In the weeks since dozens of women have accused movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, including rape, unleashing an avalanche of similar charges against other prominent men across American life, women and men of color have been largely absent from the national furor.
The stories of abuse have roiled the entertainment industry, politics, tech industry, and more, raising the possibility that this could be a watershed moment to end tolerance of such behavior. But some observers fear minority women may miss the moment, as they often are more reticent to speak up about sexual harassment.
For Asian American women, speaking up after sexual assault can be daunting for a variety of cultural reasons, said Anna Bang, education coordinator at KAN-WIN, a Chicago-based domestic violence and sexual assault services group that frequently helps Asian American and immigrant women.
Bang said she has noticed the absence of Asian American women from the Weinstein conversation and, as a Korean immigrant, doubts that she would tell her family if she were ever assaulted.
“It’s such a shame and guilt,” she said. “You don’t want your parents to be worried about you … When we are growing up, your parents teach you, ‘Don’t share your family problems with people.’ We’re trying to break that silence by educating our community members.”
Many of the women who seek help from KAN-WIN do so a decade or more after the abuse took place, she said.
“In our culture, women … they teach you how to suck it up,” she said. “They teach you to swallow your anger, your fear. It’s tough.”
A 2015 study found that one in three women have been sexually harassed in the workplace. 71 percent did not report it because of the lack of female employees in a position of power to help address these types of complaints, and the number of women who are then retaliated against if they do report.
Also, it’s possible that you need the job, you need the money, and until a better opportunity comes along, you endure. You are going to need that person for a reference for your next job.
Take advantage of the current wave and renewed attention to this issue. Speak up, Asian or not, woman or not. Now could be the turning point for our country on sexual harassment.
More women than men are graduating from college, more are earning advanced degrees, and there is an increase in the number of managers. More women rising to supervisory, managerial, and executive jobs could shift the tide to make companies be proactive about addressing the problem and actually holding harassers accountable.