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Body Evidence

Intimate Violence against South Asian Women in America

Edited by Shamita Das Dasgupta

Publication Year: 2007

When South Asians immigrated to the United States in great numbers in the 1970s, they were passionately driven to achieve economic stability and socialize the next generation to retain the traditions of their home culture. During these years, the immigrant community went to great lengths to project an impeccable public image by denying the existence of social problems such as domestic violence, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, mental illness, racism, and intergenerational conflict. It was not until recently that activist groups have worked to bring these issues out into the open. In Body Evidence, more than twenty scholars and public health professionals uncover the unique challenges faced by victims of violence in intimate spaces . . . within families, communities and trusted relationships in South Asian American communities. Topics include cultural obsession with women's chastity and virginity; the continued silence surrounding intimate violence among women who identify themselves as lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; the consequences of refusing marriage proposals or failing to meet dowry demands; and, ultimately, the ways in which the United States courts often confuse and exacerbate the plights of these women.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi

...the contributing authors for their patience, imagination, and commitment to social the many battered women in my community and their courageous advocates—you are ...

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pp. 1-8

Abuse of women in the South Asian communities in North America is no longer a matter of conjecture, even though it might still be a matter of relative silence. In the past two decades, South Asian women’s activism against domestic violence has indelibly changed the landscape of the community and the larger nation. The...

Part One: The Body Chart: Mapping Domestic Violence in South Asian Communities

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Chapter 1: Understanding South Asian Immigrant Women’s Experiences of Violence

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pp. 11-23

The story above brings together many facets of abuse in the South Asian community. Domestic violence, while it is not unique to South Asians, takes on new and complex dimensions within the South Asian context. Due to various cultural factors, abuse and its effects in the South Asian community become complicated...

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Chapter 2: The Many Faces of Domestic Violence in the South Asian American Muslim Community

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pp. 24-37

Since September 11, 2001, Muslims have been thrust into the limelight in America. There is a great deal of interest in trying to understand the Muslim psyche. Muslims themselves feel scrutinized and under siege. Fear and suspicions are easily raised on both sides. In such an atmosphere, while Muslim religious and community...

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Chapter 3: Minority within a Minority: Reflecting on Marital Violence in the Nepali American Community

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pp. 38-52

Compared to many other groups of Asian origin, Nepali Americans have remained below the radar in regards to both scholarly and activist interests about their lives in the United States. The lack of systematic governmental data on this community as well as the tendency of outsiders to consider Nepali Americans as no different...

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Chapter 4: “Virginity Is Everything”: Sexuality in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence in the South Asian Community

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pp. 53-67

Although violence against women by their intimate partners and family members is a global phenomenon (Levinson 1989), there is a great deal of cultural variation in the patterns and manifestations of domestic violence (e.g., Ellsberg et al. 1999; Heise et al. 1994; Sorenson 1996; Walker 1996). Triggers for, responses to, and...

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Chapter 5: The Aftermath of September 11: An Anti–Domestic Violence Perspective

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pp. 68-78

The attacks of September 11, 2001, temporarily paralyzed the United States, as Americans attempted to make sense of the tragedy and deal with personal issues of hate, fear, and sadness. In many ways, the entire nation seemed to form a support group and individuals shouldered the burdens of their neighbors, friends...

Part Two: The Wounded Body: Emerging Issues in Domestic Violence Work

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Chapter 6: Mental and Emotional Wounds of Domestic Violence in South Asian Women

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pp. 81-93

Despite the growing literature on domestic violence in the South Asian immigrant community, research has not yet focused on the psychological outcomes of family violence on women of South Asian origin in the United States. Mainstream literature indicates that the psychological corollaries of being a survivor of domestic...

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Chapter 7: Fragmented Self: Violence and Body Image among South Asian American Women

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pp. 94-106

Eating disorders are one of the least visible and thereby least examined forms of violence experienced by women in the South Asian American community. However, the invisibility of eating disorders does not indicate its absence among South Asians. As more women of the South Asian diaspora are willing to discuss openly...

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Chapter 8: Silences That Prevail When the Perpetrators Are Our Own

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pp. 107-125

Although the term incest is frequently preferred by criminal, legal, mental health, and media professionals, in my work, I opt for the terms incestuous sexual abuse (ISA) and incestuous child sexual abuse (ICSA). Both labels grew out of the movement to prevent child sexual abuse in the United States. In the early 1970s rape survivors...

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Chapter 9: The Violence That Dares Not Speak Its Name: Invisibility in the Lives of Lesbian and Bisexual South Asian American Women

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pp. 126-138

In embarking upon writing this essay, I feel a great responsibility knowing that mine is the only representation of lesbian and bisexual women’s experiences in an anthology on South Asian American women. Initially, I tried to assuage this pressure of representing my community accurately by soliciting the input and feedback of...

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Chapter 10: The Trap of Multiculturalism: Battered South Asian Women and Health Care

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pp. 139-151

Despite increasing scholarly attention to the social underpinnings of domestic violence in the diasporic South Asian community, there is a paucity of research on how medical treatment of battered South Asian women is informed by both politically grounded misconceptions about South Asian immigrants and a problematic...

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Chapter 11: Ahimsa and the Contextual Realities of Woman Abuse in the Jain Community

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pp. 152-163

In the mid 1980s, even as the South Asian anti–domestic violence activists organized to safeguard women, the mainstream of the diasporic community denied the very existence of woman-abuse. It has been particularly disinclined to acknowledge domestic violence based on four commonly held beliefs: (1) the class-based assumption...

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Chapter 12: A Communicative Perspective on Assisting Battered Asian Indian Immigrant Women

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pp. 164-178

Much has been said and written about the need to include constituents’ voices in designing and implementing services and programs for victims of domestic violence. To ensure effective service provision, policy making, and planning, it is important to obtain input from the target population during decision-making...

Part Three: The Body Evidence: Law and South Asian Battered Women

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Chapter 13: Law’s Culture and Cultural Difference

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pp. 181-194

Feminist activists and scholars have deep ambivalence about the use of culture in legal cases when seeking state intervention in domestic violence (Coleman 1996; Volpp 2000a). We understand that violence is a gendered phenomenon— that is, inflected by culture (Bhattacharjee 1997; Dasgupta 2002; Rudrappa 2004b),...

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Chapter 14: Middle Class, Documented, and Helpless: The H-4 Visa Bind

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pp. 195-210

Unfortunately, Janice’s situation is not unique. Well-educated, English-speaking South Asian women who come to the United States to join their H-1B visa holding husbands find that the American women’s movement has no place for them. The legal strides that have been made on behalf of battered immigrant women in the...

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Chapter 15: Battered South Asian Women in U.S. Courts

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pp. 211-226

To end men’s violence against their female partners, the U.S.-based anti–domestic violence activists paid special attention to modifying the criminal legal system (CLS) to prepare it to play a critical and sensitive role in the lives of battered women (McMahon and Pence 2003; Pence 1999, 2001; Weisberg 1996). Today, many advocates and policy makers consider the mandatory arrest and subsequent legal

Part Four: The Body in Action: Activism and Transnational Anti–Domestic Violence Work

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Chapter 16: Navigating Gender, Immigration, and Domestic Violence: Advocacy with Work Visa Holders

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pp. 229-242

The topic of domestic violence advocacy with South Asian immigrants on temporary visas raises more questions than answers. In general, women who seek support from domestic violence agencies have a complex set of needs when responding to the abuse in their lives. Many immigrant women further contend with limited...

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Chapter 17: Local and Global Undivided: Transnational Exploitation and Violence against South Asian Women

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pp. 243-257

The story of Lakireddy Bali Reddy, a Berkeley, California, landlord from India who was sentenced to eight years in prison for trafficking and immigration fraud, is resplendent in the filmi drama of more than a couple of Hindi movies combined. There is sex, money, death, fraud, fake parents, a dead fetus, smuggling, and a...

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Chapter 18: From Dhaka to Cincinnati: Tracing the Trajectory of a Transnational Violence against Women Campaign

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pp. 258-274

In September 2000, I received a phone call from Bina inviting me to an event honoring television journalist Connie Chung and her ABC 20/20 team for the Amnesty International Media Spotlight Award.1 Chung and her team were receiving this award for the report “Faces of Hope,” which had aired nationally in the United...


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pp. 275-294

Author Biographies

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pp. 295-298


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pp. 299-305

E-ISBN-13: 9780813541273
E-ISBN-10: 0813541271
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813539812
Print-ISBN-10: 0813539811

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 5 tables
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Women immigrants -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States.
  • South Asian American women -- Services for -- United States.
  • Women immigrants -- Violence against -- United States.
  • South Asian American women -- Violence against -- United States.
  • Victims of family violence -- United States.
  • South Asian Americans -- Social conditions.
  • Family violence -- United States.
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