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Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO)

Q&A with Arami Youn, Staff Attorney

Q: What is the problem/need in the community that APILO is trying to address with the KACF-SF grant this year?

A: With the KACF-SF grant, APILO hopes to address the unmet needs of victims of domestic violence and human trafficking in the Korean American community.  It has become increasingly clear this past year that our nation and our communities continue to be plagued by issues of gender-based and domestic or intimidate partner violence (IPV).  Along the legal and social service needs of survivors of violence, there is a need to educate and improve upon the ideological framework in which violence often thrives.  Survivors of IPV face many barriers to leaving their abusive environments; these barriers are compound-ed when English language ability limits their access to resources and information. That’s why APILO believes in the importance of providing holistic services that are culturally and linguistically competent. We currently have four Korean-speaking staff, in addition to volunteers, who are able to provide services to Korean clients and do outreach into the Korean community.

Q: What are the main challenges to addressing the issue of domestic violence within the Korean American community?

A: One of the main challenges we face is the stigma that surrounds the issue.  Too often, domestic violence is seen as a shameful and “private” issue. The unfortunate result is that this stigma discourages victims from seeking services and encourages them stay hidden and isolated.  Further, community leaders, including pastors and other religious leaders, may be hesitant to address these issues if they are seen as taboo.  Another challenge for Korean survivors of domestic violence is accessing free or low-cost services that are linguistically and culturally competent.

Q: How is APILO addressing these challenges? What do you hope to achieve this year with our grant?

A: APILO is addressing the first challenge by through both targeted and general outreach. We are partnering with other community organizations serving the Korean American community to do more targeted outreach to pastors and congregations, and at community events. We will also do more general outreach by developing discrete resource cards in Korean language to leave in public places and Korean American businesses. The materials will avoid using potentially stigmatizing language and will be sized so the cards can be easily carried in a wallet without “outing someone” as a domestic violence victim.

In order to address the issue of accessing linguistically and culturally competent services, APILO has Korean-speaking staff in both the agency’s offices (San Francisco and Oakland). APILO also continues to build relationships with Korean American community organizations and programs so that clients can receive holistic services. We also hope to create broader impact by conducting trainings and providing technical assistance to both service providers and community members. Through these trainings, we expect to identify those who want to help and be involved.  Eventually, we would like to maintain a pro bono panel of attorneys committed to representing or providing legal services to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.  APILO will match these pro bono attorneys to clients and provide mentorship to these attorneys.

Q: What is most important message you would want to convey to the Korean American community with regard to DV?

A: That continuing to view the issue of domestic violence with stigma or even denying that it exists, is actually hurting our community. We need to work together to provide resources and assistance to those who are in abusive situations, and not further isolate them.

Q: Has APILO seen any changes or trends in recent years in terms of domestic violence issues and needs within the community?

A: In recent years, we have seen the issue of domestic violence more publicized than ever before.  However, despite the tireless efforts of community leaders and organizations, there is still a long way to go. Our communities are constantly changing and domestic violence outreach and advocacy must adapt.  Specifically in the Bay Area, the rising cost of housing may be a factor in a survivor’s decision to leave an abusive relationship. Our clients have stated that one of their fears was not knowing if they would be able to find affordable housing if they left their abuser. Our clients have also expressed that the current political climate and national anti-immigrant sentiment has created fear that their abusers could exploit.  Their abusers would try to exert power and control over them by threatening to report them to immigration officials or to call the police for not having lawful status. APILO continues to work with different community organizations to address the housing needs of our clients and to educate the community on immigration remedies that are available and specifically designed for survivors of domestic violence.

Q: Beyond domestic violence, what (if any) changes are you seeing in the community you serve as a result of changes in the post-election political climate? And how is APILO responding to those changes?

A: Since the presidential elections and inauguration, APILO has felt the overall sense of fear and panic in our immigrant communities. We have had an increased number of phone calls from clients and the community in general asking about how the new administration’s orders and policies will affect them.  We are responding by regularly providing “Know Your Rights” trainings and materials so that community members will have the tools to protect themselves and educate others about their constitutional rights.