Every year, a group of highly qualified graduates of Chulalongkorn University in Thailand spend a year living and teaching in Los Angeles. These young men and women teach Thai language, traditional Thai Music and dance to children at the Wat Thai L.A Buddhist Temple. This is a year where the recent grads get a taste of a new culture during their yearlong residency in L.A. They have an opportunity to not only teach, but also improve their own English skills. CPAF’s partnership with Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC) allowed us to enter the temple grounds to provide an educational workshop for the teachers about CPAF services.
Thai CDC’s Social Service Coordinator Wanda Pathomrit engaged her audience with an introduction to CPAF in Thai and translated our greetings. We covered a lot of topics including identifying sexual assault situations that could occur at the Thai school temple program. We talked about differences in American and Thai cultures as well as family dynamics and pressures. We want to empower the teachers to be advocates for their students and the families they work with at Wat Thai.
At the end of our meeting, the students invited Wanda back to talk more in-depth about CPAF’s missions and services. We are excited about making new friendships and relationships with the Thai community through this unique opportunity.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Month. Human trafficking is considered to be the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. It is estimated to be a $150 billion industry, according to the International Labor Organization (2014). Almost 800,000 victims are trafficked through international borders annually, and Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) make up the largest group of people trafficked into the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Los Angeles is a top point-of-entry location due to its diverse communities, proximity to international borders and ports, as well as its significant immigrant population. CPAF has dealt primarily with international trafficking situations and has seen culturally sensitive trends while assisting survivors of human trafficking. Here are some facts we gathered while helping our survivors:
1. Lack of knowledge: Many human trafficking victims don’t know that they are victims. Manipulation, intimidation and fear often layer their situations, confusing them. Education about trafficking helps them to gain insight into what has happened in their lives. 2. Fear: International trafficking victims often fear deportation and experience a lack of safety. Trafficking perpetrators can harm the victims’ and their families anywhere, including in their home countries. 3. Love: Intimate partners can force and/or groom an individual into trafficking, blurring lines to include domestic violence/sexual assault. 4. Shame: Trafficked individuals may feel trapped and uncertain of how to pay off their debt to their traffickers. This can create a sense of isolation and an immense feeling of guilt for being in such a position. These circumstances can become barriers in reaching out to their family/friends or asking for help. 5. Control: Traffickers work in trafficking “rings/gangs” to tighten their control and power over those they traffic. This creates a real sense of danger and forces a trafficking survivor to perform any task given all for the sake of staying alive.
During the month of January, our media partner LA 18 featured CPAF to talk about human trafficking. Links to the interviews will be added as they are provided.
Can you help us transform our new Community Center into a warm and welcoming atmosphere?
We are in need of matching furniture, signage, and paintings or other artwork, especially in the common areas that first greet our survivors and visitors.
This is a safe space for some of our survivors to come in for counseling and healing workshops. It is also a place where our advocates take hotline calls and our staff prepare ways to better serve our communities in Southern California and beyond.
We could use volunteers with an artistic background to help us settle into our new home. We would also appreciate corporate donors who may have donations that fit our needs.
Please email email@example.com if you have any ideas on beautifying our new space, or if you have items you’re interested in donating.
“You Matter.” Those two words changed Elaine Mayumi Whitefeather’s life when she thought she hit rock bottom.
Elaine’s first memories of surviving childhood abuse, racial violence and sexual assault traced her back to when she was only three years old. Her perpetrators included her own father, people from a religious institution and strangers. She grew up during the height of racism when being of mixed races (Black, Native American, and Japanese) meant not being treated as an equal in America. Elaine noted that she was 10% white, but no one addressed this fact and treated her as a third-class citizen. She was told that God didn’t listen to her prayers, so she learned to rely solely on herself every time she faced any abuse or discrimination.
Elaine recalled a day when she was molested, raped and severely injured by multiple men. When she eventually stumbled home with two broken feet, her mom told her to not let her father see her in such a disgraceful state. “I learned to put makeup on that day,” she said. “I never learned to put on makeup to look pretty. I wore makeup to cover up my bruises.” There was no one to comfort Elaine or to simple tell her that what was happening was wrong.
When Elaine was 20-years-old, she had 33 arrests and a couple of failed suicide attempts. “I was afraid of living,” said Elaine. “Death meant the end of it all. No more fear. Death was peace to me.” However appealing the idea may have been, suicide was not an option for her on the day she decided to drown herself in a river.
Elaine said she felt someone touch her shoulders as she was walking into the riverbed. She turned around and saw a white man with tears in his eyes. He told her the two words that planted a seed in her heart. “You matter.” It was then that she realized that she had to value herself in order to save herself.
The man she met that day happened to be a visiting professor. He called a professor from her university and told him that there was a girl with a broken heart and a wounded spirit that they need to support. He built a bridge for her to get out of the darkness. It was from there that her healing journey began.
Decades later, Elaine Mayumi Whitefeather has worked tirelessly in human service work, dedicating a majority of her time in the field of domestic violence. Elaine received a standing ovation after her speech at the Communities Empowered for Systems Change, A Peer-Led Institute presented by the Culturally Responsive Domestic Violence Network.
CPAF took part in this two-day gathering in Berkeley, CA made possible by the Blue Shield of California Foundation. CPAF and other agencies exchanged their experiences and ideas in working with marginalized communities. The foundation launched the Culturally Responsive Domestic Violence Network in 2012 to support underserved communities that are often overlooked.
Stories like Elaine’s resonated with a majority of those in the audience, as we were reminded that roughly 80% of the attendees were domestic violence survivors themselves. “Social justice always starts by those who were affected,” Elaine said. “Domestic violence isn’t something you get over. Your power is in your pain. Your pain will lead you to your greatest purpose if you follow it all the way through.”
Elaine’s life exemplifies how a person can transform his/her negative experiences into opportunities of empowerment. We at CPAF came out of the meeting re-energized and re-focused. We are here to continue our work to encourage and build bridges in support of our API families. Our goal is to have more survivors like Elaine share their stories and help end domestic violence in their communities.