Violent silence: second generation South Asian American Hindus on gender and sexual abuse
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This qualitative study explores Second Generation South Asian American (SG SAA) Hindus' ideals, values, and meanings associated with gender, and how these ideals affect their attitudes towards unwanted sexual contact of women/girls. SG SAAs are an understudied population that report high levels of stress due to bicultural identity issues and ethnic discrimination, and yet are unlikely to display help-seeking behaviors. This study explores some of the cultural factors behind this phenomenon, particularly in terms of topics such as unwanted sexual contact (including sexual harassment, coercion, incest, and rape). Using an internet-based convenience sampling method, the researcher collected data using an anonymous online questionnaire with multiple open-ended questions. After using qualitative data analysis software, the researcher interprets and discusses the results by drawing on psychological and anthropological literature on gender in contemporary Hindu culture, identity in diaspora, and cultural/structural violence. The researcher explains how the results reveal the participants' internalized messages about women's value and expectations, particularly in regards to sexuality and family roles. Expected to be independent as well as submissive, modern as well as traditional, female SG SAA Hindus are faced with impossible expectations that erase their subjectivity and silence their voices. The negative ramifications of this are explored, particularly as the participants' describe the messages they learned about Hinduism and the blaming of female victims of sexual abuse. The study contextualizes SG SAAs in terms of contemporary Hindu cultures, and illuminates the ways that certain Hindu gender role expectations and attitudes have oppressed women, punished victims of unwanted sexual contact, and perpetuated cultures of silence, secrecy, and shame. The researcher calls for re-interpretations and re-visioning of contemporary Hindu cultures, not only to end alleviate cycles of abuse, but also to address this population's unique bicultural identity issues. Future research and widespread education is needed to explore the clinical implications of this study, and to develop culturally specific interventions for this silenced population.