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Tarana Burke talked to Connie Wun on the 2nd #ImReady conference, Sep 20th, Oakland.

Asian and Pacific Islander women gear up against sexual abuse and domestic violence

on September 24, 2019

Activist and #MeToo movement co-founder Tarana Burke spoke in front of an audience of Asian and Pacific Islander women at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center last week. She talked about the origins of the #MeToo movement, similarities between the African American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities, and the need for girls to learn about sexual violence and assault at a young age.

“How early can I get the message that, ‘No, you can’t sit on a man’s lap?’” she said.

Burke’s talk was the centerpiece of the second annual #IMREADY conference, launched last year to provide support for sexual abuse and domestic violence survivors through sharing and healing. Organized by Oakland-based nonprofit AAPI Women Lead, the conference drew close to 300 attendees who turned out to hear talks by activists and educators, participate in panel discussions on topics such as the long-term effects of violence, and check out the wellness offerings from acupuncturists, yoga and bodywork instructors.

In her talk, Burke spoke of the #MeToo movement’s early days more than a decade ago, when she created a nonprofit organization to support survivors of sexual violence, particularly Black women and girls. When the movement became a hashtag and an internet phenomenon in 2017, Burke said, people asked her if she regretted losing sight of “black and brown girls.”

“I have never left them, ever,” she said.

AAPI Women Lead also aims to help sexual abuse and domestic violence survivors. According to an online survey conducted by the organization, 60 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander women and girls in the United States have experienced some form of sexual or domestic abuse.

Burke said she believes the Asian and Pacific Islander community and the African American community face similar obstacles, including white supremacy and patriarchy. Both communities, she said, also share a culture of keeping silent.

“In the Black community,” she said, “this is like, ‘We need this man here in the house. This is who is bringing home the money to put food on the table. So, yes, he may be a little bit frisky with you, but be quiet.’”

Inez Consuelo, a grandmother and an abuse survivor who attended the talk, said Burke “brought together many pieces in our culture that we may not be able to tap into on a normal basis.”

Bi Nguyen, an Oakland based mixed martial arts fighter and five-time national champion, also spoke at the conference, sharing her personal story of abuse and recovery through martial arts and encouraging attendees to speak out.

At “last year’s conference, a girl told me she was sexually abused in her family and didn’t know how to tell her parents,” said Nguyen. “This year, she told me she told her parents.”

Both AAPI Women Lead and the #ImReady conference were founded last year. Co-founder Connie Wun said that AAPI launched the conference to help spark a larger movement for change.

The conference is designed to help Asian and Pacific Islander women “claim their identify and their power,” she said. It’s meant to help them say, “I’m ready to fight for esteem, I’m ready to tell my stories. I’m ready to reclaim access to my healing. I’m ready to heal.”

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