Long considered taboo throughout much of the city’s Asian population, acknowledgment of the existence of domestic violence and sexual assault is gradually becoming acceptable, as evidenced by the Korean American Family Service Center’s First Annual Rally Against Sexual Assault on the steps of Queens Borough Hall last Friday evening, with several dignitaries and hundreds of young people on hand.
The event, held to coincide with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, was spearheaded by the KAFSC’s Youth Community Project Team.
The rally also marked the 25th year of the establishment of KAFSC, an organization dedicated to providing a wide range of services for victims of violence and their families.
Brandishing banners proclaiming, “Break the Silence End the Violence,” “No Means No” and other similarly empowering slogans, those in attendance were on hand to show support for a violence-free society.
According to Grace Yoon, KAFSC’s executive director, there is a need to fight against sexual assault in all communities, most especially those with large Asian populations.
Among the elected officials offering words of encouragement was Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), who said, “It’s necessary we get out there and raise awareness.” Addressing the crowd, he added, “You will improve women’s lives.”
Surveying the gathering, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) picked up on one of the banners when she said, “No means no! This is a message we want to send to young people so they can grow up in a society where people are treated with respect.
“Violence is a particular problem in Asian-American communities. It is a problem throughout the borough. We have to end the violence against everybody.”
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) agreed, adding, “The issue of domestic violence and sexual violence touches every community in this city. I’m happy to do anything I can.”
Several Asian-American public figures lent their voices to the effort.
Conceding that “this is something we don’t usually talk about,” Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said, “This is a really important issue.”
To that, former Councilman and City Comptroller John Liu added, “There is too much silence. We have to break the cycle.”
And Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing)said, “It’s important we express our voice as a community. At the state level, we continue to fight for women’s equality and continue to collaborate with KAFSC.”
A social worker at KAFSC, Saenam Kim, said such rallies are “especially important in the context of Korean society where awareness is not widely discussed. It is important within the community for people to feel comfortable talking about it.”
Bob Piao, 16, of Fresh Meadows attended because “we want to tell everyone in the world” about the problem. “We need everybody’s help to stop it. We are here to raise awareness.”
Another 16-year-old from Fresh Meadows, Jean Park, said, “So many people don’t hear enough about these problems. Victims don’t usually tell anyone.”
Two officers of YCPT, Brittney Kil and Paul Lee, served as co-emcees of the event.
A 24-hour hotline is available at (718) 460-3800 for anyone who needs to speak with someone concerning domestic violence or sexual assault.