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In recent weeks, many young community members have come forward to speak out about abuse that they have experienced at the hands of South Asian adults throughout New York. We take this moment to stand in solidarity with youth survivors.
We come together to condemn the actions of these individuals, who have wielded their positions of power against youth community members.
While all survivors experience their own unique battles in their healing journeys, youth survivors face a particular set of challenges along their healing journeys. A 2005 study from the CDC found that one in four girls (24.7%) is sexually abused before the age of 18 (CDC, 2005), and one in six boys (16%) is sexually abused before the age of 18 (CDC, 2005). Considering this data, it is also worth noting that, due to gaps in research, there is limited information available on South Asian youth survivors. Many youth survivors experience shame, silence, and disbelief from their families, upon whom they are generally dependent to survive. As school-aged folx, they often lack mobility, without a license, car, or nearby transportation, that precludes them from leaving their homes and seeking care on their own terms. A 2013 count on youth homelessness reported that 34% of those surveyed cited physical, mental or sexual abuse as a reason for homelessness in NYC.
Additionally, navigating the challenges of stay-at-home restrictions, remote schooling, and a pandemic are now added barriers to remaining in close contact to alternative mentor figures, such as teachers or coaches, who could provide knowledge on rights and resources.
The experiences of South Asian youth who have been exposed to violence are intensified by their political identities as members of a diaspora. Immigrant and first-generation youth face linguistic and cultural barriers to care, as well as gender, sexuality, caste, religious-based, and economic discrimination and insensitivity amongst service providers. Too often, “mainstream” agencies fail to effectively reach and serve South Asian survivors as they rarely have staff that can speak multiple South Asian languages and lack the cultural awareness to address and understand gender-based violence through a South Asian lens.
We acknowledge that service organizations, although necessary, are just one piece of how we collectively work to end gender-based violence.
We are particularly concerned about the backlash and dangerous disbelief of these survivors. A detrimental aspect of their experience is doubting the credibility and experience of the survivors. Without tangible “evidence” of assault, cases are all too often dismissed, diminished, and ultimately lost. Investigations into these cases are neither trauma-informed, nor does it consider that some crimes leave no visible trace, in spite of imposing immeasurable pain. This mentality is not only ageist in assuming malintent or ignorance of young people, it is also damaging to both those survivors and the community as a whole. With perpetrators at large––and their behavior rationalized––the cycle of violence will continue.
The police system that purports to address issues of violence proves time and again to be rooted in violence itself. Accordingly, many survivors find it impossible to approach police because of their immigration status, their sexual or gender identity, and other forms of systemic inequality that this system inflicts upon marginalized communities.
To bring an end to the systemic issue of gender-based violence, that has been passed down in our community, we must engage and educate ourselves within and on our communities. The responsibility is on all of us to be present & active interventionists for our fellow community members. We must work around and outside of our corrupt systems to create intersectional education, sanctuary, and solidarity for one another.
We believe young people. We continue to stand with survivors. We encourage you to stand with us.
As a community, we must engage in a mutual learning process and take up intersectional approaches to provide holistic care to survivors. We seek to cultivate a safe and affirming environment for all young survivors who have already bravely exposed abuse, and for those who will continue to do so, as this movement progresses.
Sakhi for South Asian Women stands with these survivors of abuse, and wishes to extend ourselves to any young folx who have experienced sexual violence.
You are not alone. For those seeking Mental Health Counseling and Advocacy, we are here to support you in your journey. To the community, we are here to offer Know Your Rights workshops and trainings on domestic violence and sexual assault.
Sakhi’s Youth Counselors and Advocates, Fyzah Tajdin & Azaadi Khan, continue their work with the young folx in our community through the Sakhi Young Leaders Program. This program aims to hold space for young folx and share historical context, social justice vocabulary, and tools to guide them as they navigate their journeys.
Azaadi will be co-hosting a Know Your Rights Workshop the week of August 24, alongside the City Commission on Human Rights. This session will share information on how folks can share stories safely, particularly in response to arising defamation suits. If you plan to participate in the training, we encourage you to please fill out this anonymous survey beforehand, to better inform the training.
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Sakhi for South Asian Women
Turning Point for Women and Families
South Asian Youth Action
Chaumtoli Huq, of the CUNY School of Law
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Mental Health Services
Reaching out for help during a crisis is a sign of strength. Contact NYCWell to talk to a counselor who can provide you with confidential support:
CALL: 1-888-NYC-Well (692-9355)
TEXT: “WELL” to 65173
Advocacy & Leadership Programs, Community Engagement
LGBTQ+ Competent Resources:
Hotlines & Mental Health