The world today is changing quicker than ever with social and technological growth, unfortunately, sexual assault is still happening every single day. Although people are beginning to talk about sexual assault, it is still not reaching a point where there is a solution, especially within the Asian American community.
1 in 5 women in the United States have experienced completed or attempted rape during their lifetime due to a sexual assault. 81% of women and 43% of men reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and/or assault in their lifetime. Sexual Assault is a commonly known subject in our world and it is so prevalent in our country. There are many gaps in understanding and silencing sexual assault and it’s experience especially within the Asian American community.
Why does the silencing and misunderstanding around sex happen so frequently within the Asian American Community?
The Asian American Experience:
As an Asian American, you may have experienced, or further not experienced the “sex” talk growing up. Conversations around this topic tend to be skirted around, avoided, or outright shunned when brought up within the Asian American families. Often when serious conversations around “sex” are brought up, they can be dismissed through through jokes or funny comments, receiver being awkward, or the receiver offering no support on where to get the information needed - leaving the child feeling as confused and lost as the beginning of the conversation.
Being able to talk about sex and sexual assault openly and frequently helps destigmatize the topic. Open conversations about sex reduces shame and stigma, while increasing silent safety within the community. This gives people permission to open up to their own sexual assault vulnerabilities. Sexual assault happens more frequently than it’s talked about within the Asian American communities . It also helps people to realize that the only person to blame in these situations is the perpetrator, and to help the survivor know that it wasn’t their fault.
If you are a sexual assault survivor - know this:
You are not a victim or weak for sharing your side of the story. You are more than a survivor. You are setting the world on fire with your voice and your truth. Your truth serves as someone's light, warmth, raging courage to share their story.
Permission to Light Your Voice on Fire:
Talking about sexual assault in this blog is not going to stop people from assaulting each other, however talking about it might help some people be more open about it amongst their friends and family members, it might help you light your voice on fire with courage. This will help people understand that these traumas are a stigmatized experience that victimizes so many individuals. This type of awareness allows for parents to have conversations with their children that it is something that happens frequently, and that explaining consent, respect and kindness to those around you is an important value to have.
Not talking about sexual assault or sex in general may be a comfortable avoidance for Asian immigrant parents to prevent you from knowing about it or partaking in it. However as children grow up with their friends, peers, and even the internet to teach them about sex, the taught information can be skewed -, making it more difficult to understand what sexual assault is, what it entails, and the gravity of it. In many cases, learning about healthy sex through these mediums leads to many children not learning about sexual assault as it is a topic that is lesser discussed than sex itself. This can turn into children and teens not knowing who to turn to and ask for help if they’ve been hurt or assaulted. This isolative behavior leads to deep shame and many mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety. Having this topic be open for discussion with family members and not stigmatized gives the opportunity for children, teens, and even adults to feel like it’s more of a safe option to talk and disclose their trauma in order to receive the help they need.
What To Do If You Have Experienced Sexual Assault:
Therapy, amongst other interventions, is helpful and useful for those that have experienced sexual assault. Therapy is a confidential and safe space to talk through the experience, to discuss the thoughts and emotions that you might have gone through, and process the narrative to find during the difficult time. The feelings and emotions that you went through are personal to you and therapy gives you that opportunity to feel heard and understood amidst your healing journey.
Therapy can also help you to heal by learning helpful tools to utilize in your daily life. These tools will reduce depressive and low emotional thoughts that can increase your anxiety resulting from an assault.
Anyone that has experienced sexual assault deserves a safe space and a safe person that they trust to listen to their story and what they have gone through. We deserve to know that it was not our fault, and that we are still a whole, worthy person no matter what has happened to us.
My hope as a Korean American therapist for our Asian American community is that we will become a generation of humans that embraces and listens to those that have been hurt. I hope that we can openly talk about and understand that this is something that happens on a consistent basis and that it is not something to shy away from or not talk about. We can come together to embrace and care for each other.
Faith Yoo, AMFT is an experienced Korean-American sexual abuse and trauma therapist in Los Angeles, CA.