Task Force Uses Art to Raise Awareness of Domestic Violence in API Community


Participants in the Domestic Violence Awareness Month press conference.

Participants in the Domestic Violence Awareness Month press conference. (Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

In observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Task Force presented a survivor art exhibit at the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles from Oct. 15 to 17.

The artworks were in a variety of mediums with encouraging images and messages for survivors. One read, “Give but don’t allow yourself to be used. Love but don’t allow your heart to be abused. Trust but don’t be naïve. Listen to others but don’t lose your own voice.”

Another read, “How someone treats you is a reflection of their character. How you react is a reflection of your own.”

Speakers at the opening press conference included Kimberly Zarate, exhibitions coordinator and collections manager at the Chinese American Museum, who said that CAM was glad to partner with the task force on the exhibition.

Christy Turek spoke on behalf of A Window Between Worlds, a nonprofit that uses artwork to help domestic violence survivors with the healing process. AWBW provided financial support for the exhibition.

Daisy Ma, a member of the task force, spoke on behalf of Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), for whom she works as district director.

Member agencies of the task force include Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, Asian Pacific Women’s Center, Peace Over Violence, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, Korean American Family Services, National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse, Asian Youth Center, South Asian Network, Asian Pacific Counseling and Treatment Centers, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Asian Pacific Family Center of Pacific Clinics, Soroptimist International of Monterey Park/Rosemead, Center for Pacific Asian Families, San Gabriel Police Department, Chinatown Service Center, and Little Tokyo Service Center.

One of the featured artists, who asked that her name not be used, said that when she went to LTSC’s legal clinic, she was asked if she wanted to participate in the exhibit. “So I said yes. I had the perfect piece.”

She said of domestic violence, “It’s universal, it’s everywhere, and a lot of people don’t even know they are abused … I didn’t know until five years ago … When I found out about my situation, I was stunned.”

A friend recommended that she read “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” by Lundy Bancroft, and the book proved helpful. At first she thought it was too harsh toward men, but “by the time I finished reading, I was in shock because I found it’s everything about me. I was so surprised. I’m not a typical submissive Japanese woman … I was already working on my artwork, which has to do with Japanese women and gender, race and sex in relation to power. I didn’t even notice I was in the middle of (such a) relationship …

“Still I thought I had some fault too, so I thought I should change myself for a better relationship … Now everything’s clear to me, and I really like to be involved in this kind of event, helping victims and survivors and healing myself too.”

It’s important not to make excuses for the abusive spouse or boyfriend, she said. In many cases, “they had an abusive relationship when they were growing up … so they learned how to abuse others. So in a way they are victims, but that doesn’t mean they can abuse others.”

She has found that survivors’ stories are very similar regardless of race, nationality or financial situation. “If women don’t recognize they’re abused for a long time, at the end they don’t have power to fight back,” she added. “For example, they don’t a job, they have kids — what can they do? So it’s a huge problem … Educating people is very important.”

When discussing the issue with Japanese friends, she observed, “Some people understand it after I explain, explain, explain … but most people don’t. I can feel they don’t understand it. They think … ‘It’s your fault. You did something wrong. And you didn’t work harder.’ When those survivors are judged, (when) friends or family members say that, it’s really damaging to them.”

Above and below: Some of the pieces by domestic violence survivors included inscriptions in English and Korean.

Above and below: Some of the pieces by domestic violence survivors included inscriptions in English and Korean.


In her own case, the abuse was mental rather than physical. “They say mental one is harder. Physical, if someone hits you, you have evidence, you can show it to your friend or whoever … But mental one, there is no proof. It’s impossible to prove and people don’t believe it. People say that’s a common thing, it’s just regular fighting, argument. It’s not … A short-tempered spouse doesn’t (necessarily) mean they’re abusive. It’s a control issue. The difference is really difficult to explain unless you know exactly what it is.”

Even after one gets out of the relationship, the trauma persists, she said. “It’s a long process. It’s not ‘goodbye’ and it’s done. So in a way I feel like I’m damaged. I have to work on that.”

In the future, she would like to go to women’s shelters and do art workshops, perhaps having several women contribute to one piece that can be exhibited.

In addition, she said, “I think it’s important to just talk. A lot of people … cannot talk about their situation to even friends, so they need to feel safe to talk about that (with) people who have the same experience … But I’m not a therapist. Because I’m an artist, through my art I’d like to do something, contribute to society.”

A number of local agencies offer services in Asian languages. Those that provide assistance in Japanese include:

Los Angeles County DV Hotline, (800) 978-3600

Asian Pacific Women’s Center (transitional shelter), (213) 250-2977

Kosumosu Transitional Housing, (323) 473-1680

Legal Aid Foundation Los Angeles, (323) 801-7991

For more information, visit www.apidvtf.org. The following is from the website:

Facts on Domestic Violence

• Studies show that 41 to 61 percent of Asian women report experiencing physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.

• 56 percent of Filipinas and 64 percent of Indian and Pakistani women had experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner in a study interviewing 143 women.

• 28.5 percent of Asian women report knowing a woman who had experienced abuse by her in-laws. In some Asian families, male and female in-laws exert physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

A study found that 28 percent of Cambodians, 18 percent of Chinese, 30 percent of Koreans, 8 percent of South Asians and 27 percent of Vietnamese witnessed their fathers regularly hitting their mothers.

Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship with Your Spouse/Partner

• Your everyday movements are being controlled.

• You are not allowed to meet or talk to your family and friends.

• You are verbally put down and humiliated in private or in front of others.

• You are not given money or allowed to open a bank account or a credit card.

• You are threatened with deportation or your passport and legal papers are taken away.

• Even in a marriage, you are forced to engage in sexual acts against your will.

You are not alone. Don’t be afraid to get help. There is free and confidential help for both victims and abusers. End the cycle of violence in your life.




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