violence with the help of Korean American Family Services. The story is about John Kim, a struggling Korean immigrant, living in an apartment in Los Angeles.
He hears his neighbors arguing every day. As the couple’s conflict grow more violent, John finally decides to confront the husband. When he opens his neighbor’s front door, he witnesses the startling truth — the husband who was abusing his wife and son was actually John himself.
Sun Kim, the film’s screenwriter, said, “A lot of times, people don’t feel like they have the problem.” When he was creating the main character, he initially thought, “How am I going to identify with the character that is clearly abusive? I don’t have this problem.”
However, he comprehended that there was a seed of violence in all of us. “Whenever I face those challenges, I realize that there’s a part of me that is not too different from this guy, John.” In the end, the main character comes to a self-realization.
Oh said, “We didn’t want it to be just a simple story that you watch it and then, that’s over. We really wanted to focus on it being a discussion piece.” So the ending was left open-ended.
“People can form their own conclusions about what happens after that,” said Oh. He emphasized that every person has two sides, good and bad, and anybody has the capacity to become not only a victim, but also an abuser.
The second part of the event was a panel discussion moderated by Debbie Murad of USC’s Department of Social Work.
In addition to the filmmakers, the panelists included domestic violence awareness advocate Jane Kim of the Center for the Pacific Asian Family and attorney Joanne Lee of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles.
Kim, who is also a preventionist and interventionist, pointed out the main reasons why victims remain in situations that place them at risk for domestic violence. She said that the number one factor is shame. “That is the biggest barrier for the victims to ask for help.”
She also pointed out that when the victims are immigrants, they often have a language barrier and fewer job skills, which can cause them to stay quiet.
“These victims are financially dependent on their abusers. The fear of being unable to support their children and themselves paralyzes them and makes it more difficult to leave the abusive situation,” she explained.
When victims are undocumented immigrants, abusers often promise permanent resident status or “green card.” Conversely, an abuser may use the threat of deportation to frighten a victim out of reporting the violence to the police.
Kim emphasized that just because they are quiet doesn’t mean they don’t need help. “Share the 24-hour hotline information. When you talk to the victims, validate what they are going through instead of accusing, and let them know there’s always help, and there are other options available,” she advised.
The Center for the Pacific Asian Family offers emergency shelter services and counseling, in addition to the hotline. They can also refer victims to the Legal Aid Foundation in cases where legal help is needed.
Lee, an attorney, acknowledged social workers’ hard work. She emphasized that legal support is built on their hands-on services.
Lee explained several ways to obtain legal protection for victims. She admitted that criminal law doesn’t always work, but emphasized that family law and immigration law can also protect the victims.
According to research conducted by the API Domestic Violence Task Force in 2012, 41% to 60% of Asian women report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
Nearly 45% of those who experienced some kind of violence didn’t report or take necessary measures; 34.3% asked family members for help; 32.1% asked friends for help; 15.7% called police; and only 9% sought the help of specialized agencies.
In the discussion, the panelists and audience acknowledged the fact that men can be victims as well. Murad said, “Violence unfortunately occurs between same-sex couples, parents and children, and any form of relationship.”
Discussion was concluded with suggestions for reducing domestic violence: lending a hand when people need help, being aware of those specialized agencies’ services, and communicating with your own communities about violence.
“Mandevilla,” with English subtitles can be found on YouTube.
For more information about the API Domestic Violence Task Force, go to www.apidvtf.org.
The 24-hour free emergency hotline of the Center for the Pacific Asian Family is 800-339-3940. The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles can be reached at 800-399-4529.