BN Magazine, News Report, MT Lite, Posted: Dec 06, 2006

“Tuyet” works in a hair salon. She is pretty, with well-manicured finger nails and a trendy, short layered hair style. She can be easily mistaken for someone in her late-20s even though Tuyet is actually in her late-40s. Tuyet grew up in a home environment in rural Viet Nam where she married her current abuser in her late-teens, and even back then, her in-law family and her own family would beat her and not defend her against her abusive husband.

I located Tuyet because each week, she attends an Asian women’s support group offered at My Sister’s House (a non-profit organization based in Sacramento, California that provides support and shelter to Asian American women in the Central Valley) to mentally cope with her sad but unchanging situation.

Tuyet has been beaten by her husband, a man in his early-50s, at least three times severely. On the third time, Tuyet suffered broken fingers that she explained to her co-workers and doctor as arising from a car accident. Married to an alcoholic who is also a diabetic with high blood pressure, Tuyet is afraid to leave him because she feels bound by honor and duty to take care of him. Our interview transpired in Vietnamese at a Starbuck’s cafe. She lamented with brows furrowed and arms thrown up in fatalistic concession: “I’m afraid that he’s sick and nobody would take care of him if I left or divorced him. And if he died or committed suicide, I would feel like it was my fault … I don’t want to leave him after 31 years of marriage. He doesn’t [typically] go to the hospital because he’s a man, so I have to take days off to accompany him to the hospital. I’m afraid of going to Hell or having bad karma if he dies.”

Each day, she lives in fear that he would lash out against her, and sleeps with him to fulfill her wifely duties (though she did make it clear that she got no pleasure from this). In order to meet with me at 9 p.m. in secret for this clandestine interview, she had to reassure him that dinner was ready and that she had to work late for her nail salon clients. Unfortunately, Tuyet is just one of the many Vietnamese American women who experience physical as well as verbal abuse from her partner. Moreover, her situation is made more complicated by the cultural tug of war she goes through mentally and daily in her sense of obligation to stay with a batterer due to these deeply ingrained Confucian values.

Intimate partner violence

Domestic violence in the Vietnamese American population is as much of a public health concern as cervical cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and post traumatic stress disorder and, in many ways, has a broader social impact. The Assistant Director-General of the World Health Organization’s Cluster on Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health, Dr. Catherine Le Gales-Camus, was quoted in the World Report on Violence and Health (2002) elaborating upon the broader social consequences of violence: “Beyond the very personal human tragedies associated with each and every case of violence … In economic terms … responding to violence diverts billions of dollars away from education, social security, housing and recreation, into the essential but seemingly never-ending tasks of providing care for victims and criminal justice interventions for perpetrators.”

Intimate partner violence is a form of domestic violence and it is both a local and global problem. It is defined by the Center for Disease Control as any behavior purposely inflicted by one person against another within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm. Most often, the violent person is a husband, former husband, boyfriend, or ex-boyfriend. Sometimes the abuser is female.

If it’s so bad, why doesn’t she leave?

There’s an old Vietnamese proverb “Den nha ai nay rang” that means, loosely, “Shine the light only in one’s own home [and not on others’].” This approach illustrates part of the problem of why violence against wives and girlfriends may sometimes occur when neighbors and acquaintances turn a blind eye. In Vietnamese culture, when domestic violence is talked about (if at all), it is often referred to as an private dispute and a family matter to be resolved internally. It is not understood as having multiple driving forces in society. It is a belief reinforced by cultural practices and economic circumstances, and hence, requiring participation from many sectors of our society to be prevented and treated. Many of the reasons why Vietnamese women do not leave—apart from the lack of English language skills, a stable income, or forgiving the aggressor because of the children—are cultural factors such as the perceived need to honor, love, and duty felt at the individual level, while at the community level, the discourse surrounding intimate partner violence becomes submerged into an internal dispute that is portrayed as strictly a private family matter, not a community or societal threat.

Please don’t arrest him

Dr. Hoan Bui, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and author of In the Adopted Land: Abused Vietnamese Immigrant Women and the Criminal Justice System (Greenwood Press, 2004), found that Vietnamese American women were much less likely than their American counterparts to call the police when domestic violence occurred. This estimate is four or five times less likely than the general population of American women to report domestic violence incidents to the police. In many Vietnamese cases, when the police are actually called, the woman does not really want her husband to be incarcerated.

The second time that Tuyet’s husband beat her on the head with a blunt object that left a bruise three weeks later, she called the police. However when they arrived, she begged them not to take him away. The police, instead, reprimanded him according to her request and said that they would arrest him the next time that the Sacramento Police Department was called. This tendency is supported by a survey in 2000 of approximately 440 Vietnamese women in four cities. The survey asked the women about their attitude toward the various approaches to criminal justice interventions. In this study, Dr. Bui found that interventions such as court-mandated counseling received the highest support, followed by fines and probation, while prosecution and imprisonment received the lowest support. For immigrants with limited English proficiency, the language itself poses a great hardship in contacts with government officials and constrains their willingness to participate in the criminal justice process. In extreme reported cases, police untrained to deal in this matter have asked the offending husband to translate for the victim. This reflects as well as reinforces the Vietnamese refugee community’s broader mistrust of the US criminal justice system.

Underreported and understudied

According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women, one in three women will suffer some form of violence in her lifetime, becoming a part of an epidemic that devastates lives, fractures communities, and stalls development. Unfortunately, there is a lack of nationwide representative data capture the extent of domestic violence amongst Vietnamese Americans, but some regional studies can help paint a conservative estimate. The most comprehensive study by the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence in Boston found that the prevalence of domestic violence was 39 percent in the Vietnamese American respondents. Dr. Tuyen Nguyen, a researcher and professor based at the California State University, Fullerton, found in a 2003 survey of 200 immigrant Vietnamese men in Houston, Texas that partner abuse of some type occurred in 31 percent of the respondents’ cases.

However, Dr. Nguyen told BN that this may be an underestimate. He believes that “the figures are higher because in cases where abuse is occurring, these people are not as socially connected as [others] in the larger Vietnamese community.” He furthermore believes that this number will increase: “As the Vietnamese American population grows through immigration, the problem will leak out more to authorities and reporting will also be on the rise.” When asking Dr. Nguyen about his current research on domestic violence in Viet Nam compare with its incidence among Vietnamese Americans, he stated that “in this country, even though there are a lot of struggles, the men here know the law, so the prevalence of partner abuse in Viet Nam is actually much higher than here in the US as immigrants become more acculturated.”

Community advocates, such as Chic Dabby, Director of the Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence in San Francisco, cites the fact that Asian women on the whole are overrepresented in victims’ profiles. For instance, in Santa Clara County last year, where the diverse population is 17 percent Asian, 35 percent of the reported cases of victims of homicide from domestic violence were identified as Asian. As a benchmark for understanding the prevalence of domestic violence in the US population as a whole, the National Violence Against Women Survey indicates that one out of four women has been physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner and one out of 14 men reported such experiences. These statistics, however, do not show how domestic violence cuts across socioeconomic status lines—anecdotal stories of white collar women such as doctors and professors being battered shows that this was not just a poor immigrant female problem.

Immigrant Status—“bao lanh”

Other circumstances that were named for why women sometimes do not leave an abusive relationship had to do with immigrantion status—sometimes a woman is sponsored as a fianceùe or wife to the US and is abused by the husband, but is afraid of leaving out of fear that she will get sent back. Le Minh Hai, a partner at Robert Mullins International, an immigration consulting firm, told BN that there are roughly 12,500 cases or more of marriage partner sponsorships per year from Viet Nam to the US. Though Le was unable at the time of the interview to give concrete examples of green card marriages that ended due to intimate partner abuse (to which Le reassured me that few cases which end are due to domestic violence), a Vietnamese language advocate at My Sister’s House, who requested to be anonymous for safety reasons, cited this as a huge concern when it came to the Vietnamese American community. Others in the Sacramento Vietnamese American community, such as Nancy Minh Thi Tran of TNT Radio, agreed that apart from the other issue of abuse and violence originating from the global problem of human sex trafficking (see the article “Not for Sale” by Tom Vu, BN July 2006), many immigrant Vietnamese women who recently arrived and were sponsored by their overseas Vietnamese husbands would be too scared to report their case to the authorities for fear of deportation.

Services and prevention

There are many solutions at the aggregate and individual level to help reduce intimate partner violence against Vietnamese women and women in general. My Sister’s House pioneered the successful Women at Work program which focuses on helping domestic violence survivors “get back on their feet so they can get on with their lives.” The Women at Work program helps participants from multicultural backgrounds overcome the trauma of abuse and transition more effectively to emotional and economic independence. The executive director, Nilda Valmores, stated that, “If prevention was totally successful, no shelters would be needed. But in the meantime, the shelter is critical. Clothing donations are nice but they don’t pay the bills. The community needs to value the work enough to keep the shelter going.”

Other program and service providers that have received praise among researchers and advocates is the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence in Boston. Started in 1987, the organization offers a 24-hour multilingual hotline, an emergency shelter in New England, individual counseling and support groups, and help with legal issues, healthcare, housing and public benefits, English tutoring, parenting classes, and children’s advocacy. Information about job and education opportunities are also provided.

There is a need for greater coordination of services and cooperation between various public, private, and non-profit agencies that are trained to deal with Asian domestic violence. An example of such a network is the Filipina Women’s Network. This is a partnership of domestic violence agencies, the Domestic Violence Consortium, the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women, local government, the Philippine consulate, professional women’s associations, faith-based organizations and for-profit corporations to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence in the Filipino community of San Francisco.

Nancy Minh Thi Tran told BN that “we need to increase education via the media, schools, and church groups … We need our communities’ volunteers to interpret with the police, a network to hold workshops, and to have people [come forward to] tell the truth.”

On the legislative side, at the time of this writing, the US Senate and House of Representatives were trying to agree on one version of the stalled reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, passed unanimously in 2005. This reauthorization called for a coordinated community response to domestic violence.

Leaving is hard

“What should I do? Do you think I should leave him?” Tuyet asked as I dropped her off back at her car in the parking lot of My Sister’s House, close to 10:30 p.m. I was by this point very concerned that she would get in trouble for staying out so late, given her husband’s possessive nature. During the interview several times, Tuyet had told me that she just could not afford to move out and that she had no close friends or confidants, so I told her to keep calling My Sister’s House to help her through this difficult time. At the time of the interview, Tuyet was still living with her batterer and did not have any close friends nearby or supportive family. “Thank you for sharing my story,” she told me and drove off.


For further information, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233). In Sacramento, the My Sister’s House crisis hotline is ( 916) 428-3271.

Am I A Victim? Signs of Abuse

Below is a partial list of behaviors that are seen in people who physically abuse another person. The last four signs are almost always seen only if the person is a batterer.

• Jealousy
• Controlling behaviors
• Quick involvement and escalation of the relationship
• Unrealistic expectations
• Isolation
• Blames others for his problems
• Cruelty to animals or children
• “Playful” use of force in sex
• Verbal abuse
• Rigid sex roles
• Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde/mood swings
• Past battering
• Threats of violence
• Breaking or striking objects
• Any force during an argument

Courtesy of My Sister’s House webpage (www.my-sisters-house.org).

17:03′ 06/12/2006 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Maybach, Bentley and Aston Martin cars all have appeared in Vietnam. The biggest interest of Vietnamese playboys is not how expensive the cars are, but whether or not other people have the same models.


Vietnamese playboys only like original things – the things must be different to everyone else’s.


Soạn: HA 976865 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
The Aston Martin Vanquish in Vietnam

Two years ago, the market witnessed Mercedes S-class ‘car fever’, when many of the 78 cars imported to serve the ASEM 5, including S500s and S600s, were sold as soon as they were available.

The attention of playboys later was drawn to BMW series 7. However, now the model, which is priced at $140,000, does not draw much attention from stylish buyers any more.


An A8 car has appeared in Hanoi, and it is equal to an S-class model or BMW series 7, if considering its brand name and originality.


Soạn: HA 976867 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
Bentley Flying Spur on Hanoi’s streets

In early August, when popular people were busy arguing about the taxes imposed on imported used cars, the playboys heard about the appearance of an Aston Martin Vanquish in



The model is not priced less than $230,000 in foreign countries, so it must cost around $721,000 after tax in Vietnam, after the car owner has to pay the 90% import tax (on imported brand new cars), 50% luxury tax and 10% VAT.


After that, the topic of the playboys in Hanoi was the appearance of Bentley’s Flying Spur, a UK luxury car brand name. The price of the car, as quoted on Yahoo network, is $164,990.


Nevertheless, the Aston Martin Vanquish cannot be the No 1 car in Vietnam any more as a Maybach 62 has been imported to Vietnam. A Maybach 62 manufactured in 2006 has the price of $385,250.


Those foreigners who have been living in Vietnam for a long time may understand that the drivers of high-cylinder cars always drive slowly so that everyone can admire their cars. In addition, in Vietnam, the owners of luxury cars like hiding their faces.


That explains why in Vietnam, it is very difficult to know who the actual owners of luxury cars are.


Vietnamese playboys say they don’t like sports cars like Ferraris or Lamborghinis though they are as expensive as the most luxurious sedans, because they think that the sports cars do not have many useful features. In addition, the sports cars prove to be unsuitable to Vietnam’s roads. Therefore, the red Chrysler C6, which is currently favoured by European playboys, has not appeared in Vietnam.


For Catholic Church, Vietnamese Are the New Irish



New America Media, News Report, Andrew Lam, Posted: Dec 06, 2006

EDITOR’S NOTE: A tiny Catholic seminary in Iowa is filled with young Vietnamese taking the path toward priesthood — a trend in the U.S. as a whole, where 12 percent of all Catholic seminary students are Asian, and most of those Vietnamese. Andrew Lam is an editor at New America and author of “Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora” (Heyday Books, 2005), which recently won a PEN/Beyond Margins award.

DUBUQUE, Iowa–If you visit the Divine Word College, a tiny Catholic missionary school outside of Dubuque, Iowa, the conversations you will hear in its hallways will most likely not be carried out in English. Usually, they are in Vietnamese. So is the music played late at night in the school’s cafeteria, when students are hungry for a bite.

Vietnamese dominate this seminary. Forty-three out of its 67 students, about 2 out of 3, are Vietnamese.

Vietnamese Priest“They are replacing the traditional Irish and Italian immigrants, who once provided a steady supply of priests in the States,” says Len Uhal, National Vocation director, and vice president for recruitment. In his office, a map of the United States is covered with colorful thumbtacks representing potential students approached for recruitment. Many of those tacks mark Vietnamese communities. “We look to Asians, particularly Vietnamese immigrants to fill the quotas.”

In the last four decades, the number of priests in the United States has dropped 27 percent, to around 43,000, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. And though Asian Americans comprise of just over 1 percent of the Catholic Church in the United States, they account for 12 percent of all Catholic seminary students nationwide. And the majority of those tend to be Vietnamese.

In Orange County, home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam, almost 15 percent of the Catholic priests are Vietnamese, a number that is rising. Last year, out of seven priests ordained in the county, three were Vietnamese. And four years ago, Vietnamese overseas celebrated when the Most Rev. Dominic Luong in Orange County became the first Vietnamese Bishop in the United States.

Father Binh Nguyen, 39, who attended Divine Word College, is now one of its four recruiters, perhaps its best. He travels regularly to various Vietnamese communities, talking to potential students. “I rarely fly, because you don’t know how long it will take to recruit,” he says. “And I rarely stay at hotels. I take my time. I stay at the potential recruit’s home, talking to the family, to everybody, making sure they know what the student can expect at Divine Word.” Father Binh says he invites them to Dubuque for a visit. When they are hesitant, he’s not beyond cajoling and coaxing.

Lam Tran, 25, a junior, was one of his recruits. How he ended up in Dubuque now seems to Lam to be preordained. A third-generation Catholic, when he was younger and living in Vietnam, Lam dreamed of becoming a priest. But “that was nearly impossible in communist Vietnam,” he says. “The church remains under heavy regulation and surveillance.”But “that was nearly impossible in communist Vietnam,” Tran says. “The church remains under heavy regulation and surveillance.” His family came to the United States five years ago, when his father was granted political refugee status. At first, Lam didn’t pursue his dream of becoming a priest. But soon his uncle told someone who knew Father Binh and Lam found himself visiting Divine Word. That he was living in bustling New York City at the time didn’t sway his decision. Nor did his parents’disappointment when their only son decided to become a priest.

“I feel like it was fate,” Tran says. “I like the quiet and the busy school schedule. There’s no distraction here. Besides, I have many more years before I take the final vow.” Seminary school sstudents will have 12 years before taking their vow.

Tran also likes the 1-to-4 teacher-to-student ratio, almost unheard of in any other college. The school opens its doors to a wide variety of students. There are plenty of grants and scholarships are available, even to those who didn’t fare well in high school.

One is Khoa Mai, 31, who spent much of his formative years in the refugee camp in the Philippines. Mai says he suffered much during his escape in a crowded boat in the late 1980s. At lunch, he spontaneously tells in Vietnamese the story of his ordeal. “I starved on that boat. I was muscular in Vietnam but by the time we landed, I was near dead, just skin and bones.” Sixteen people died on his boat, he says. They ran out of food and water after two weeks. If the Belgian ship that rescued them hadn’t come when it did, “the next day we would have started eating the dead.”

Mai, who spent some years working in a nail salon and then on an assembly line for a high-tech company, will take at least three years of ESL classes before enrolling in serious college-level courses. He worries that he won’t be able to master English. Failing English would mean he won’t graduate, which means the end of the dream of priesthood. Still, Mai says, “I was lucky. I met Father Binh while I went camping. He offered a real education with some scholarship. I have a chance now.” Students ar routinely kicked out each year due to failing grades.

Those who graduate and decide not to follow the path to priesthood will have to pay back a certain amount of their loans, but nowhere as high as that of a regular university. That’s an attraction for the education-loving Vietnamese who came to America past school age. “If you miss out on your education,” says one student who preferred to remain anonymous, “going to seminary school is your second chance to become somebody.” To Vietnamese Catholic families, he says, having a son who is a priest “is a kind of honor that elevates the family’s standing in the community, especially for poor families.”

“We consider ourselves lucky,” Uhal says. “Divine Word had seminary priests volunteering in refugee camps in the United States in 1975 when Vietnamese refugees first came. We built a bridge with them over the years, and our relationship with the community continues to this day.”

Though only10 percent of Vietnamese in Vietnam are Christians, in America the figure is 30 percent, and much of that population are Roman Catholics. That’s not surprising. Vietnamese Catholics were prosecuted by the communists and many fled from North Vietnam to the South in 1954 when the country split in half, with Ho Chi Minh running the North. When South Vietnam fell in 1975, those who were most ready to flee were Vietnamese who experienced communism first hand in the North.

Richard Vu, 24, says he came to Divine Word because he felt it was his calling. His father, he says, was quite surprised. “I was living in Atlanta. I had a girlfriend.” It hasn’t been easy to leave his old life behind. “I cried for many weeks when I first came here. I never felt so lonely. But I knew what I wanted and I told my girlfriend not to wait.” His face has a sad, forlorn look. “We’re now good friends.”

Uhal and Father Binh acknowledge that far fewer U.S. -born Vietnamese would consider going to seminary school. “We rely more and more on immigrants,” says Uhal. “For example, the second largest group here are 10 Sudanese students, followed by Indonesians.”

It is no wonder that on immigration debate, the church knows where it stands. Without these “new Irish,” their supply would further dwindle.

bush in ao dai

December 7, 2006

President Bush, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, right, and
Chinese dictator Hu Jintao, bottom, sporting their traditional
Vietnamese tunics, at the APEC Summit in Hanoi, Nov. 20.