Domestic Violence and Korean American Churches


Christian churches are strange, complicated gatherings of people where the tension between acknowledging brokenness and appearing virtuous is constantly present. Growing up in a Korean American church I always felt this awkward back and forth. People interacted with each other in superficial ways and no one spoke of their problems or struggles unless in hushed voices during some moment of juicy gossip. But, actually I guess that hasn’t changed too much even now. And, in my experience as clergy it certainly isn’t limited to just Asian churches.

I had originally thought I was done with this article, and wasn’t going to go further, that it would be short, simple, and sweet, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt and still feel really pissed off about the way women are treated these days.

Seriously, is this the fucking 1600’s?! From the drama in Texas over women’s rights and providing care for all situations even abortion to they latest in Iowa where the Supreme Court has ruled that basically employers can fire employees for being too attractive. And then this recent post on 8asians with the video of the woman being abused in a night club (I didn’t watch the video) kind of put me over the edge.

So, with all this, and looking into the face of my daughter, it’s really disconcerting to hear about domestic violence specifically within the Korean American church, as well as the continued problem of the lack of resources and safe space for these women to speak up. Especially at their churches.

According to New American Media who picked up the article from KoreAm:

“Among Asian Americans, Korean Americans are affected disproportionately by domestic violence. According to figures from the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, 80 percent of all Asian domestic violence cases in the city involved Korean Americans. A 2000 study from the nonprofit women’s resource center, Shimtuh, found that out of 214 Korean women surveyed in the San Francisco Bay area, 42 percent reported knowing another Korean woman who was being or had been abused at the hands of her partner, while another 50 percent reported knowing a Korean woman being abused emotionally.”

It’s a small slice but still pretty telling. This is more evidence that while these churches are meant to be nonjudgmental places it seems the stoicism of Korean culture overrides the priority of offering a gracious presence and tangible care for those in need. But, it’s really encouraging to hear that people are speaking up and that more organizations are seeking to cultivate that safe space.

For now, the best thing to do is to continue to speak up and bring awareness to the churches so these women know that there is help and they aren’t alone.

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About Mihee

Mihee lives in the Mid-West with her husband, toddler-aged twins (yes, terrible twos is actually a thing), and baby #3. Though her reserve of brain cells is seriously depleted she is still passionate about Asian American culture, religion and social justice for marginalized people, stories about Korea, sports, and power naps. During the day, she spends a lot of time trying to remember which baby needs to eat or get a diaper change, mentoring and ministering to college students, occasionally taking a walk, writing, watching Sportscenter, or grabbing coffee. You can read her blog here.
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