Fresno-area Hmong community leaders contacted CRS, in response to a series of recent murder-suicides, in which Hmong men murdered Hmong women before killing themselves. A Hmong women’s group contacted CRS and alleged women are the victims of violence committed by their husbands.
In traditional Hmong culture, men historically held a high degree of decision-making power and control over domestic, financial, and cultural decisions within the home. Some groups within the Hmong community stigmatized a woman or other family members who involved law enforcement in family matters, even if law enforcement involvement may be warranted. Hmong women’s groups in the community were concerned that the community uses traditional Hmong oral law and longstanding religious beliefs to protect men and discriminate against women.
A Hmong women’s group requested CRS to provide mediation and consultation services to the community. The group wanted to educate women about their rights under state and federal law. In the CRS mediated agreement, Hmong leaders agreed that women could contact law enforcement without fear of reprisal from inside the Hmong community. CRS facilitated dialogues between Hmong communities from San Jose, CA, and across Wisconsin to share best practices about how different Hmong communities addressed the same problem.
Following a series of facilitations and consultations with Fresno’s Hmong leaders, the leaders communicated changes in their oral law to the community, clarifying that women may contact law enforcement without male consent and would not face reprisals from inside the community. Support from the community’s traditional leadership was instrumental to the success of the women’s groups’ domestic violence program, that included speakers and workshops for Hmong women. The programs reaffirmed the community elders’ support for women who report domestic violence and helped reduce gender-based tensions in the Hmong community.
CRS continues to work with Fresno’s Hmong community to improve communication with law enforcement and overall police-community relations. In the years following CRS’s initial involvement, the Fresno Police Department continued building capacity and supporting Hmong officers and community to improve overall police-community relations. During a series of CRS-facilitated dialogues with Fresno law enforcement and Hmong leaders, community members requested more information and transparency from the police department. After these dialogues, the Hmong officers in the Fresno Police Department developed the Hmong Residents’ Academy with command’s support. The Hmong Residents’ Academy was a six-week program, tailored for the Hmong community, and run by Hmong members of the police department in the Hmong language. The program was held in April and May 2019, included a tour of police headquarters, and covered topics including internal affairs and use of force; resources for victims of domestic violence; and victim advocate services available to victims of all crimes.