Utah Domestic Violence Council aims to aid members of Asian community affected by abuse

The Utah Domestic Violence Council works with many women's shelters, including the YWCA in Salt Lake City.

Story and photo by DANA IGO

Kenneth Warhola arrived at his Layton home Sept. 8 to find his wife locked in their children’s room. After several attempts to persuade her to open the door he broke it down. She was sitting next to the couple’s two children, Jean, 7, and James, 8, who were covered with a sheet and unresponsive. His wife, Sun Cha Warhola, 44, is charged with strangling them to death.

As the information came out in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News, it was learned that disputes between Sun Cha Warhola and her husband had been ongoing for more than four years.

According to the Tribune, Kenneth Warhola was charged with domestic violence in 2007. In another incident both Warholas were charged after an altercation in a parking lot. One report just weeks before the murders showed that Sun Cha Warhola alleged that her husband had sexually abused their children. The Davis County Attorney’s office reviewed the case and determined the accusations were unsubstantiated, as reported by the Tribune.

The Deseret News wrote that before the murders, Sun Cha Warhola called a Korean newspaper in a desperate attempt for help. She told Inseon Cho Kim, director of the Korean Times of Utah, that she dreaded leaving her husband with their children in the event of a divorce.

While all women have difficulty coming forward to get help for domestic abuse, women in the Asian community face a particular quandary. Prevention and educational programs on domestic crime aren’t targeted to Asian women. A report published by the National Asian Women’s Health Organization suggested that this is because society tends to view the Asian population as a “model minority,” meaning that they are viewed as achieving high rates of success.

Asian women have the lowest rate of domestic violence of any of the major racial groups. A small number of Asian and Pacific Islander women, 12.8 percent, reported having experienced physical assault by a partner at least once in their lifetime, according to a study published by the Asian & Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence. This was the lowest percentage among any racial class surveyed, which was cited by experts as being due to underreporting.

The unwillingness to come forward in cases of domestic violence among Asian women may also be perpetuated by culture.

Dr. Linda Oda, director of Asian Affairs at the Utah Office of Ethnic Affairs, said that abuse in Asian families isn’t often reported because their cultural values tend to stress keeping things within the family.

Unlike Western culture, traditional Eastern culture puts emphasis on the family instead of the individual, leaving Asian women feeling less inclined to report physical and domestic abuse.

The Utah Domestic Violence Council (UDVC), 205 N. 400 West, a nonprofit organization with resources throughout the state, is reaching out to the underserved communities across Utah in an effort to prevent future domestic crimes. In preparation for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, the council’s diversity coordinator, Hildegard Koenig, provided information to the Asian Advisory Council so its eleven members could pass it to their respective communities. She approached the council because it connects the Asian community with Oda and her office.

“By working and educating community leaders and building those strong relationships we can start a dialogue on how we can better assist victims of domestic violence in their communities,” Koenig said.

Sometimes the educational materials fall short. Salman Masud, the council’s representative of the Pakistani community, said the materials offered by the UDVC were only written in a few languages, which narrows the ability of non-English speaking Asian immigrants and refugees to know whom to contact in a domestic abuse situation. Currently the brochures are offered in seven languages, including Chinese, Tongan and Samoan. Koenig is seeking individuals to help translate the material into other languages.

Non-English speakers can call The Utah Domestic Violence Link Line, 800-897-LINK (5465). The hotline is currently available in 144 languages, making it a good resource for members of all communities who may not be able to get the printed materials in his or her language.  Many of the UDVC‘s resources can be accessed online, including special reports, training materials and a map of domestic violence programs throughout the state.