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
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
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.
The aim of our programs is to mobilize our community and provide information on
domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. We definitely include
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.
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