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Helping refugee women fight domestic violence

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/kplu/local-kplu-966900.mp3

Refugees face a lot of stress.  They’re usually escaping war or poverty.  They land here unable to speak English and without a means of support.  But for some women, there’s the additional burden of domestic violence.

Carlin Yoophum has worked for the Refugee Women’s Alliance in Seattle for 17 years.  She says women who are abused by a spouse often have to overcome cultural barriers.

“I think that domestic violence is perceived as a family problem,” Yoophum said.

For example, Yoophum says in Laos, where she was born, there aren’t services to help women who are  domestic violence or sexual assault victims.  She says calling the police isn’t really an option.

"I know growing up back home, if the police come they tell you to take care of it yourself, that it's a family matter," Yoophum said.

The Refugee Women’s Alliance works to teach women about the court system and the services that are available in the U.S. if they’re being abused.  And those efforts are about to be expanded.

The Alliance is launching an outreach effort aimed at men and boys. The idea, according to Yoophum, is to concentrate on prevention.

"We are working so hard to end violence, and the best way to do it is to educate the next generation, to prevent it before it gets worse,” Yoophum said.

The Refugee Women’s Alliance will pay for the project with a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women.  The organization was one of 23 groups in the country to receive money from the Engaging Men Grant Program.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.