Daya Official Introduction:
In the Spring of 1996, a young South Asian woman living in Sugar Land, Texas lost her life and her children’s life to a tragic murder-suicide. The fact that this fairly acculturated woman kept the abuse to herself and did not seek help from any mainstream agencies, spoke volumes. As a response, a group of 7 Indian women – all immigrants to the United States themselves –founded Daya, a compassionate and culturally sensitive organization for South Asian women affected by domestic violence in the Greater Houston Area.
At the root of domestic and sexual violence is the power and control abusers hold over their partner. This entitlement is not about behavior as much as it is about learned values. This is why research consistently shows that children who witness domestic violence are more likely to become abusers or experience abuse. The cycle continues because while the behavior itself (beating, raping, stalking) may be considered "bad", it is often justified by longstanding values related to distorted gender roles, manipulation of religious text, and toxic family dynamics. Additionally, these values and, by default, these behaviors become accepted in society. Despite that staggering costs to public health, some believe these are private family matters for which a public intervention would be inappropriate. More commonly, society continues to blame the victim in a way they do not do for other violent crimes. Society is afraid to admit that intimate partner violence can happen to any of us. Instead, we try to find ways to placate ourselves. We find false causes to explain violence so that we can put our heads in the sand and say, “This could never happen to me".
But, Daya will not turn a blind eye. Our mission is to empower South Asian survivors of domestic and sexual violence through culturally specific services and educate the community to end the cycle of abuse. We take a two-prong approach to accomplishing the mission. The primary approach in Daya’s direct services programs is incorporating cultural expertise, linguistic capabilities, knowledge of community core values, and comprehension of cultural barriers to better meet the needs of South Asian victims. The second approach is to address the reasons that violence continues to be perpetuated and change those dynamics within the community through education. The core programs include licensed trauma counseling, case management, housing support, legal services, community awareness, and education.
Each year Daya supports over 400 survivors. Abuse and violence can be physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, financial, immigration, and spiritual. It can come from spouses, dating partners, family members, and in-laws. Unfortunately, when seeking help and navigating mainstream systems, South Asian victims face unique barriers such as limited English proficiency, distrust of law enforcement stemming from their home country, violence from their in-laws, and lack family support due to distance and cultural taboos. Cultural taboos also cause victims to minimize their abuse. Worse, mainstream danger assessments do not capture the unique vulnerabilities faced by victims in this community. As a result, family violence is underreported and underestimated in our community.
Daya's mission is based on the social justice lens that South Asian survivors of domestic and sexual violence require more equitable pathways when seeking healing, justice, and safety. Holistic services are provided by first considering the intersectional identity of the clients served. Daya clients trace their roots back to numerous countries. They speak multiple languages, practice varying religions, and come from a diverse array of backgrounds with regards to income, education, migration pathway, and immigration status. Clients may be first, second, or third generation immigrants and face challenges related to assimilation, cultural taboos, prejudices, and dual identity. Significant time is invested into exploring these many intersections directly with the client when supporting them in establishing plans and goals.
Daya will not take a prescribed "one size fits all" approach to this complex work. We build strong programs which are then implemented with compassion and humanity. To provide "trauma-informed" services, we meet the client exactly where they are. We form therapeutic relationships that help clients see options rather than offering advice, mandates, or other forms of control. We believe the client has agency and we ensure that they lead their path. In a culture of silence, we aim to remove the shame. Instead of blaming the victim, we honor and empathize their bravery in creating safety for themselves, their family, and their community.
Most importantly, we believe our clients. We fight the root causes of entitlement, silence, and victim-blaming with power, advocacy, and belief. Daya believes every survivor regardless of culture, language or immigration status has the right to safety, independence, and healing.
As part of this healing, we encourage and support clients who have the courage and privilege to share their story as a tool for awareness and hope. Annie is one such client whose stories of resilience speak volumes. When I first met Annie, I was new to my role as Executive Director and new to the field of domestic violence. We met under the bright lights of a camera crew as she shared her stories for a Daya outreach video. Almost immediately, I was overcome by her candid and honest words. This is a phenomenal woman – a doctor, an athlete, a sister, a daughter. As I spent time with her, she continued to grow into someone I will forever admire. Annie values her career, is certain of her strength, and loves her friends and family fiercely. The entire Daya family is honored to be part of her rich story and humbled to know that we played a role in her fight to remain the strong, brilliant woman she was always meant to be. It is with deep appreciation and love that I write these words about Daya’s work. Annie’s story gives me hope that instead of accepting the things we cannot change, we must change the things we cannot accept.
With deep gratitude,
Executive Director – Daya Inc., Houston Texas