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Hmong encourage more openness about domestic issues

Hmong victims of sexual assault and domestic violence can seek more opportunities for help and support, under new protocols being shared with Wisconsin's Hmong leadership later this week.

Hmong victims of sexual assault and domestic violence can seek more opportunities for help and support, under new protocols being shared with Wisconsin's Hmong leadership later this week.

Victims' advocates say traditionally, Hmong culture can be very patriarchal and secretive, so complaints made to clan leaders may be ignored or kept secret. The new protocols encourage victims to call 911, use shelters, and openly talk with clan leaders on why they wish to leave their spouse. Another protocol would provide mediation training for clan leaders.

Vaughn Vang is a past president of the Hmong 18 Clan Council, which will review the protocols at a July 9th conference in Wausau. Vang says the protocols have already become controversial.

"Many Hmong men try to stop me, to not to help to reform the 18 Clan Council," says Vang. "But I strongly believe in myself, and I believe that we are in the modern society. And we have to throw all the bad things away, and pick up the good things here in this country, and keep the good things in the Hmong culture."

The council's vice-president, Yer Yang, emphasizes seeking outside help has always been an option for victims, but these protocols should relieve the stigma victims suffer for reaching out beyond the clan.

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"Sometimes the clan system could be suppressive," says Yang. "And when you reveal information, you are not only being condemned by your family, but the clans can shun you away from the Hmong society. Especially women."

An 11-member committee of both men and women developed the protocols, following General Vang Pao's visit to Wausau in 2009. In a passionate speech, the Hmong leader called for reforming the clan system as a way to prevent further incidents of homicide and suicide reported among several local families.

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