By Sylvana Chan
The Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK) celebrated its 22nd annual Silk Road Gala on Oct. 24 at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston’s Seaport District.
Established in 1992, ATASK strives to prevent domestic violence in East, South and Southeast Asian families within the greater Boston and Lowell communities and to provide hope for survivors. The organization’s inception was driven by the dearth of services for Asian domestic violence survivors, especially low-income immigrants with little to no English language capabilities. Most clients are women between the ages of 21 and 45.
Among ATASK’s many achievements is a 24-hour help hotline that connects victims to a team of employees and volunteers that can speak an impressive 14 different languages and dialects, including English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Toisanese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Nepali, Punjabi, Tagalog or Filipino, Tibetan, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
Dawn Sauma, interim co-executive director of ATASK, emphasizes the importance of providing aid and assistance in these languages. Although there are government programs and other nonprofit organizations available to help survivors of domestic violence, the challenge lies in bridging the linguistic barriers that separate Asian victims from accessing these services.
“Without the interpretation and translation services and culturally competent knowledge, we wouldn’t be able to link [victims] to those services,” explained Sauma. “Nor would they want to be seeking services. A lot of people in Asian communities don’t understand the systems in the United States, so they are fearful [of getting help]. We act as the middle ground.”
In addition to serving as the middleman between victims of domestic violence and existing social safety nets, ATASK also boasts New England’s only multilingual emergency shelter and provides advocacy services, education programs, and outreach for Asian domestic violence survivors.
ATASK’s annual gala provides an opportunity for its community of supporters to gather together and enjoy food from local restaurants and performances from cultural groups, such as Dance Philippines and the American Chinese Art Society.
For all attendees, the Silk Road Gala provides a chance to reflect on the year’s achievements as well as on all the work that remains to be done. Sauma added, “We’re always trying to bring awareness to what’s going on because we can’t do it without the community.”
For more information about ATASK and its services, please visit www.atask.org/site/. To access its 24-hour help hotline, please call (617) 338-2355.
This post is also available in: Chinese