Breaking the Silence of Abuse Groups Reaching out to Women from South Asia
Ahmed-Ullah, Noreen S., Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah Daily Herald Staff Writer
It wasn't the two ruptured eardrums or the nine miscarriages suffered at the hands of her husband over the span of 17 years.
It was the threat of losing her children that finally drove a Pakistani immigrant woman to seek help.
Her story is one repeated in the growing South Asian community sprawled throughout Chicago and its western suburbs.
As in any other culture, domestic violence exists in the South Asian community. But what is different are the characteristics of abuse that underlies this culture.
What it adds up to is a wall of silence so prevalent that these predominantly Indian and Pakistani women often endure violence for years and years. Battered bodies, damaged psyches and impaired family cycles are the result.
Two social service agencies that serve mostly South Asians chose October, Domestic Violence Month, to increase understanding about the plight of these women. Both Hamdard Center of Wood Dale and Apna Ghar of Chicago plan October fund-raisers to educate the public and the South Asian community and to raise funds.
Apna Ghar, which means "our home" holds its fund-raiser in Oak Brook today. Wood Dale's Hamdard Center, which means "we share your pain," has its benefit on Oct. 30 in Rosemont.
The older of the two shelters, Apna Ghar was founded a decade ago by five Indian and Pakistani women of varying professional backgrounds. The group serves 200 women a year. It has a 24-hour hotline and safe home and helps victims obtain orders of protection. It also encourages clients to pursue their legal rights, something many of them at first are unaware of.
Wood Dale's Hamdard Center was started by husband-and-wife team Mohammad and Farzana Hamid in 1993. The two clinical psychologists, who came from India 33-years ago, opened the agency and shelter after noting that domestic violence was turning into a "silent epidemic."
They see nearly 600 cases of spousal abuse a year, of which 60 percent are from DuPage County.
The two groups serve South Asians of varying religious backgrounds - Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.
The South Asian community, one of the fastest growing in DuPage County, numbers as many as 100,000 throughout Chicago and suburban enclaves, such as Schaumburg, Barrington, Palatine, Naperville, Villa Park and Oak Brook.
It hasn't been easy for the two shelters to match the need of their services as the population rapidly grows.
"When we started there was such a denial that we even had a problem with that," recalls Farzana Hamid. "People would say, 'These kinds of problems are American problems, and they do not happen in our community. …