“Filipinas rise against abuse”

Did you see this story on the front page of the Star Advertiser this Sunday? Filipinas rise against abuse – Hawaii News – Staradvertiser.com. In case you don’t have a subscription to the Star Advertiser and missed it, here are a few excerpts and the graph:

Since 2004, the rate of men killing women locally has risen steadily, with Hawaii ranked eighth in the nation in the number per capita, according to a new study by a Washington, D.C., advocacy group that analyzed FBI supplemental homicide data for 2009, the latest year available. The Hawaii rate of 1.72 victims per 100,000 population was the highest recorded in the state since at least the late 1990s and marked the first time the islands cracked the top 10, the Violence Policy Center study showed.

Dingle’s killing also reflected a phenomenon that has perplexed advocates and others in the domestic violence community: Filipinos in Hawaii are dying as a result of domestic disputes at disproportionate rates — greater than any other ethnic group. Dingle was Filipino, as is her alleged murderer.


The over-representation of Filipinos was alarming enough that a group of Filipinas, prompted by the Dingle homicide, formed a grass-roots organization, Ating Bahay, or Our House, to address the problem. As a result of their efforts, a conference is being held Tuesday in Hilo to discuss what the Filipino community can do to help reduce domestic abuse within their ranks. Dingle’s death came only five months after the 2009 murder-suicide.


Cultural factors, such as deep religious convictions, a reluctance to bring shame to the family, an unwillingness to subject children to a divorce and the notion that family problems must be solved privately, also tend to keep the women from leaving, they said.

“Filipino values that victims have tend to make them stay in abusive relationships,” Soberano said.

Advocates also say the threat of deportation, even if not credible, will keep some immigrant women in bad relationships because they are unaware that U.S. law provides special protections allowing domestic violence victims to stay in the country legally.


WITHIN DAYS, the group organized a Hilo rally in honor of Dingle that drew more than 200 people. At Christmas, a Filipino-style celebration was held to emphasize positive outlets for families as a way to prevent violence. In February, the women conducted a community forum to generate further discussion on intimate-partner violence.

Bautista said this week’s invitation-only conference is designed to develop domestic violence prevention strategies within the Filipino community and to engage and empower its members to become more active in solving the problem.

“We’re not going to rely on the system,” she said.


The tendency of Filipinos to be over-represented in domestic violence homicides is not unique to Hawaii.

In a February 2010 study by the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, the San Francisco-based organization found that Filipinos represented the largest ethnic group among victims in 160 cases it analyzed nationally based on newspaper clippings. The 160 cases from 2000 through 2005 involved 280 victims from Asian and Pacific islander families. Filipinos totaled 57 of the 280 fatalities, or 20 percent. American Indians represented the next largest group, at 16 percent.

From a statistical perspective, the number of Filipino fatalities in Hawaii is small enough that one should not draw any generalizations about what causes the over-representation, according to Neil Websdale, a Northern Arizona University criminal justice professor and director of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative.

Nor should anyone conclude that Filipinos, because of their culture, are predisposed to resorting to violence, he added.

“It’s not the culture itself,” Websdale said

Its amazing to see a group of people coming together to take charge of an issue faced by their community.  It’s also important to remember that domestic violence knows no boundaries.  So often when domestic violence is discussed, we see an emphasis on domestic violence happening in lower income and/or immigrant communities (on the mainland you get the feeling that it happens more in urban/inner city communities).  Most data on domestic violence is collected based on people who are in the system, who have received services like shelter.  Let’s be real – if you have money to stay at a hotel to get away from your abuser you won’t go to shelter, you won’t ever be counted in the numbers;  this offers a skewed perspective on where domestic violence occurs.  When data shows that violence is happening “more” in certain communities it’s a red flag that people probably are not linking up with available resources and that a different intervention approach may  be needed.  Here is some insight from the Executive Director of the Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Veronika Geronimo: 

Battered immigrant women are among the most marginalized victims of domestic violence; abusers may utilize their language skills to deny information or access to resources or to confuse survivors of their options for safety and legal choices and may threaten her with deportation. Abusers often have more fluency in English and can thus navigate the cumbersome courts and systems with greater ease and speed. English speaking abusers also may seem more credible given their language fluency. Furthermore, abusers may restrict their partner from learning English and can isolate them from other individuals who speak their native language, barring them from opportunities to seek support and safety.

In Hawaii, a large part of the Filipino community are recent immigrants.  As Ms. Geronimo notes, one prominent tactic of domestic violence across the board is isolation, and this particularly comes into play with immigrant women in the United States whose batterers may not allow them the opportunity to learn English or surround themselves with others who speak their language. Another barrier this community faces is the threat of deportation and a lack of understanding about legal systems here.  So it’s amazing that this community is rallying together in support of their sisters, other family members, and friends.  Here is the graph that was included int he article:



About dvamhawaii

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is in October. Here you can find news, articles, stats, updates on DVAM events in your area, and more!

Posted on October 10, 2011, in DV news, DVAM updates and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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