Advocates claim that Asian immigrant women experiencing sexual assault have fewer options than ever because abortion is either prohibited or is about to be restricted in dozens of states.
A Houston-based South Asian woman had long-term plans to escape her controlling husband. He refused to use a condom or allow her to take birth control, so he repeatedly sexually attacked her. She discovered she was pregnant just a few days before she intended to flee. Daya, a Houston survivors group that helped her as she was departing, said that she said, “It was bound to happen.”
The mother, an immigrant with few circumstances, gave birth to a child. She endured nine months of her husband abusing her. Three more years passed after she gave birth before she was finally able to go.
Advocates worry that when their right to abortion is taken away, immigrant women, who already experience high rates of domestic abuse, will be in even greater danger. Many Asian survivors were reportedly discouraged from seeking assistance even when Roe v. Wade was in effect because of things like cultural norms and limited English ability. Now that they have less access to reproductive healthcare, their options are gradually dwindling.
Jihye Kim, executive director of the Chicago-based survivor group Kan-Win, expressed her extreme concern for survivors. They “simply won’t have any say” in the type of life they choose to live.
According to the Asian Pacific Institute of Gender Based Assault, about a quarter of Asian Pacific Islander women have admitted to experiencing sexual violence at home. For some Asian ethnic groups, the rate is significantly greater; for Indian and Pakistani survivors, it might reach 64 percent. Advocates know from their work on the ground that immigrant women who don’t have many support systems in the U.S. take the biggest hits.
These experts assert that immigrant survivors describe a wide range of traumatic sexual assault experiences, including being coerced into becoming pregnant, having partners who refuse to use condoms, and having forced sex on a daily basis.
According to Amrita Doshi, executive director of the South Asian survivor network SOAR, “it results in unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion.”
According to her, they are losing control over their bodies as safe abortions become more and more difficult to acquire in many jurisdictions. It could be more difficult for survivors to flee, and the abuse might get worse, due to the physical and financial hardship of pregnancy and childbirth.
Many of our survivors have told us that the violence only intensified when they were pregnant because the abuser felt like they were losing control, according to Kim.
The situation could potentially turn deadly if the abuser doesn’t want the pregnancy.
According to Doshi, homicide is the main reason for pregnancy-related deaths. “Pregnancy-related abuse affects 1 in 6 people. Hearing those statistics together is terrifying. When Roe is overturned, it will further worsen what was already occurring during lockdown when individuals were denied access to contraceptives.
Existing barriers to reporting violence
Doshi and Kim observed that even before Roe v. Wade was rejected by the Supreme Court, Asian women who wanted to report assault frequently swam against the tide.
Despite the fact that domestic abuse affected 19.6% more Asian and Pacific Islander women than white women (34%), experts claim that these total numbers are deceptively low. In addition to lumping all Asians together, the statistics disregard individuals who lack the ability to voice up.
According to them, cultural norms may prevent survivors from acknowledging abuse as it occurs or compel them to discount their experiences. They could be reluctant to ask for assistance because of their limited English skills. A further deterrent to leaving completely is the risk of disclosing their immigration status or losing their permits.
Domestic and interpersonal violence can be found in any society, regardless of culture, wealth, or degree of education, according to Kim. But among Asian immigrants in the United States, the dynamics of power often operate against women and those who identify as feminine. Domestic violence is bred by a patriarchy. There are also a lot of obstacles.
The most recent obstacle is the overturning of Roe, according to Kavita Mehra, executive director of the women’s group Sakhi. And it will cost a great deal.
She characterized the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, which reversed Roe, as “another type of systemic gender-based abuse.” These options won’t always be available, even in places with exclusions for sexual assault in anti-abortion legislation.
Mehra, who serves on the SOAR board, said, “Will a survivor need to produce legal documentation that they have experienced sexual violence?” “What’s very challenging about it is that they’re going to be very afraid of sharing their experiences, especially if they’re undocumented. Going to the police already carries a certain amount of skepticism.
Access to contraception is under threat.
Community-based survivor organizations say they are preparing for the effects of the approaching possibility that contraception will be the next right to be eliminated.
In early epidemic New York City, Mehra answered calls from anxious immigrant women who were in increasingly harsh situations and had no idea where to turn for birth control. Activists worry that this feeling of panic will spread across the country.
Kim stated, “We have survivors phoning from other states who potentially encounter those circumstances. “In cases of domestic abuse, that might be a very serious danger. They might be identified and charged with a crime if harm is done. Numerous survivors have told us that sexual violence is a regular occurrence in their lives.
Any additional procedures to finding reproductive support may exclude immigrant survivors when the barriers to receiving health care are already significant.
Survivors already struggle with not being able to decide for themselves whether or not to have children or how to manage their reproductive health, according to Kim. “It just creates so many barriers when you combine that with not being able to obtain care at all, being watched, or the potential for prosecution.”
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