The Hmong are very resistant to change. It’s because of our refusal to change our culture that we were in war with the Chinese for such a long time. In Asia, the Hmong mainly live in remote regions, so they practice their culture with no interference. They are slower to assimilate. In America, we live in the midst of everything. Those who came to the US as babies or little children assimilate quickly to the American culture. Most of those who came here as adults are very stubborn to change.
Domestic violence (DV) is tolerated and accepted as a norm in the general Hmong communities. It is not encouraged, however, the abuser does not get punished if he does abuse. There is no such thing as DV and what many DV agencies around the nation consider DV is considered normal marital disputes. (Keep in mind that not every Hmong person accepts DV or abuses their partner).
If you ask any older Hmong person about DV, they will claim that there has never been DV in the Hmong culture until life in America. Many Hmong claim that the American lifestyle has turned Hmong men toward violence because of the changes that they cannot control, such as their female partners straying from the traditional norms that hold a marriage and household together and demanding independence.
This is an excerpt from a news article online about addressing DV in the Hmong community from Suab Hmoob Broadcasting, a very popular Hmong news source.
In America, many of the Hmong couples’ issues arise when Hmong wives ignore Hmong clan system and cross over to the American law. When this happens, the two clan involved are powerless to help resolve the issues for the couples because American laws do not recognize the Hmong clan system. Now, the couple must cope their issues with the American law by paying court fees, counseling fees, deal with restraining orders, and etc…. In some cases, Hmong wives try to drop the cases because they see the unnecessary consequences that they were going through, sometimes by mistake, but the court denies them. These are parts of the pressures that lead to the many killings in Hmong couples.
The author of this article states that the reason why there are Hmong murders or murder-suicides in America is because a woman seeks help away from the Hmong community. And a man kills his wife because of being pressured to do so.
Another example from WSAW-TV from 2007.
The Hmong community says violence isn’t part of their culture, but that some Hmong families are struggling with a big change in culture. Everyone I spoke to said things like DV, murder, or suicide has never been accepted in Hmong traditions. In fact, Dr. Mia Na Lee at the University of MN told me DV rarely happened in their home country of Laos, and it didn’t become a real issue until they began moving to the US. Dr. Lee said that’s because many Hmong families are still dealing with some culture shock, trying to adapt their traditionally male-dominated society, to one where women are independent.
I disagree that DV is not a part of the Hmong culture. If you look at the Hmong culture through the lens that DV consists only of physical abuse and murder-suicides, then yes, DV is not part of the Hmong culture—or any culture for that matter. However, as you have learned from my first post this month, DV is much more profound than being beaten or killed. The intention of domestic violence is to gain and maintain power and control (Please refer back to the Power and Control Wheel). And do the Hmong men desire to have the authority and control in a relationship or marriage? Yes!
- Not allowing partner to have or go out with her friends.
- Not allowing partner to pursue higher education or discouraging her from doing so.
- Needing to know where partner is at all times.
- Not allowing partner to go anywhere unless he goes along.
- Strict gender roles where the women serve the men.
Do you agree or disagree that Hmong cultural norms such as gender roles, weddings, and marriage dynamics set the stage for DV to happen? Why or why not?