The causes and effects of violence on the AAPI community

Written by Emily Arismendy

As you may know, May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. During this month, as well as year-round, we want to honor and celebrate those who identify as AAPI. However, we also want to take this time to spread awareness about topics that especially affect this racial group specifically. At SAFE we want to educate our community about how violence disproportionately impacts specific groups. And we hope we can work together to minimize the harm it causes.

Hate crimes 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in hate crimes against AAPI individuals. Because COVID first spread in China, people channeled their frustrations into racist acts of violence against the entire Asian community.

The Stop AAPI Hate reporting center was launched in March 2020 to track and respond to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, and discrimination against AAPI individuals in the United States. According to their national report, from March 19, 2020, to March 31, 2022, individuals across the country have reported 11,467 incidents.

These incidents included verbal harassment (67%), shunning or avoidance (16%), physical assault (17%), and other forms of discrimination. Unfortunately, this also included cases of sexual assault. Stop AAPI Hate also found that from March 2020 to March 2021, there were 42 reported incidents of sexual assault against AAPI individuals in the U.S. This represents a sharp increase in hate incidents compared to previous years.

It is worth noting that these numbers may not include all incidents, as the data relies on self-reporting. Many victims may not report their experiences. Therefore, the data may not capture the full extent of the problem.

Fetishization and exotification

Unfortunately, the pandemic isn’t the only cause of violence against the AAPI community. Our society normalizes many stereotypes that may lead to violence against a group of people.

The fetishization and exotification of AAPI individuals refers to the objectification and reduction of AAPI people to sexual stereotypes or fantasies based on their racial or ethnic background.

This phenomenon has roots in historical and cultural factors, including:

  1. Orientalism
  2. Colonization
  3. Media portrayals that perpetuates harmful stereotypes

Western colonial powers portrayed Asian cultures as exotic and mysterious, emphasizing ideas of submissive and hypersexualized Asian women. These depictions often served to justify and perpetuate colonial domination and exploitation. The concept of Orientalism, popularized by scholar Edward Said, describes the Western representation and construction of the “East” as an exotic and erotic “other.” AAPI individuals have often been subjected to Orientalist stereotypes that depict them as submissive, docile, and sexually available.

The media has also played a significant role in perpetuating stereotypes and fetishization of AAPI individuals. Media has historically portrayed AAPI women as “Dragon Ladies” or “Lotus Blossoms,” perpetuating the idea of them being seductive, dangerous, submissive, and exotic.

Finally, some individuals develop a fetish for AAPI individuals, known as “Yellow Fever” or “Asian Fetish”. This reduces people to objects and ignores their unique personalities, cultures, and identities.

The consequences

The exotification and fetishization of AAPI individuals can have severe consequences. It reinforces harmful stereotypes, objectifies people based on their racial background, and perpetuates racism and discrimination. Furthermore, it leads to dehumanization, interpersonal harassment, and increased vulnerability to sexual violence.

Abuse in Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities occurs at high rates, especially with women experiencing intimate partner violence. According to the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, up to 55% of Asian women in the U.S. have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, while 18% of AAPI women experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner.

To combat AAPI fetishization and exotification, we must challenge stereotypes, promote accurate media portrayals, and foster cultural awareness.

Barriers to seeking help

In addition to increased domestic violence rates, barriers to receiving help can include victim blaming, financial limitations, language barriers, cultural/religious expectations, immigration status, and more.

Resources in Austin

Asian Family Support Services of Austin (AFSSA) is a nonprofit organization based in Austin that provides assistance to Asian and other immigrant families dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking.

The Asian American Resource Center creates a space of belonging and healing for Asian American communities in Austin and beyond.

Here at SAFE we serve survivors of all identities, regardless of race, nationality, identity, gender expression, status, ability, or any other factor.

Our SAFE Institute trainings provide education around how abuse may affect certain communities and how we can combat harmful stereotypes in our workplaces and personal lives.

What you can do

Remember we all need to do our part. Together, we can make a difference and put an end to violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. Let’s stand united and take action to create a safe and inclusive city for all.

Here’s how you can contribute:

  1. Educate Yourself: Learn about the experiences, history, and contributions of the AAPI community. Understanding their diverse cultures and challenges is crucial in fostering empathy and breaking stereotypes.
  2. Speak Out: Use your voice against racism, discrimination, and hate. Call out any form of violence or prejudice you witness and engage in conversations to educate others about the importance of embracing diversity.
  3. Support Local AAPI Businesses: Show your solidarity by actively supporting AAPI-owned businesses in Austin. Whether it’s dining at restaurants, shopping at stores, or using services, your patronage helps uplift their community and empowers economic growth.
  4. Get Involved: Join local organizations and initiatives dedicated to combating violence and promoting inclusivity. Volunteer your time, skills, or resources to support AAPI advocacy groups, community centers, and social justice initiatives.
  5. Spread Awareness: Utilize your social media platforms, community groups, and personal networks to raise awareness about the issues faced by the AAPI community. Share educational resources (like this blog!), news articles, and personal stories to encourage dialogue and understanding.
  6. Be An Ally: Be an ally to the AAPI community by actively listening, learning, and amplifying their voices. Stand up against racist jokes, microaggressions, or stereotypes. Engage in discussions that promote respect, empathy, and equality.
  7. Report Incidents: If you witness or experience any acts of violence, discrimination, or hate crimes, report them to the appropriate authorities or organizations. Prompt reporting is crucial in holding perpetrators accountable and ensuring justice for the victims.

Change begins with each one of us. By embracing diversity, fostering understanding, and taking action, we can build a community where everyone feels safe, respected, and celebrated. Together, let’s make Austin a shining example of unity and compassion.

Read last year’s AAPI Heritage Month Blog.