It is stated that Raksha means protection in many South Asian languages. Led by principles of agreement in formulating choices, multiplicity in guidance, and the self-respect and value of every person, Raksha struggles to empower and assist the South Asian community. There is a belief that family and/or spousal violence is habitually culturally acceptable. In many countries, there is a lack of domestic violence sanctuaries and that is why only some victims seek help or asylum. Once, many cultural impediments made a vulnerable environment for domestic abuse victims in Atlanta’s budding immigrant community.
Nowadays, thanks to the Internet and the creation of Raksha the victims of family and spousal abuse are getting the help and support they need. Raksha is a Georgia-based non-profit support and referral network for the South Asian community. Since Raksha is the first and only social service organization of its kind in the American Southeast, Governor Roy Barnes of Georgia chose Raksha, Inc as one of agencies to receive portions of a federal grant aimed at fighting domestic violence and sexual assault, and Raksha primarily addresses domestic and sexual violence within the South Asian community.
First, Raksha is a Georgia-based non-profit support and referral network for the South Asian community since Raksha is the first and only social service organization of its kind in the American Southeast. “Raksha was formed into or organized and maintained as a legal corporation after Sunita Iyer, Shyam Iyer, Sonia Sharma, and Kamal Iyer founded it in 1995” (Ek Sham Raksha Ke Naam, 2010). The concerns that men face are immigration, marital tribulations, economic dilemmas, and age group conflicts.
Raksha’s Mission Statement states, “Raksha encourages a resilient and improved South Asian community via confidential assistance services, education and advocacy” (Raksha.org). Women handle problems such as immigration, assimilation, domestic abuse, discrimination, rape, assault, and employment concerns. Raksha’s Vision is “Opening it’s Doors to a Stronger and Healthier South Asian Community” (Raksha.org). While it would be too easy to dismiss family violence like it occurs in a vacuum, albeit there is a belief in the South Asian people that domestic violence does not affect us. Actually, Raksha enlightens us that family violence influences all societies, each hierarchy, and every faction.
Additionally, Governor Roy Barnes of Georgia chose Raksha, Inc as one of agencies to receive portions of a federal grant aimed at fighting domestic violence and sexual assault. Governor Barnes handed out $82,402 to Raksha, Inc as part of the 2000 STOP Violence Against Women Grant program (CLOSE TO HOME, 2000). In 1997, Raksha collected the first endowment for $14,000 from Atlanta Women’s Fund, helped create International Women’s House and co-founded Tapestri.
In 2000, the Gandhi Foundation honored Raksha by giving them an award (Raksha.org). In 2003, Raksha received subsidies from Ms. Foundation for Break the Silence Initiative opposed to sexual attacks and sexual mistreatment of youngsters in the South Asian community. The best-known recognition was in 2001 and that was the Project Impact Award (Raksha.org). The author has personally volunteered and donated funds to Raksha, Inc. Although it is hard to comprehend that domestic violence can affect South Asians, when it does occur it is extremely hard for women to be understood in the case of the author’s friend Prathima.
Finally, the most important reason Raksha is the number one Georgia-based non-profit support and referral network for the South Asian community is because Raksha primarily addresses domestic and sexual violence within the South Asian community. Raksha Past President Vicky Nikore states, “a few Indian and Pakistani victims do not obtain relief since they were instructed to cherish their husbands and please him” (Bixler, 2000). The South Asian victims of abuse are fighting against the traditional gender roles when they speak out about their domestic abuse stories. The author’s friend Prathima got married, had been a domestic abuse victim after giving birth to two sons, and got divorced only to find out that the ex-husband remarried and is abusing the second wife now (Mamaraj, 2010). This next example is from a true story that was made into the movie Provoked in 2007. British Punjabi homemaker Kiranjit Ahluwalia was unable to
bear the brutality and repeated rapes at the hands of spouse sets fire to feet while husband is sleeping, unintentionally committing murder. Charged with murder, sentenced to life imprisonment, sentence changed to manslaughter, and is ultimately freed by the judicial system in a landmark case called “R v Ahluwalia”, which redefined provocation in cases of battered women in the UK (Manohar ; Mundhra, 2007). The children in the South Asian community are the ultimate victims of domestic abuse.
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse or intimate partner violence (IPV), can be broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, friends or cohabitation. Police and welfare workers know the scene all too well: the battered child, wife, husband, parent, or even grandparent. About 75,000 people are arrested each year for “offenses against family and children” (Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 2005: Table 4.6).
The first attested use of the expression “domestic violence” in a modern context, meaning, “spouse abuse, violence in the home” was in 1977. In 1879, law scholar Nicholas St. John Green wrote, “The cases in the American courts are uniform against the right of the husband to use any [physical] chastisement, moderate or otherwise, toward the wife, for any purpose” (Green, 1879). The United States has a lengthy history of legal precedent condemning spousal abuse. Green also cites the 1641 Body of Liberties of the Massachusetts Bay colonists — one of the first legal documents in North American history — as an early de jure condemnation of violence by either spouse (Green, 1879). Violence between spouses has long been considered a serious problem.
Georgia law characterizes familial violence as any criminal act, simple battery, battery, simple physical attack, assault, haunting, unlawful destruction of possessions, criminal detention, and illegal encroaching (GA Code Section 19-13-1). Unfortunately, the Georgia Code does not address or acknowledge mental/emotional abuse, which is a valid form of abuse that is often more damaging than physical abuse. Some examples of how the criminal justice system affects Raksha are Domestic Violence Twelve Month Protective Orders, Separations, Divorces, criminal warrants, good behavior bonds, and restraining orders (Chrzan, 2005).
In civil court, you can get a Domestic Violence Twelve Month Protective Order, or get a divorce, if married. Some of the direct services of Raksha include but are not limited to crises interventions, employment services, education services, individual counseling, family counseling, information, referral, legal victim advocacy, general victim advocacy, interpretation services, translation services, monthly support groups, and peer support volunteers (Raksha.org, 2011). In magistrate court, you can apply for a criminal warrant or a good behavior bond. Raksha aids all South Asians, which they define as people or descendents from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka (Fernandez, 2000). Raksha does not discriminate based on the religion, nationality, or language of the prospective client.
In 2005, Raksha started giving out the first Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award, which was initiated to pay tribute to a society member who demonstrates exceptional leadership in social work (Mayani, 2005). The first recipient was Deepali Gokhale who is renowned for being one of the earliest to advance, undertake the danger, and defy prejudice of some type. Deepali stood up for the South Asian lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered as well as vigorously labored to overthrow a Georgia legal amendment defining marriage (Center for American Progress, 2006).
Sunita Iyer and Sonia Sharma may be the founders of Raksha but without Aparna Bhattacharyya, the third pillar of the organization, they would be nothing. In 2006, the then current Raksha Executive Director Aparna Bhattacharyya was honored for her dedication by being presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award (Raksha Celebrates 10 Years, 2006). At the same gala, Sunita Iyer and Sonia Sharma were given a plaque for creating Raksha’s foundation in 1995. The actuality is that sufferers and survivors of marital abuse can be affluent and underprivileged, African and Caucasian, American and immigrant (Holder, 2008). One of the Circle of Friends supporters for Raksha’s 10th Anniversary Gala is the author’s very good friend Dr. Sujatha Reddy.
Another reason that South Asian victims of domestic violence do not believe that South Asians are affected by domestic violence is because there is no word for domestic violence in Hindi (Sharma, 2002). Before the birth of Raksha, there was no group for South Asians to consult when they required culturally responsive support. One unique aspect of Raksha’s 10th Anniversary Gala was the Raksha-tini, which was a martini that was made as a tribute for this event (Raksha Celebrates 10 Years, 2006).
Raksha was practical in enlightening the South Asian community about the hate crimes that occurred during the 9/11 aftermath. Other recipients of the Ramesh and Vijaya Bakshi Community Change Award are Navneet Singh Narula, Anneliese Singh, Pankaj Sampat, Shyam Sriram, Dr. Gulshan Harjee, and Aarti Patel (Ek Sham Raksha Ke Naam, 2010). Raksha has helped more than 2,000 women and children. One telephone call that Raksha received there was a domestic worker who gets no days off, is beaten by her employer, and does not have access to her documents (Banerjee, 2003). The last time that the author donated to Raksha was last Saturday after attending a friend’s dance recital.
It is understood that Raksha means protection in many South Asian languages. Led by principles of agreement in formulating choices, multiplicity in guidance, and the self-respect and value of every person, Raksha struggles to empower and assist the South Asian community. There is a belief that family and/or spousal violence is habitually culturally acceptable. In many countries, there is a lack of domestic violence sanctuaries and that is why only some victims seek help or asylum.
Once, many cultural impediments made a vulnerable environment for domestic abuse victims in Atlanta’s budding immigrant community. Nowadays, thanks to the Internet and the creation of Raksha the victims of family and spousal abuse are getting the help and support they need. Raksha is a Georgia-based non-profit support and referral network for the South Asian community. Since Raksha is the first and only social service organization of its kind in the American Southeast, Governor Roy Barnes of Georgia chose Raksha, Inc as one of agencies to receive portions of a federal grant aimed at fighting domestic violence and sexual assault, and Raksha primarily addresses domestic and sexual violence within the South Asian community.
Banerjee, K. (2003). Enslaved in America. Khabar Magazine. http://www.khabar.com/magazine/cover-story/Enslaved_in_America.aspx.
Bixler, M. (2000). Domestic abuse often culturally acceptable – GLOBAL ATLANTA: Every Monday, a look at our changing communities. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution (Home; The Atlanta Constitution ed.), B1. Retrieved July 16, 2011, from NewsBank on-line database (Access World News).
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Chrzan, S. (2005). Domestic Violence, Law, and Divorce. Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Raksha, Inc. Retrieved July 16, 2011, from http://www.raksha.org/DomesticViolenceandLaw.html.
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