Seeking Mental Health Resources for A/PI Survivors

By Marissa Young, Outreach and Training Coordinator, Asian/Pacific Islander Ddvrp-logoomestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP)

Domestic violence is a taboo subject in many cultures. Though domestic violence is common in all communities, it is especially difficult to promote an ongoing conversation in communities of color. In the Asian/Pacific Islander (A/PI) community, 21-55% of women experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Additionally, many in the A/PI community believe domestic violence to be only physical abuse. Many domestic violence service providers are aware that emotional and psychological abuse can lead to damage to a survivor’s well-being. Physical abuse leaves bruises and scars, but the psychological trauma from domestic violence has long-lasting effects on a survivor’s mental health.

Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP)’s Project Aware, a detailed needs assessment of Asian survivors of intimate partner violence, found that only 3.4% of survivors surveyed reported not experiencing any psychological injury. The statistics for depression and anxiety in A/PI survivors were astronomically high compared to national averages – 75% of A/PI survivors reported anxiety compared to the national rate of 3.1% and 71% reported depression compared to the national rate of 6.7%. These rates are especially concerning as A/PI survivors are less likely to use mental health services in comparison with White, Black, and Latinx counterparts. This means A/PI survivors of domestic violence have one of the highest risks for untreated anxiety and depression, which can interfere with a person’s ability to work, interact with loved ones, and have a high sense of self-worth.

Some of the reasons A/PI survivors do not seek out mental health resources include cultural stigma and lack of appropriate services. Cultural norms often prioritize family honor and image over individual well-being, and seeking help is viewed as weakness. The fear of rejection and shame from families and communities discourages survivors from using professional services. Even when survivors do seek help, they are often frustrated by the lack of culturally sensitive services.

It is integral to train service providers, from shelter volunteers to healthcare providers, in cultural competency to ensure their ability to provide good care for everyone, regardless of their background. Many survivors have reported negative experiences with counseling or mainstream social services because they felt misunderstood, demeaned, discriminated against, or disrespected. This further deterred survivors from continuing to seek help.

We must examine the barriers to seeking mental health services for A/PI survivors in order for them to recover from the psychological damage of abuse. To do so, we must address stigma surrounding the usage of mental health resources and the conversation about domestic violence in A/PI communities. Survivors who have negative experiences with service providers are further disempowered to access the services that they deserve. Encouraging community support for survivors will result in an environment of healing and recovery.

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Marissa Young is the Outreach and Training Coordinator at the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP). She works directly with A/PI communities and mainstream service providers in addressing domestic violence, sexual assault, and cultural humility in the A/PI community.

The Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP), a non-profit organization in Washington, DC,  has provided services to survivors of domestic violence in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia since 1996. It is an organization that was founded by survivors and continues to be survivor-led and driven. Their mission is to address, prevent, and end domestic violence and sexual assault in Asian/Pacific Islander communities while empowering survivors to rebuild their lives after abuse.

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YWCA’s Week Without Violence is part of a global movement to end violence against women and girls with the World YWCA. Want to join the movement to end gender-based violence? Learn more at www.YWCAweekwithoutviolence.org and join the conversation on Twitter with #WorkAgainstViolence.