Breaking Free: The push to de-stigmatize domestic abuse in Houston’s South Asian community

HOUSTON – In the South Asian community, there is so much silence around being abused. While some of it has to do with a person’s immigration status, women of South Asian descent often don’t come forward to report the abuse because they’re worried about how sharing their story would impact their family and their community. They’re not thinking about themselves.

There’s a deep stigma against divorce, which in the South Asian culture is seen not as a personal failure but a family failure. When one person in a family gets divorced, it can very much impact the ability of their siblings or cousins to marry. For lack of a better term, it becomes a stain for both men and women.

“It’s all about kind of keeping the family together and not quote-unquote breaking up the family, when in reality, you’re in an abusive marriage. That family is already broken. So, the work we’re doing here is healing a family and we’re doing that through reimagining what a family can look like,” said Rachna Khare, Executive Director at Daya.

In the South Asian culture, you’re often dealing with multiple abusers. It may not just be the spouse but, all too often, it’s the in-laws as well. Advocates said this is the case with the vast majority of survivors they work with.

“They’ll go to other agencies that may not have the capacity to be able to serve someone whose abuser is not their spouse but their mother-in-law, you know, and so that’s why our services become very necessary and some of those cultural deep-rooted things you’re talking about; things from dowries to arranged marriage, you know, those are still very common in the home country, as well as here,” Khare said.

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