Local Nonprofit Finds Language Barriers in Reporting Sexual Assault for Asian and Pacific Islander Community Members


DES MOINES, Iowa– A local nonprofit has recently released it’s fïndings from a study on sexual assault in Iowa’s Asian and Pacific Islander community.

Monsoon Asians and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity said the purpose of this study was to find ways to better assist those in the local API community.  

Monsoon serves survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in Asian and Pacific Islander communities in Iowa. 

For seven months, Monsoon organized and conducted listening sessions with various API communities in the state to learn more about attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors related to sexual assault.

According to the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender Based Violence, up to 55 percent of Asian women in the U.S. say they’ve experienced physical and/or sexual violence during their lifetime. However only 18 percent of these women reported these cases. 

Monsoon said it saw similar findings in its studies, with every respondent acknowdledging that they’ve been a victim of sexual assault or knew of an incident here in their local community. 

However, the main barrier to reporting these incidents was language.

“Maybe you’re just not comfortable enough with English to be able to talk to certain organizations about this and you might not be aware that there are culturally specific organizations in Iowa to help you,” Community Outreach Worker for Monsoon Asians and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity, Loulwa Soweid.  “You might not be aware of sexual violence laws in Iowa that you know you can actually legally go after someone who’s harmed you.” 

Soweid says that the state can help solve this problem by allocating more resources to cultural organizations who work to be the bridge between their community and the state, to assist more people with reporting sexual violence. 

“There’s a lot of also culturally specific organizations in Iowa equipped to deal with culturally and linguistically specific situations when it comes to victims, survivors of domestic violence.  So investing in those communities as well and investing in organizations that are culturally specific is really really important,” Soweid said. 

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