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Domestic Abuse in the Hmong Community: An Initial Response

Let’s Face the Reality:

The abuse among children and women by men in the Hmong community has always been prominent. Though we typically hear of physical abuse, I am sure we’ve all heard whispers of the many other types of abuse that are being perpetrated. It is nothing new to the eyes and ears of many of us who grew up in a Hmong family. Many of us have turned the other cheek, hid away under the blanket from the abuse, or covered it by brushing it under the rug (with money). Yet, nothing can turn off the loud cries we’ve heard in our community over the past decade. Has there been an increase in abuse, or has there been an increase in children and women refusing to stand by as there’s an attempt to continue to mute the cries of those abused by our men? This is a hard question because with it, are attached many more complex questions that are deeply rooted within our culture. When I see viral videos, angry posts, and miscellaneous content on social media regarding domestic abuse in the homes of Hmong families, I often ask myself what God’s response would be.


This question I often ask myself is personal on so many levels because of my own experience growing up as someone who was [sexually] abused by male family members and seeing/hearing the women I love abused by their husbands. Despite a bruised body, sexual affairs, and emotionally and mentally broken person, the response was always “ua siab ntev” and/or paying out the collateral damage. As I talked through my childhood trauma with my therapist, she mentioned something to me that I’ve never thought of before, “It sounds like the culture you were brought in protects men at all cost.” This was the holy grail for me. The response from our community elders is not “ua siab ntev” or “let’s give you a couple thousand to justify the damage”, instead the response is to protect the men--to save their face for honor and dignity. What is more traumatizing--the physical and/or sexual abuse, or the invalidity of the victim’s abuse in order to “remove” the shame of a family? I do want to note that there are many elders in our community that do respond with true compassion and justice for the abused. However, Christian and non-Christian, we’ve allowed the latter to continue for so long that it would take generations to correct the cultural norm. And herein lies God’s response for those who are the vulnerables in our community, his Church.


God’s Response - His Church:


I understand that this is not practical. Our first human response when we see and/or hear about children and women being abused is to fight back those who perpetrated the evil. Nonetheless, we need to take a step back and focus on the abused before we try to fight the abusers. The Church is a means of how God has responded to the sick, oppressed, and vulnerable. Whereas society chose to throw out those who were suffering, God used the Church to establish hospitals out of compassion for the sick and suffering. In addition, the early Church opened orphanages and fought against the practice of abandoning unwanted children by creating foundling hospitals. On a smaller scale, God can use the [Hmong] Church to counter the Hmong cultural norm to protect the abusers. Where sin rages through creation, God seeks to reverse his creation by way of the Church.


The example set for the Church can be seen in the Gospel where Jesus cared for the vulnerables. In a time where children and women were disregarded and abused by society, Jesus went against society and showed compassion on them (Mark 10:13-16; John 8:1-8). Aside from the references of Jesus extending compassion to children and women, we see many times in the Gospel that Jesus tends to those who have been vulnerable. He doesn’t turn a blind eye but actually goes to them; he calls the sinners, sick, oppressed, and those in need of healing. In the three years of Jesus’s ministry, he sought after those who were vulnerable. Wherever those who were sick laid, he went to them; wherever those who were possessed, he went to them; wherever those who were shunned by society per profession / lifestyle, he went to them. For this reason, the religious leaders opposed him--because Jesus did the exact opposite against the cultural and religious norm.


Pursuing the children and women (and men) in our Church from violence may look like: opening the church to be a safehouse for those seeking protection and support; providing counsel for families that are seeking restoration together; and being a voice in our Church that abuse in the home and a marriage is not an acceptable character to God. In regard to further implications on marriage [because most oftentimes abuse occurs in marriage], I understand that marriage is so important to the Christian Church. But the question I have for us is, when Jesus said, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, does marriage supersede this? I strongly believe marriage does not supersede the commandment we have to love our neighbors--that is intervening for them in their abuse. Domestic abuse is the polar opposite to God’s plan for marriage. We see in Genesis that marriage is to depict the marriage as a one-flesh, helping relationship. Scripture discusses the mutual submission of a wife to a husband and husband to a wife, and the husband’s self-sacrificial love for his wife (Ephesians 5:21; Ephesians 5:22-33). With that said, let our community elders oppose our pursuit of children and women who are being abused in the homes of our community. Let them despise us for flipping the switch to finally shed light on the generational abuse that has been embedded into our culture. We cannot advocate for devilish behavior, rather we must seek to administer God’s Kingdom on earth.


The Church is not the end-all-be-all answer to resolve the generational practice of abuse. But it is the start on how we can correct our culture--there needs to be accountability. May we be the Church that projects the fragrance of Christ’s love so it can bleed into the heart of our community. Wherein, they can taste the compassion and hope that Christ has to offer. The end game isn’t just to protect those who are vulnerable from abuse. The end game is to show them Christ so they can live eternally in the glorious state where there will be no more pain, no more suffering, and no more tears.

 

Krystal Yang

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