API CHAYA – struggling against domestic violence and sexual assaults against women in the Asian and Pacific Islands

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with Joanne Alcantara of API Chaya, struggling against domestic violence and sexual assaults against women in the Asian and Pacific Islands. Would like to thank Joanne for her time and important impulses to the discussion about women rights. 

 How was API Chaya founded?
API Chaya was born through the merger of two organizations, the Asian & Pacific Islander Women & Family Safety Center and Chaya, in 2011.  Both organizations were founded in the mid-1990’s and served Asian women experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault. Both organizations were deeply rooted in their communities and had long supported each other. By combining resources, we are able to provide robust services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
The Safety Center grew out of organizing within the Filipino community in 1993 sponsored by the Washington State Commission on Asian American Affairs out of concern for the prevalence of violence against women in their community, including several murders of Asian Pacific women. The Safety Center hired staff in 1997 to work with community groups to organize for justice and social change.
Chaya – “shelter” or “shade” in Sanskrit – was established in 1996 to serve South Asian women in times of crisis and need, and to raise awareness of domestic violence issues. Chaya was founded as a volunteer-led organization to fill a critical gap in services for women who are survivors in King County’s burgeoning South Asian community.
Are Asian, South Asian, and Pacific Islander women at a mayor risk of violence in the States if compared to their home countries? If yes, why?
There currently are no accurate statistics comparing the rates of violence Asian Pacific Islander women experience in the US versus their home countries. A common statistic repeated in the US is that one in four women experience sexual assault. However, this does not take into account ethnic groups and  LGBTQ communities.
API women experience different risks and barriers toward seeking help. There is often a language barrier, and it may be hard to find advocates who speak your mother tongue. Oftentimes, mainstream service providers do not provide culturally-relevant advocacy. Many of our clients are immigrants, and their abusers threaten to have their immigration status taken away if they seek help.
Our advocates speak multiple languages, and are there to guide clients through complicated legal systems.
In what ways do you support survivors?
We recognize each survivor’s worth and right to make decisions for themselves. We create a supportive space to talk about the dynamics of abuse or exploitation, to heal from trauma, decrease isolation, and increase skills that will help survivors build the lives and relationships they desire. Our advocates can provide assistance in forming safety plans. We know that a survivor is the best expert in their own experience, and our advocates offer ongoing support to build skills, choices, and strategies to reduce harm and isolation.
In addition to our survivor advocates, we have a housing advocate and legal advocate on staff to support survivors in navigating complex legal and housing systems.
We hold support groups and creative arts healing workshops. We can also refer survivors to other non-profit organizations when needed.
It is important to note that all our services are free and confidential.
In what do your community organizing programs consist? Do you also involve men?
We offer many community organizing programs, for a complete list, you can visit our website. http://www.apichaya.org/community-organizing-and-education/ The aim of our programs is to mobilize our community and provide information on domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. We definitely include men!
We’re especially proud of our youth program. We launched our youth program in the spring of 2015 in collaboration with the Filipino Community of Seattle. Filipino Youth Reunite to Elevate (FYRE)  program for young people interested in gaining leadership skills, building community, and learning about issues that impact Filipino youth. We have activities and discussions around gender-based violence, oppression, and consensual relationships as well as Filipino identity and culture.
In addition, our staff members regularly attend community events, speak on panels, table at fair, and give presentations.
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with several partnerships and allies in our local and national community. Among our many partners, API Chaya works with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the Muslim Association of Puget Sound, Filipinos Against Violence, the University of Washington, Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network, the Freedom Network, the Coalition to End Gender-Based Violence, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs.
Please follow us on Facebook, www.facebook.com/apiwfsc for more updates!