What is Sexual Violence:

The Asian Pacific Insitute (API) defines sexual violence as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.”

Statistics on Sexual Violence Towards Asian Womxn

Sexual violence against womxn and girls unfortuantley, especially those who are Asian, is common.

  • Of API women, 23% experienced some form of contact sexual violence, 10% experienced completed or attempted rape, and 21% had non-contact unwanted sexual experiences in their lifetime.
  • 21-55% of Asian women in the U.S.A. report experiencing intimate physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • In a study of 143 domestic violence survivors, 56% of Filipinas and 64% of Indian and Pakistani women had experienced sexual violence by an intimate.
  • In another study of 160 South Asian women married or in a heterosexual relationship found that 40.8% reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse by their current male partners and 36.9% reported some form of IPV in the past year.

Three Important Asian Womxn Stories

Evelyn Yang, Chanel Miller, and Rowena Chui are three Asian women who finally shared their sexual harassment and assault stories in late 2019 to early 2020, years after it had happened.

By sharing their stories, they hoped to help battle the stigma around discussing sexual violence. The three of them broke their silence and their stories went viral, empowering people around the world to speak up about their own experiences, advocate for themselves, and take legal actions.

  • Evelyn Yang, the wife of former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, was pregnant when her gynecologist assaulted her in 2012. In an interview earlier this year, she stated, “I didn’t tell Andrew or my family because I didn’t want to upset them. I thought: this happened to me. I can process this, I can deal with it, I can compartmentalize it. I just didn’t want to affect others.”
  • Chanel Miller, a Chinese American writer, was raped by Brock Allen Turner on Stanford University’s campus in 2015. In September of 2019, she wrote a book titled, “Know My Name: A Memoir,” which discussed the aftermath of her sexual assault. In her memoir, she recounts her fear of becoming a “protagonist” in her story after she had written an anonymous statement about her assault that went viral.
  • Rowena Chiu, an Oxford graduate, accused Harvey Weinstein of attempted rape at the Venice Film Festival in 1998. Her former boss denied her claim, told Chiu he “never had a Chinese girl,” and forced her to stay silent about it for more than 20 years before she wrote an op-ed article about it for The New York Times.

Why Don't People Talk About Sexual Violence

Countless sexual harassment and assault victims do not share their stories for various reasons. This includes: 

  • Being unaware that they were harassed or assaulted when it happens, and for a long time afterward 
  • Blaming themselves for the incident 
  • Fearing shame or judgment for speaking up  
  • Being clueless about who or where to go to for help or resources
  • Encountering legal restraints

Even after victims report the case, they still face numerous challenges. In instances where the perpetrator has more seniority, wealth, or influence, people may accuse the victim of lying or threaten them so that they are forced to retract their statements. This power imbalance allows the perpetrator to escape the blame and can delay— if not, entirely deny— the victim of justice. For example, in Rowena Chiu’s case, her former boss was a film producer and a multimillionaire, while she was only his assistant and an in-debt college graduate. Harvey Weinstein ensured that she knew he could advance or end her career in the movie industry. When Chiu tried to speak up, he used his power in the industry to pressure her into signing a non-disclosure agreement, which prohibited her from speaking about the attempted rape for years to anyone.

Why are Asian Womxn Specifically Targeted?

  • Concept of “face”: This concept is prevalent in numerous Asian cultures. It is called “mian zi” among Chinese, “hiya” among Filipinos, “chae-myum” among Koreans, and “haji” among the Japanese. To “save face,” Asians need to be aware of how they socialize and remain well behaved. If they are too outspoken or impolite, they “lose face” and bring shame to themselves and their families. 
  • The “Model Minority” myth: As a child, Asian Americans are taught to be submissive, silent, and inconspicuous. Therefore, people see Asians as “easy targets” because they tend to keep topics like sexual violence a secret.
  • Stereotypes: People fetishize Asian womxn, and label them as “exotic,” “dragon ladies,” “lotus blossoms,” “geishas,” and “prostitutes with hearts of gold” in the media.
  • Lack of other Asians: Due to the exclusion from most mainstream media, a lot of Asians feel invisible and isolated, so they may internalize their trauma.

What can we do?

  • Believe, support, and protect victims if they decide to report sexual violence: Some victims feel like they’re reliving the pain every time they discuss their trauma. 
  • Hold perpetrators accountable for their actions: The conviction rate for rapists is very low, and too often, the perpetrators of sexual violence go unpunished. For instance, in Evelyn Yang’s case, 17 patients had already accused Rober Hadden, the gynecologist, of sexual assault before Evelyn Yang did. Yet, when he finally faced charges in 2016, he only lost his medical license and was registered as the lowest-level sex offender, but did not go to jail. 
  • Realize the source of the problem is the people who perpetrate sexual violence: Instead of teaching people not to harass and assault others, people tend to place restrictions on what women can and can’t wear, participate in victim-blaming, claim the victim was “asking for it,” or ask the victim why they didn’t run or resist. It is not the victim’s fault.

Not Your Yellow Fantasy

Not Your Yellow Fantasy is a creative nonfiction book written by Joyce Giboom Park launching this December 2020. The book intensively studies ”Yellow Fever” and the various implications of Asian fetishization. From analyzing the history of Asian fetishization in xenophobic rhetoric as well as in imperialistic military tendencies, to going over how this topic bleeds into larger themes of pornography, sex trafficking & tourism, and media, Park provides a comprehensive look on this often “taboo” subject.

Important Resources

  • ATASK: A non-profit organization dedicated to preventing domestic partner violence and providing hope to survivors. They offer services in 18 Asian languages and dialects.
  • RAINN: The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization that helps operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) and carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.