Jackie Bong Wright

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Mother’s Day 2000

With Four Vietnamese Children, Victims of Domestic Violence

By Jackie Bong-Wright

Crime Scene

Remember Lien Ho, 41, a Centreville Vietnamese computer analyst, stabbed to death in her home last December 14 by her ex-husband, Phuong, a cashier in a Safeway store? After killing his wife, he stabbed and wounded himself, though not fatally. He has been charged with murder, and held without bail.

A month earlier, Phuong had threatened his ex-wife with a knife. Fearing for her life, she had obtained a Protective Order against him. Angered that she had taken legal action, he went to her house, holding a knife. She ran to the basement bathroom, where she was cornered and killed on the spot.

Mother’s Day

What happened to their four children? The eldest son, Huy, 20, a diligent and responsible young man, dropped out of engineering school and is working at two jobs to maintain the house, pay the mortgage, and care for his sister and two brothers. He plans to sell the house soon and move into a smaller place. Catherine, 17, still in school, is studying hard for her SAT exam, keeping the house in order, and cooking for her brothers. She finds time to remain active as a gymnastics manager at her school and a religious education teacher, every Tuesday evening, at her church. Her future aspirations? She wants to be a teacher, a chef, or an eye doctor. Her brother, Quang, 12, withdrawn and quiet at times, likes math, science, football, basketball and baseball. The youngest, Minh, 9, likes video games, and cries a lot at night.

What did they do on Mother’s Day this year? They visited their mother’s grave, and attended mass to pray for her. This was their celebration. Father Jerome Fasano at St. Andrews Catholic Church in Clifton has set up a fund-raising campaign for the Ho children to help them cope with the enormous challenge of their mother’s death.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence occurs in families, between married couples, live-in partners, and dating couples. The abuse can be physical, sexual, verbal or emotional harm by one party upon the other. Educational campaigns have been undertaken by local governments and community-based organizations in the U.S. and in other countries to make communities more aware of this important issue. There are efforts to educate adults and teenagers on the abusive uses of power and control in relationships by both sexes. In addition, conversations have begun about how ethnic and cultural values can unintentionally promote or condone abuse; as well as, how traditional attitudes about the role of men and women and the challenges of acculturation contribute to this problem.

Women, especially foreign-born women, suffer in silence, and consider discussion of domestic abuse a taboo. Thus, this hidden problem has surfaced mostly over the past decade, and police departments have adopted strict policies to fight domestic violence. Spouse abuse is against the law in Virginia. In the Vietnamese community, language barriers and lack of access to services, or lack of knowledge about services, remain a hindrance in addressing the issue. The public and private agencies dealing with safety planning, bilingual interpreting, prevention efforts, immediate intervention and ongoing support have limited resources and often train volunteers to provide support services.

Plan of Action

Domestic violence is a social and legal issue, and the safety of the victim is the first priority. When physical abuse is present, court intervention is necessary. Victims can contact the police in an emergency or contact Juvenile and Domestic Relations court for a Protective order. In Fairfax county, hotlines, shelters, and emergency housing are available to victims and there is counseling for both victims and abusers. The police and courts enforce legal measures such as domestic assault charges, protective orders, and sexual assault and stalking laws. Nonetheless, when a victim files domestic assault charges or petitions the court for a Protective Order, she/he should have a safety plan that includes being in a safe place unknown to the abuser.

Community and family support can be vital for women and families seeking help when domestic abuse is a problem. Promoting or hosting education and training workshops, media outreach, written material in the many languages represented in Fairfax County, articles in ethnic newspapers, and radio and television programming are vital for promoting prevention in otherwise difficult-to-reach communities.

Partnership

A coordinated partnership between public and private agencies would enhance the delivery of services to victims and services provided properly may prevent future incidents. In hopes of supporting such a partnership, a pilot program has been designed in Fairfax County Region II which encourages the coordination and integration of services for families impacted by domestic violence.

To get the number(s) for Domestic Violence in your immediate area, contact the Virginia Family Violence Hotline at 1-800-838-8238.