Why I Love Mom – Special Blog for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Throughout the month of May, we are encouraging readers to take a moment to reflect on the mothers or mother-like figures in their lives. May also happens to be a special month celebrating Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States, so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to share a few stories from the CPAF staff to get you started in thinking about your own relationships. Here are a few prompts that you can think about as you get started on your journey of gratitude.

Anna Lee, Development Coordinator

Anna Lee and her mom, Jane Lee

Why I Love My Mom:

“My mom is my rock, though I haven’t always seen it that way. I am truly blessed with the family I have, and a strong mother whom I choose to turn to when I need guidance or solid, foundational advice.

Mama Lee is smart – she’s quick to calculate, and it’s hard to get anything past her. In that way, I guess she ingrained in me the horrible feeling of lying and why I avoid it today.

Mrs. Lee is hands on – before calling a technician, she’ll troubleshoot the problem herself, and if she needs a professional to do it, she’ll call them, but she’ll know the problem and solution better than they do 80% of the time. Again, nothing gets past this woman. She’s taught me to take initiative.

She’s definitely more firm than gentle. When I sought sympathy, she’d call me out on the real problem instead – keeping me in check, and being real always. She taught me not to pity myself or seek pity from others; she taught me to admit my wrongs and be stronger for it.

Oh, and she’s 5 feet. That just makes all the above that much more entertaining. What’s not to love?”

What I Learned from Mom on Being Asian American:

“Growing up, being Asian was never directly pointed out or discussed in my family. I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian community, and never really thought too much about being Asian. Even when I brought purple rice to school for lunch in 5th grade, questions were asked, but I wasn’t phased. I maybe felt weird a couple times when I would wear shoes INSIDE the house of some of my friends.

I think the more impressionable discussions come from very recent times, when my mom talks about her mom and family – about how they were impacted by the Korean War, and the hardships that stem from a patriarchal society where the man is respected and the woman isn’t, especially the daughter-in-laws of families. My grandmother has lived a tough life with a lot of unfortunate and scarring events, to say the least. When I asked my mom how she and her siblings all turned out to be fairly healthy and “okay” even with such a traumatic past between their parents, she responded, “‘It’s because of your grandmother. Her strength. Her love. That is why the mother is so important.'”

Christine Lee, Community Engagement Manager

Christine Lee and her mother Kyong Lee. Courtesy Pat Shannahan, The Arizona Republic

Why I Love My Mom:

“My mom brought me up with a lot of love in a country that was foreign to her.

She was a single mother, and she raised me without a dad but gave me a loving family atmosphere despite that with three aunts and a pair of grandparents.

My mom sacrificed a lot of things in life, like her career, to make sure that I have the best chance of success living in America.”

What I Learned from Mom on Being Asian American:

“My mom taught me about hard work and perseverance.

She made sure I was well-rounded (playing piano and violin; taking ice skating and swimming lessons; going to Kumon and other tutoring services) so that I can get into a good college and live a life she couldn’t live.

My mom told me that she gave up being a nurse when she immigrated to America during the 1970s. The language barrier was too difficult for her to overcome, so she started a small business then made her way into becoming a government employee.

My mom wanted me to be a doctor or engineer like many other Asian moms, but she compromised when she learned that I really wanted to become a storyteller. She believed in my desire to do something other than what she had hoped for and has been supporting me ever since.”

Michelle Esperanza, Development Director

Michelle Esperanza, Development Director at CPAF

Why I Love My Mom:

“My mom is pure love. She is kind, thoughtful and caring about her family and community. She is an inspiration.”

What I Learned from Mom on Being Asian American:

“Mom came here as a child when her father, who served in the U.S. Navy, moved his family here. She lived in Florida in the late 1950s – where people stared at them openly, came out of their shops to ask where they were from – and California in the 1960s. She continues to lives her life with grace each day and celebrates Filipino family traditions while incorporating elements from her life as an American.”

Ellen Hong, Community Program Director

Ellen Hong, Her Two Daughters, and Her Mother Li-Shun Huang Hong

Why I Love My Mom:

“My mom is one of the most humorous, compassionate, nurturing and humble people I know.  As a Taiwanese immigrant, she and my father pastored a small Taiwanese church.  When my mom wasn’t working or taking care of our family, she spent a lot of time visiting parishioners, particularly those who were ill or elderly.  I recall a particular woman named Peggy who was diagnosed with cancer whom my mom visited on a weekly basis.  As busy as my mom was, she would cook for Peggy and bring her chicken soup with special Taiwanese herbs.  Not realizing it at the time, these visits gave me a window into my mom’s love and compassion as an outward expression of her faith, which has left a lasting impact on me.

As a mom of two girls now, I also hope to instill values of love and compassion in my children the same way that my mom instilled that in me, through her actions and her words.”

What I Learned from Mom on Being Asian American:

“My mom has always taken pride in being Taiwanese, but she is also incredibly open when it comes to those who hold differing world views.  Her humility is evinced in the way that she actively gleans and learns from others’ perspectives.  While she has faced the struggles common to many immigrants, she also doesn’t see herself as a victim.  Rather, she boldly engages and looks for opportunities to exchange ideas and experiences. She is the lifelong learner that I hope to be.”

How to teach young people about sexual assault?

Use current day events as an opportunity to foster critical thinking and discussion

Two weeks before Denim Day on April 26th 2017, four of CPAF prevention youth leaders led a discussion on the controversial court case that lay the foundation for Denim Day with their peers and adult allies at Alhambra High School. CPAF’s youth leaders explained the actual court case and facilitated a discussion on whether the court’s ruling was fair or not.

Statistic: 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted at one point in their life (nsvrc.org)

For those who were unfamiliar with the case, CPAF youth leaders shared that in 1999, an 18 year old girl in Italy was learning how to drive when her 45-year old instructor drove her to an isolated spot, forced her to get out, and raped her. This crime against the girl eventually got the attention of the highest court in Italy. In the end, the court ruled that the girl could not be raped since she was wearing tight jeans, as the girl must have given her consent if they were taken off.

The discussion on the court case ended up leading to a larger discussion on sexual assault of women in our society. Students wondered why women tend to be blamed for causing the assault because of what they were wearing or how they were acting while men were not as often held accountable for their actions. This point led one student to ask why at their high school there are more campus policies regulating what girls can wear compared to what boys can wear.

One student shared that if this case happened in the present day, the judge probably would rule in favor of the girl, which resulted in other students sharing about recent cases that proved otherwise- including the Brock Turner case and the case of Emma Sulkowicz, who carried her mattress around Columbia University until her rapist was removed.

In the end, we concluded that our aim wasn’t to attack any particular group, but that we wanted to come together to fight for what is right so everyone can be better off.

Discussions like these can give young people the space to share their perspectives and learn together- and ultimately, help change the narrative to re-shape norms and beliefs we hold around sexual assault.

Guest Blog for SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month)

Guest blogger Nina is a Junior at Westridge School for Girls

Nina, on the left, and her friend Therese were a part of CPAF’s API Youth Forum in 2016

I learned more than an average teenager would about domestic violence and sexual assault as one of CPAF’s Youth Leadership pilot program participants. I took CPAF’s 65-hour training and volunteered last two summers at CPAF’s emergency and transitional shelters. As I’m preparing to go to college, I became increasingly aware of how prevalent sexual assault is across the country. Studies show that one in five women are sexually assaulted during college, which means that I or a friend will become a target too.

I began researching how different universities respond to sexual violence, and I wanted to share these resources with those who may also be looking for a safe campus to call their home-away-from home for the next few years.

Who to ask: These groups and organizations should be most knowledgeable on this topic.

  • Student Advocacy Groups or Student Peer Counselors: Many colleges have them, and they should be able to provide the most accurate information on how the administration treats the students who are sexually assaulted, and the students who assaulted them.
  • Title IX Officers/Coordinators: Since 2011, colleges are required to have a Title IX Officer/Coordinator who takes reports, investigates allegations, and adjudicates sexual assault cases. They also educate the campus community about sexual assault via prevention programs.
  • Counseling/Health/Violence Prevention Center: Most colleges will have one or more of these.

What to ask: These are some basic questions students and parents can ask when visiting campuses.

  • Are there any trainings during orientation that address sexual assault awareness or prevention?
  • How does this school react to sexual assault cases?
  • How does this campus support victims of sexual assault?
  • Are there policies that hold sexual assault perpetrators accountable?
  • Has this campus ever been investigated for violating Title IX?
  • Can you tell me how to access your school’s Clery Report? (The Clery Act is a federal law requiring all colleges participating in federal student aid programs to disclose crime statistics and summaries of security policies every year.)

Keep in mind:

Colleges don’t want to be known for having high levels of sexual assault, so they may underreport. In these cases, do your own research (search local news reports, police logs, etc.)

Special thanks to Daren Mooko, the Title IX Coordinator at Pomona College, for his guidance.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and CPAF’s Volunteer Coordinator Elizabeth Denny took this picture of the Clothesline Project while tabling at UCLA

Call Your Congressional Representative: Support Funding for Programs for Domestic Violence Survivors

According to the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV), twenty-six California members of Congress signed on in support of Violence Against Women Act and Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (VAWA & FVPSA) funding, and thirteen signed on in support of Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding. Here is a link to CPEDV’s list of signers and you may look up your congressional representative here.

We encourage you to call your member of Congress and thank them for their support; and if they did not sign on, feel free to call them to ask them to support this important funding.

Below is a sample phone script (courtesy of CPEDV) to call members of Congress who signed onto VAWA and VOCA Letters; feel free to adapt the areas as needed for your member of Congress.


To thank your member of Congress for supporting funding for programs for domestic violence survivors:

  • Hello, on behalf of Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF), I want to thank the Congresswoman/Congressman for signing on to the “Dear Colleague” letters in support of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) & Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) funding, [as well as the letter in support of Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds].
  • As you know, these funding sources provide foundational, essential funding to support programs serving survivors of domestic violence in the district and all across California and the country.
  • We deeply appreciate the Congresswoman/Congressman support for this funding in the Fiscal Year 18 Appropriations bills. Thank you.


To ask your member of Congress to support funding for programs for domestic violence survivors:

  • Hello, on behalf of Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF), I want to thank the Congresswoman/Congressman for signing on to the “Dear Colleague” letters in support of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) & Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) funding, [as well as the letter in support of Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds].
  • As you know, these funding sources provide foundational, essential funding to support programs serving survivors of domestic violence in the district and all across California and the country.
  • We would deeply appreciate the Congresswoman’s/Congressman’s support for this funding in the Fiscal Year 18 Appropriations bills. Thank you.

Thank you for your support! CHANGE INVOLVES YOU.

CPAF at LA Galaxy’s Asian Pacific Islanders Night

Thank you soccer fans for supporting CPAF at LA Galaxy’s game celebrating Asians and Pacific Islanders! The home team will be donating a portion of its special ticket sales back to CPAF.

Here are some pictures of supporters who came out to watch the Galaxy make a comeback and tie with the Fire on May 6th.

Celebrating Our New Home

On March 14 and 15, we hosted Open House events, welcoming longtime supporters and community partners to our new Community Center location on Wilshire Boulevard in the heart of Koreatown.  At this location, we continue to provide our multi-lingual 24-hour hotline, culturally sensitive counseling services, and community resource referrals.

As we approach 40 years of establishment since our founding in 1978, we reflect on how we have grown as an agency:

  • 1978: CPAF establishes the first multi-lingual 24-hour hotline in the United States, assisting Asian & Pacific Islander (API) survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
  • 1981: CPAF opens the first multi-lingual and multi-cultural domestic violence emergency shelter in the nation to serve the API community.
  • 1998: CPAF opens a transitional program, focusing on the needs of survivors who seek to establish independent, violence-free lives.
  • 2005: CPAF expands its Community Program, focusing on community engagement and violence prevention programs.
  • 2010: CPAF opens its first public Community Center, co-locating with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and expanding CPAF services to non-residential counseling.
  • 2016: CPAF relocates its Community Center to Koreatown, easily accessible by car, on foot, and via public transportation.

This year marks yet another significant chapter:  our integration with Asian Pacific Women’s Center (APWC).  Combining our organizations enhances our ability to provide more comprehensive services to Asians and Pacific Islanders affected by family and intimate partner violence.  We will continue carrying out the same vision of ending domestic violence in the Asian and Pacific Islander community under the name Center for the Pacific Asian Family.

CPAF supporters enjoy refreshments with staff.

Shelter Program Director Patima Komolamit describes CPAF’s services, ranging from our 24-hour crisis hotline and intervention services to shelter, prevention and outreach.

Development and External Relations Director Michelle Esperanza engages guests with opportunities for further involvement.


Thank you to all those who attended our Open Houses and to all of our supporters for playing an important role in CPAF’s continual growth.  Together, we have truly been able to nurture positive and empowering change.

Click here to view more photos from our Open House and Media Day events.

8th Annual San Gabriel Valley Youth Summit – CPAF Youth Co-facilitate Workshop

On Saturday March 18th, CPAF Prevention Team youth and coordinator co-facilitated a workshop on healthy boundaries in relationships at Asian Pacific Family Center’s 8th Annual SGV Youth Summit . This was a unique opportunity for our youth to lead their peers in what they have learned through our youth programming at Alhambra High School. Our team had been preparing for the workshop during lunch period and our hard work resulted in us fostering a great connection with the youth participants who attended our workshop!

CPAF Prevention Coordinator (far left) with three youth leaders (Alex, Janell, and Esme) to her right
Youth participants practice communicating physical boundaries in an activity
Participants write down what their definitions of what love is.

APWC and CPAF Join Forces to Serve
Asian & Pacific Islander Community Together

JOINT STATEMENT – March 1, 2017


LOS ANGELES – After more than 17 years of partnering to help women, children and families affected by domestic violence and abuse, Asian Pacific Women’s Center (APWC) and Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF) announced today that they have combined their organizations to enhance their capacity to serve the diverse Asian and Pacific Islander communities in Los Angeles.


Founded in 1998, APWC is dedicated to providing a safe haven and support services for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence.   APWC has a transitional shelter, a community education and empowerment program with case management and counseling, and a permanent affordable housing program for families affected by domestic violence.


Since 1978, CPAF has provided comprehensive supportive services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, including counseling, advocacy in the legal, medical and public welfare systems, and safe shelter with afterschool and children’s development programs.   CPAF operates a 24-hour multilingual hotline (1-800-399-3940), emergency and transitional shelters, and a community center with intervention, prevention and public education programs.


CPAF and APWC share the same vision of an Asian and Pacific Islander community that is free from violence and both organizations provide services that are sensitive to the cultural and language needs of Asian and Pacific Islander survivors of violence and their families. The newly combined organization will continue under the name Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF), led by Debra Suh, executive director.


“APWC has served domestic violence survivors for over 18 years thanks to the work and dedication of community and business leaders with the vision and courage to stand up for those in need.  We invite our APWC family to join us as we combine our efforts with CPAF. With your continued support, we will expand our voices, our impact and our reach to meet the needs of our diverse and growing community,” said Judy Man-Ling Lam, APWC board president.


“Our combined strengths will enable us to provide better, more comprehensive services to Asians and Pacific Islanders affected by family and intimate partner violence,” said Roselma Samala, board president of CPAF.  “I am proud to be a part of this important moment.  We are grateful for the leadership of the APWC and CPAF team who has worked diligently over the past four years in order to reach this day.”

# # #

The Center for the Pacific Asian Family (CPAF) is recognized nationally for its pioneering work in providing culturally sensitive services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Los Angeles County. Founded in 1978, CPAF’s mission is to build healthy and safe communities by addressing the root causes and consequences of family violence and violence against women. CPAF specializes in serving low-income Asian and Pacific Islander (API) survivors of domestic and sexual violence and is committed to meeting the specific cultural and language needs of API women and their families.

Celebrating Lunar New Year with Bank of America

One of the perks of working for CPAF is getting to know our corporate donors and volunteers.

This month, I had the pleasure of being a guest at Bank of America (BofA)’s Lunar New Year festivities at the 888 Seafood Restaurant in Rosemead. CPAF received a grant of $10,000 from BofA in December 2016, and we very much value Bank of America as a community partner.



It was inspiring to see the hundreds of BofA’s employees who are a part of the Asian Leadership Network. The celebration included an eight-course meal and a lion dance performance. But for me, the main highlight of the evening was hearing the stories of two accomplished men in the world of finance- Gil Tong, a Resident Director at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, and Johnny Montes, Senior Vice President and Area Executive for Bank of America.


Gil Tong and Johnny Montes, featured speakers at Bank of America’s Lunar New Year Banquet

I think the reason why these men moved me is because it is rare for Asian men like Tong to speak so vulnerably about his humble beginnings. It was also endearing to hear a top executive like Montes talk about how important it is to prioritize his wife’s yoga nights and not miss important family obligations no matter how busy you may be in the corporate world.

Gil Tong, Resident Director at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

Gil Tong spoke about different perspectives on ‘Asian integration.’ Tong shared a story about immigrating to the United States as a child and growing up in Chinatown. Back then he thought of integration as getting a shot to compete in America. Years later, when he made his way into the finance world, he began seeing integration from a different light. He noted that Chinese and Korean investors acquired much of Los Angeles’ real estate. He said there were $45 billion in acquisition from Chinese investors in America last year, which was more than twice as much as the year before. “If you have an Asia outside of Asia, it is right here,” said Tong referencing Southern California. Now, Tong said ‘Asian integration’ was no longer about fitting in. It was about getting a chance to stand out.

Johnny Montes, Senior Vice President and Area Executive for Bank of America

Johnny Montes, an area executive for Bank of America, addressed ‘work life balance’ or the lack thereof in this world. He preferred to use the phrase ‘work life harmony,’ saying it was not only helping in maintaining a successful career but also a healthy family life. Three tips I picked up from his speech are as follows:

  1. Plan – what is important to you? Ex. Montes’ family planned the following-  him: kickboxing on Tuesdays; his wife: yoga on Wednesdays; child: family night on Fridays
  2. Communicate- what are your needs and wants? Don’t assume others will or should know.
  3. Make it count- be present. At home, put work away. Constantly re-evaluate your overall life and re-balance as needed.

Montes ended his speech with a one year rule – what will you remember one year from now? He encouraged asking this questions when deciding between a family and a work obligation.

This particular night was the first time I saw a large corporation like Bank of America dedicate so many resources and time to promote the Asian heritage. Through entertainment, food, and culturally sensitive messages, it was a time of reflection for many in attendance as we celebrated Lunar New Year.


Byline: Christine Lee, Community Engagement Manager at CPAF

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

1 in 3 teens in the United States experience teen dating violence (TDV). 

What is TDV?

TDV is a pattern of behaviors that on dating partner uses to control the other. TDV can include the following forms of abuse:

  • Physical: hitting, pushing, pulling, throwing objects
  • Emotional/Verbal/Mental: name calling, put downs, mind games, threats, yelling
  • Sexual: pressure to do unwanted activities without consent
  • Isolation from friends: being overprotective and not letting partner go out
  • Cyber: texting, spreading rumors online, posting unwanted pictures/videos
  • Financial: controlling money
  • Stalking: constantly checking up on partner

Teens who suffer dating abuse are at higher risk for long-term consequences like alcoholism, eating disorders, promiscuity, thoughts of suicide, and violent behavior (DoSomething.Org)

Within our API culture, it might feel uncomfortable for parents and children to bring up the issue of relationships, but it’s important to start the conversation so that our young people can be empowered to have healthy relationships.

Over the summer, CPAF offered a healthy relationships workshop for youth covering the topics of domestic violence, TDV, and sexual assault.
Our youth participants also talked about healthy relationships and boundaries and offered their definitions of what love is.

What are some steps CPAF is taking to stop dating abuse among teens?  

CPAF provides education on healthy relationships to youth organizations serving API youth using our “Healthy Teen Relationship” curriculum. Last summer, CPAF held a youth forum for 40 youth to talk about preventing dating violence in their schools and communities.