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A Perspective from Rosa Lee

Rosa Lee is a graduate of Hofstra University School of Law. She is the founder of the Inter-APALSA Council (IAC) in New York and former Vice President of her local APALSA chapter at Hofstra. Ms. Lee resides in New Jersey and is pursuing a career in immigration and family practice.

Growing up in a highly competitive Korean-American community meant only sharing your best accomplishments and never disclosing anything that can be the subject of the neighborhood gossip. As such, throughout high school and college, I strove to be the best at school and behaving in manners that would only be complimented by the adults within my family's circle. I had no idea that anything other than striving to be financially and/or academically successful went on.

My college roommate from the "ghetto" of Trenton once told me that her mother was regularly beaten and threatened of her life by her own father. And I was deeply puzzled by the fact that her mother endured such conditions throughout their marriage (to this day, they are still "happily" married). When she told me that tragic story, I brushed it off by thinking that they live in a completely different culture; they are not Asian, not Catholic, and they are blue-collar thus such horrid violence against women can be tolerated. Man, was I wrong.

My summer associate position at a small firm in New Jersey opened my eyes wide and big to the fact that I was completely oblivious to violence that had been going on within my so-called "highly competitive" Korean-American community. I saw numerous divorce cases just during those three months that detail various kinds of physical and/or psychological abuse inflicted upon wives. The sad fact was that the firm was unfamiliar with domestic violence, so the attorneys did not know how to assist the clients in ways other than their legal cases. As my interest in domestic violence grew, I learned that Korean-American women make up only a fraction of Asian-Americans living with domestic violence on a daily basis.

The biggest problem for Asian-American women is that domestic violence is a topic that is not openly discussed within Asian communities. Even when it is discussed, people with no knowledge of domestic violence quickly brush it off and blame the abused woman: "oh, how unbearable must she have been that her husband beat her to that point?"

Additional problems grow out of the fact that the abused women do not know where to seek for help. Many times, these women are in the United States illegally and have a false perception that they cannot look for assistance or that help does not exist. They are afraid of deportation and separation from their children in the United States. Further, they believe that help is unavailable to them due to their language barriers.

It is critical that domestic violence is an issue that is discussed more often especially amongst Asian-Americans. Professionals must reach out to the communities with information on what domestic violence really is and the types of help that are available. Attorneys servicing heavy number of Asian-American clients should become familiar with domestic violence issue so that they can appropriately guide clients on how to get victims' assistance.

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