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Study Finds Barriers To Accessing Support In Iowa's Asian Communities

Kassidy Arena
Facilitators of the community listening sessions released the findings of their six, 90-minute sessions over Zoom. They said some participants' feedback was hard to hear, but necessary to improve organizations in Iowa.

A team of advocates from a nonprofit group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders released their findings from a months-long study on sexual violence in the Iowa AAPI community.

The study found survivors of sexual violence within Iowa’s AAPI community still face many barriers to accessing resources for reporting and support. One of the big ones is language.

Loulwa Soweid wrote and analyzed the findings from the study.

"I've said before, a lack of conversation and awareness about sexual topics means there's often a lack of understanding of what constitutes sexual assault," she said. "If a victim survivor doesn't have a strong grasp of English and services only speak English, that is a barrier in them reporting sexual violence."

The participants also reported barriers in reporting and preventing sexual violence within their communities. And, they need more resources from the state.

Soweid said, at first, it was disheartening to see the same patterns and barriers people have experienced in the past.

"But then I shifted my perspective, and I think in the end, it just means there’s still work to be done," she said. "Change can be slow. Communities have to grapple with a lifetime of unlearning."

The nonprofit Monsoon Asians and Pacific Islanders in Solidarity facilitated the community listening sessions. They started in July with the goal of better understanding community attitudes and perceptions toward sexual violence, and how Iowa can better serve those populations.

“Participants were saying 'We want more education about our rights, we want more support from organizations, we want access to jobs so we can be independent,'" Soweid said.

The participants were from Karen, Bhutanese/Nepali, Arab, Pacific Islander and Asian American communities. Overall, Monsoon facilitators hosted six, 90-minute listening sessions. They were originally organized for in-person discussions, but COVID-19 forced a transition to Zoom meetings.

"There was this sort of two-pronged approach that participants wanted to inform older generations about their realities of sexual violence while working alongside younger generations to ensure a violence-free future," Soweid explained.

Monsoon plans to host more community listening sessions in the future for other underrepresented populations in Iowa.

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