As daunting an issue as domestic violence can be, it becomes far more complex for women of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures living in America, said the president of a coalition that has organized a workshop on the problem.
"It's really double jeopardy we are facing here," said Kausar Ahmad, president of the Coalition of Women from Asia and the Middle East.
Women who are brought to America by marriages--sometimes arranged marriages--may live with abuse, and lack the freedom to work or get an education, she said.
"If you come to this country and you don't know what your rights are, you may accept that," Ahmad said.
Such disparities may leave women helpless when abused, neglected or abandoned. For example, a Middle Eastern woman in Diamond Bar was abandoned by her husband, and left without money or food for herself and three children, Ahmad said. For the six years she had lived in this country, she had been forbidden to work or attend school, so she was at a loss as to how she would support herself and her children, Ahmad added.
The coalition-sponsored Family Law and Family Violence Workshop will deal with such issues. It will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 15 at the First Presbyterian Church of Van Nuys, 14701 Friar St. A wide variety of domestic violence experts, lawyers, police, therapists, social workers and cultural experts will participate.
Anyone interested in the issue of domestic violence is encouraged to come, Ahmad said.
In some cases, she said, husbands have forbidden their wives to go outdoors or even use the telephone. Coupled with a limited ability to speak English, and complexities of cultural differences between their homelands and America, the victims often have nowhere to turn for help.
And, Ahmad added, the American legal system is often unable to cope with the specific problems of domestic violence among Asian or Middle Eastern communities.
For instance, Ahmad said, a man may have other wives in his homeland. "These are things the justice system in California is not prepared to deal with. We need to deal with these issues openly."
The Diamond Bar woman whose husband walked out in March has filed for a divorce, Ahmad said, but she still has no way to support herself. The coalition is campaigning to find her a job, a new place to live and is seeking donations, she said.
Preregistration for the workshop is $15, $25 at the door. To register, call the coalition at (310) 932-3100.
Those who want to help the Diamond Bar woman may call Ahmad at (310) 398-3248.