There are many misconceptions surrounding the occurrence and frequency of domestic violence, especially in the South Asian community. It is a crime that can affect anyone, regardless of social class, race, ethnicity and religion. Studies suggest that women of all races are equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner. An Allstate Foundation National poll revealed that “3 out of 4 Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.” Domestic violence is not found in a specific target group and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) one in four women has or will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
A major reason for so many misconceptions about domestic violence is unfortunately because it is one of the most underreported crimes. Experts believe that only one-third of domestic abuse cases are reported and this is why the issue is not seen as a world-wide crisis. A report by the CDC indicates that, “about 20% of intimate partner violence, rapes or sexual assaults, 25% of physical assaults and 50% of stalkings directed toward women are reported…. Thus, it is believed that available data greatly underestimates the true magnitude of the problem.” As a result, people often misjudge the severity and pervasiveness of the issue which brings about numerous stereotypes and misconceptions about the subject.
The more general misunderstandings are enhanced when they are put in the context of the South Asian community. Culture doesn’t increase the instances of domestic violence, but rather adds another dimension in dealing with the issue. The South Asian culture and its multiple religions often inhibit open discussions about domestic violence where the woman is supposed to be the glue that binds the family together. When combining the cultural inhibitor with the fact that domestic violence is a hugely underreported crime, one can see where misconceptions can occur. Additionally, survivors who may be immigrants with limited language proficiency and access to services can find it difficult to speak up and ask for help. As a result, many survivors are silenced and wary about sharing their experiences.
This silence that surrounds domestic violence in the South Asian community creates a need for organizations like Sakhi to generate awareness and consciousness about violence against women. Apart from its core work with survivors, Sakhi places a special emphasis on engaging and educating community members, both male and female. Sakhi believes that the participation and active involvement of the South Asian community will lead the way to true and sustainable change.