Asian and Asian American Studies Program, Cal State L.A. | Mar. 25, 2013 | Spotlight

Cal State L.A. students empower to help advocate for domestic violence survivors

CSULA partners with CPAF to pilot community engagement training

Image: Five CSULA students along with CPAF manager.
L-r: Vanesa Ruiz, Tina Van, Kimiko Kelly (CPAF outreach and engagement program manager), Denisse Bernal, Christine Dillard and Dora Dang. Pictured: Training by the Center for Pacific Asian Family.
Materials set up for the domestic violence training offered collaboratively by the Center of the Asian Pacific Family.

Create a safety plan. Call the police in an emergency. File a police report. See a doctor for injuries. Find a shelter. Talk to a family member or friends for support.

These are some of the helpful tips that five Cal State L.A. students learned in order to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

This past winter, Denisse Bernal, Dora Dang, Christine Dillard, Vanesa Ruiz and Tina Van were enrolled in Cal State L.A.’s pilot Asian and Asian American Studies community engagement course (AAAS 450B), entitled “Non-Profits, Domestic Violence, and the Asian/Asian American Family.”

As part of the course, they participated in Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Training, a five-week series held in Torrance and organized by the Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF).

“Thanks to this amazing training opportunity, these particular students are learning how to respond and assist survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, both legally and health-wise,” said CSULA faculty instructor Michelle Har Kim. “For example, if asked to help administer a rape kit, or if they are subpoenaed in court, they now know what to do.”

With additional volunteer hours completed at the CPAF, the students will soon be formally certified by the state of California to work as survivor advocates.

Ruiz, a sociology major at CSULA, said that she participated in the training because she is planning to go into a career working directly with families.

“Challenging myself with this kind of training will help me guide my feelings in the future,” said Ruiz, “because sexual and domestic violence assault is much harder to deal with than verbal and audio therapy.”

Kim explained that the course was designed for students to have an intimate look at the operations of a successful nonprofit, and a better grasp of certain cultural hurdles in reporting violent behavior within Asian American families. It also addressed the need for translators and more detailed statistics on particular Asian communities.

According to the latest Violence Against Women Survey, conducted jointly by the National Institute of Justice and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “Forty to 60 percent of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent experience intimate partner abuse or sexual abuse in their lifetime.”

A 2011 report published by the Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence notes that “Domestic violence occurs in all populations regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, class, faith, immigration status, age, education, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

Center for the Pacific Asian Family was founded to help address domestic violence and sexual assault in the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. Its mission is to build healthy and safe communities by addressing the root causes and the consequences of family violence and violence against women.

“This course has definitely heightened students’ awareness about many issues that surround domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Kim. “In class, students who attended the CPAF training series often fueled discussions by sharing their latest experiences with us.”

The 65-hour intensive training covered the following topics: examining gender roles and societal attitudes toward violence against women; what is domestic violence and sexual assault; the dynamics of power and privilege; domestic violence and sexual assault in marginalized communities; and how to provide emotional support to survivors.

Ruiz now feels more prepared to handle and recognize domestic violence.

“Not only do I know how to detect a home where these actions are happening, but I also can detect the people that they are happening to and lend a hand,” she said. “I learned ways to aid individuals out of a situation like that. I also learned that legal help will be given to a person who goes through this situation. Overall, I know how to protect myself and those around me.”

Van, a double major in Asian and Asian American Studies and Chinese language, also benefitted from the training.

“Now, I have a better foundation of advocacy,” she said. “I learned how to console a survivor on the phone and through face-to-face conversation, in order to help him or her gain confidence, sense of control over his or her choices, and live an independent life.”

Ping Yao, director of the AAAS program, expressed that she was very pleased with the outcome of the collaboration and plans to expand the community engagement component in the AAAS program curricular.

“To enhance the partnership, the CPAF will present a panel at the University’s AAAS Scholars Lecture Series, where AAAS majors Tina and Dora will also discuss their experience in training and counseling,” she said. “This is scheduled for October as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.”

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