Friday, June 24, 2011
Hmong clan leaders will learn specific steps they can take to prevent domestic abuse and violence in their communities at a July 9 conference in Wausau.
The daylong conference, called Breaking the Silence, Collaboratively, will outline for the state's Hmong clan leaders protocols they should follow when they learn about family abuse -- or the threat of it.
The protocols were developed by the Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Core Committee, a group that has worked for the past two years to curb Hmong domestic violence. It was formed in summer 2009 after Hmong military and cultural leader Gen. Vang Pao condemned domestic abuse during a visit to Wausau.
The July 9 meeting at The Rose Garden will celebrate the work already done by the Core Committee, said Mao Khang, a committee member and Southeast Asian coordinator for The Women's Community in Wausau.
"But it also is just the beginning," Khang said. "We hope to bring in allies of the larger community, (and show) how we can work together to keep the family safe; keep the community safe."
Khang was instrumental in bringing Vang Pao to Wausau after a string of high-profile domestic abuse cases involving Hmong families made headlines. Those included the slayings of Pa Houa Thao in 2007 and Padalina Thao in 2006, both from Weston.
Those cases also spurred Weston to form its own anti-abuse and violence group, Everest Men Respect, which often has worked in tandem with the Hmong Core Committee.
Weston Village Administrator Dean Zuleger thinks the efforts of both groups have made an impact, and was impressed with the number of Hmong leaders who participated in the process.
"I wish all cultures and subsections of cultures would take this as seriously as Hmong culture in Wisconsin has taken it," Zuleger said.
Many Hmong-Americans still organize themselves under the traditional clan system the culture has embraced for generations. Hmong clan leaders help preserve cultural traditions, but also help Hmong families and groups solve problems as a community.
In the past, clan leaders were apt to cover up cases of abuse, asking victims to return to their homes with promises that the situation will get better, Khang said.
The Committee not only has created protocols for clan leaders that give victims more options, but also have given clan leaders mediation training, the last session of which will be held at the July 9 conference.
Now clan leaders "know there are options and ways to deal with victims," Khang said. "I know it will not happen overnight. The clan leaders must be persistent, strong and dedicated to this cause, or it will not work."