A Call to Action to Eliminate Sexual Violence against Women
Recently Nepali community in the United States and around the world was shocked and saddened to wake up to the news of a father serially molesting and raping his adopted daughter. As reported by â€˜Daily Democratâ€™, a Woodland California based newspaper, Mr. Ajay Kumar Dev, active member of the California Nepali community, was convicted of 76 felony counts including 23 counts of forcible rape; 23 counts of forcible sexual assault; 27 counts of lewd acts with minor; and 3 counts of attempting to dissuade a witness and is now awaiting sentencing.
In the United States one out of six women are victims of rape or attempted rape and nine out of ten rape victims are women. Ninety three percent of juvenile victims are raped by individuals who are known to them and often these offenders doesnâ€™t fit the image of a criminal. They can be friends, partners, teachers, lawyers, doctors, family members, priests and the list goes on. Rape and sexual assault are perpetrated in every community and Nepali community is not immune to this social evil. Rape is about violence and control, one person using physical force to assert their will over another person. Rape and sexual violence is a crime where sex is used as a weapon against the victim and there are hardly any witnesses.
Rape and Sexual Violence is a serious crime. Despite this, in United States 60% of the sexual assault/rape cases go unreported, resulting in a very low percentage arrest and conviction of perpetrators. Studies indicate that false accusations of sexual assaults are very rare. Contrary to popular belief, convictions of such crimes is not reached lightly. In fact, charges are filed only after a rigorous scrutiny by the district attorneys, who ensure that thereâ€™s enough evidence in the sexual violence case. Convictions are reached when the evidence shows that the crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt.
Nepali Communityâ€™s Reactions
At this very sensitive time, Nepali Womenâ€™s Global Network, would like to extend its support to the survivor of this heinous crime and out of respect for the victim and to maintain anonymity NWGN chooses not to provide her name. In this case, we have full faith in the countryâ€™s justice system. As such, NWGN urges community members to refrain from blaming the survivor and discrediting her and her character based on her age, profession, or social status. Victims of sexual assault find it hard to discuss their victimization. Their efforts to speak the truth and find justice for themselves are silenced, on every step, by the perpetrators, family members and society with physical, psychological and emotional threats. Victims of trauma like rape, have different coping mechanisms. Studies have shown that, survivors of childhood sexual assault resort to life choices, which are detrimental to them. Drug and alcohol abuse, promiscuity, self -mutilation, runaways, and complex mental health and behavioral problems are very common symptoms of childhood sexual trauma.
As a minority community in the United States, it is understandable that we do not want to portray our own community in a negative manner. However, such thoughts cannot overshadow the crimes that are committed against our community members, whether from members outside the community or within, and be swept under the rug. Perpetrators, no matter who they are, have to be held accountable. They cannot be excused based on their social standing or their contributions to the community. The fact that Mr. Ajay Kumar Dev was active as a conference co-convener of Association of Nepalese in Americas (ANA)â€™s annual convention 2009 in San Francisco, California, while standing trial for raping his daughter only underscores the importance of educating the Nepali communities on these issues so that we develop a â€˜zero toleranceâ€™ standard towards social crimes like rape, sexual assault and domestic violence.
NWGN urges the community to commit to specific resolutions and actions, including a zero tolerance policy on such issues. This cannot and must not wait. In fact, we must move swiftly to start a dialogue about such social crimes and condemn them. Additionally, NWGN strongly reminds the Nepali Community that the issue of sexual violence against women is beyond Mr. Devâ€™s case. The issue of rape/sexual assault is not a new issue, rather itâ€™s a very old one. If we donâ€™t take action on these matters, we are guilty of being supporters of those who would commit such crimes.
On behalf of NWGN Board of Directors, we have outlined â€œAction Stepsâ€ for this issue to be discussed and taken seriously. The leadership of all the Nepali organizations in US and around the world must condemn this kind of behaviors in our membership and take concrete action against it.
Each and every person should educate yourself on sexual assault, rape, domestic and dating violence;
Understand the dynamics and victimization of rape/sexual assault and not blame the victim in the crime.
Develop a mechanism to screen our Executive Board members for social crimes even if the organizations are of voluntary nature.
These simple action steps will inform the perpetrators who commit social crimes against our mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers and fathers, loud and clear, that there is no room for them in our organizations and that their behaviors are not tolerated.
Learn more about rape, incest and sexual assault at http://www.rainn
. org/statistics and about domestic violence on www.ndhv.org
. org/index. php, http://www.manavi
NWGN welcomes your comments and suggestions and partnership as to how our community can move forward on such difficult, but important issues.
Nepali Womenâ€™s Global Network (NWGN) is a non-profit dedicated to promoting the cause of Nepali women around the world. We foster networking, support and self-reliance among Nepali women through education, advocacy, service and collaboration with like-minded organizations. www.nepaliwomen
Sushma Barakoti, President; Contact email: CallforAction09@ nepaliwomen. org