Covid-19 restrictions, resultant job losses and tension at home are contributing to increased instances of domestic violence in many South Asian communities in the United States, activists say.
The domestic violence helpline at South Asian Network (SAN) has been receiving many calls which have increased by over 50 percent over the last six months, Shikha Bhatnagar, executive director of SAN, told indica News.
Recently, the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON) released a report on its study on domestic violence within five Los Angeles Asian immigrant communities.
The specific goals of this study were to provide insight into cultural dynamics surrounding in Los Angeles County Asian American communities and to develop recommendations for how to approach the multi-layered issue of domestic violence within Asian American communities.
The research explores the risk and protective factors of domestic violence in Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, North Indian Hindu, and Pakistani Muslim communities as well as effective solutions for domestic violence prevention.
“This report will help us to targeted outreach, that is more culturally sensitive to these different communities we work with,” Bhatnagar told indica News.
She said there was ample data of domestic violence in Asian-American communities, but there has not been much research on how to approach domestic violence within the Asian American community, and if broken further down by region there is not much data.
“We have served young women who are newly married and some are very young in their early 20s,” said Bhatnagar. “We also serve senior older adults who have been abused and I don’t think this issue is known in our community very well.”
Asked why the report says “North Indian Hindu community,” Bhatnagar said it was focused on the cultural dynamics of the family.
“We wanted to form groups that were as similar to each other as possible,” she said. “And you know, North Indian Hindu culture is different from North Indian Sikhs and North Indian Hindus are different from South Indian Hindus. There are so many cultural dynamics that we have within India itself.”
“The desi community in Los Angeles is one of the fastest-growing communities in the United States and in California,” Bhatnagar said. “What is highlighted in the report is also the differences between the Hindu families and the Muslim families.”
She said: “What you see from the report is that religion comes into play; the Muslim families have a different relationship with their religion and that influences their perception of violence, and that did not come when you talk to Hindu family.”
“So, differences lie among Hindu and Muslim families. I think that’s very important for SAN with so many communities. We are a South Asian organization so it was just important we just don’t do a study on Indian American and at least have another community to look at and show how there are differences even within the South Asian community and how do we approach domestic violence,” she said.
“Even within the Hindu community caste plays a role in the way gender equity and violence” are perceived, she said.
“We focused on North Indian and Hindu came because the Hindu population is so larger and also, we did not want to mix Punjabi Sikh or any other because their culture is different,” Bhatnagar said.
She said more targeted, specific research was needed to help figure out the best ways to protect against domestic violence and to intervene and help domestic survivors.
She said the pandemic had exacerbated the challenges of helping domestic violence victims, often because due to Covid-19 restrictions everyone is at home.
“So, we have to be more creative in reaching out to them and they have to be creative in reaching to us. Because sometimes the perpetrator is at home,” Bhatnagar said.
Another challenge SAN has been facing is in connecting clients with legal and housing shelter resources that have taken longer to provide due to the pandemic.
“That has been difficult and everybody is overwhelmed with the demand for services right now.” Bhatnagar said.