By Barbara Yau, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Since the start of the pandemic, people all over the world have spent more time at home. It has not been easy for anyone, but for many who are trapped at home with their abusers, the situation has been especially harrowing. Organizations and local advocates have reported increases in the number of violent incidents, as well as in the level of brutality inflicted upon those abused.
According to Jeehae Fischer, Executive Director of the Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC) in Flushing, N.Y., “Between March and June, KAFSC’s 24 hour bilingual hotline received a 300% increase in the volume of calls with 88% related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or child abuse. Our immigrant survivors and their children were forced into dangerous and explosive situations that resulted in violent incidents at home,” stated Fischer. As a result, her organization made the decision to keep their services, including their 24/7 hotline, in-person counseling, youth services, and emergency shelters, open to survivors throughout the pandemic in spite of great challenges and limited resources.
For Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October, we interviewed a Korean American survivor of domestic violence to promote awareness and foster a more personal understanding of this troubling issue that affects individuals of all races and ethnicity. Due to the survivor’s desire for anonymity, we will call her Ms. C. Please note that this interview was conducted with assistance from a Korean speaking interpreter.
AsAmNews: First of all, thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview. I know this is not easy for you to do. Please feel assured that your confidentiality will be protected, and please share only what you are comfortable sharing. I would first like to get some background information about you.
Ms. C: I am a 48 year old Korean American living in Flushing, Queens. I have one child who is a fourth grader.
AsAmNews: Tell me in detail about your personal experience with domestic violence.
Ms. C: It started with my husband who verbally abused me and then started to throw objects at me. He eventually physically harmed me and constantly threatened me and my child. Then, my mother-in-law whom I used to live with started physically abusing me as well. These incidents would occur out of nowhere and for no reason.
AsAmNews: Please describe your feelings and concerns for yourself and your child.
Ms. C: Fear. I was always fearful for my life. I was also devastated for my child who had to witness the abuse. I also felt ashamed because my child had to witness me being abused, and I couldn’t ask for help. I was ashamed to tell anyone I was being “beaten.”
AsAmNews: What finally prompted you to seek help?
Ms. C: It was the point when I could no longer bear to think that my child would have to endure this unhealthy life. I was afraid for my child’s future and outlook on the world. I wanted my child to grow up in a loving and caring household. When that became more apparent, I decided to get out of the relationship with my husband and his family.
AsAmNews: Do you feel that being Asian affected you in initially seeking help?
Ms. C: Yes. It is such a shame to discuss your family issues with other people, especially when there is violence involved. My mom always told me, “Once you are someone’s wife, you and your problems are part of that family.”
AsAmNews: What type of assistance have you received? Have they been helpful to you?
Ms. C: I stayed at KAFSC’s shelter for some time when I felt threatened for my life. Then, when I finally decided to escape from the abusive relationship, I was introduced to KAFSC’s transitional housing program, which is a long term program. Thanks to all the various programs offered by this organization, I have now relocated safely with my child. I am also working as a babysitter and participate in a support group which I enjoy so much — bonding with other survivors through the healing process. With KAFSC’s legal assistance, I have applied for legal status through the Violence Against Women Act.
AsAmNews: What is your situation at present? Is there any more abuse happening?
Ms. C: There is no more violence! I am working, raising my child, and continuing with counseling sessions. I am content with my current situation and trying my best for the future for myself and my child.
AsAmNews: Has the situation worsened for you since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in any way?
Ms. C: The employment situation has worsened. I used to work as a nail technician, and the pay was better. I would like to build my career, but that seems very difficult due to the pandemic.
AsAmNews: What advice would you give to people who may be experiencing domestic violence now?
Ms. C: Do not give up! You are not alone. Seek help.
AsAmNews: What can our readers do to help support people who are survivors of domestic violence?
Ms. C: Be part of the movement to end violence. And if you see or know anyone who might be struggling with domestic violence, encourage them to seek help. It should be everyone’s issue. Please care for us.
AsAmNews: What is the hope for your future and for your child?
Ms. C: My child is doing well, and my child is my hope! I love the fact that we are living together without any “bother.”
Ms. C was fortunate to be able to leave her abusive situation. For many other individuals, however, the ongoing abuse and violence is continuing at home and likely worsening given the pandemic. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse or violence in the home, you can take the first step by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline https://www.thehotline.org/ 800-799-SAFE (7233).
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