KAN-WIN shares timeline of gender-based violence toward Asian and Asian American women


Illustration by Eliana Storkamp

Chicago-based nonprofit KAN-WIN dedicates itself to supporting those affected by gender-based violence.

Jessica Ma, Assistant Campus Editor

Content warning: This story includes mentions of sexual assault and murder.

As part of Multicultural Student Affairs APIDA programming, Chicago nonprofit KAN-WIN facilitated a workshop and presented a timeline about gender-based violence in Asian Pacific Islander Desi American communities Tuesday. 

KAN-WIN provides services like legal advocacy and support groups to those affected by gender-based violence. The nonprofit aims to work toward women’s empowerment across Asian American communities. KAN-WIN’s education outreach coordinator Arthi Jacob spoke alongside youth and young adult organizer Abbey Zhu (Weinberg ’22). 

The presentation covered the time period from 111 B.C.E. and ending with the present. Each slide covered a significant event related to gender-based violence, including the Bangladesh Liberation War (1971), Chinese imperialism in Vietnam (111 B.C.E.) and the founding of KAN-WIN (1990). 

“We created this timeline to talk through how our experiences of gender and gender oppression as Asian women are highly racialized,” Jacob said. “The oppression of Asian and Asian American women under patriarchy is inextricable from histories of racism, colonialism, imperialism, militarism and immigration.”

The presenters invited the audience to talk about common themes across history, as well the differences. They facilitated discussion about how past gender-based violence intersects with the present.

Jacob told the story of Phoolan Devi. Devi, who later became a Member of Parliament in India in 1996, was subjected to child marriage, abuse and assault. After Devi was assaulted by a group of upper-caste men, she led a raid and shot the men at a river bank. 

Though Devi’s story is well-known, caste-privileged people interact with her experience in a way that fetishizes her trauma, Jacob said. 

“They’re still … reinforcing this violence against her,” they said. “That’s partly why I added that to the timeline.” 

MSA graduate assistant Grace Park said women in APIDA communities, especially those experiencing gender-based violence, cannot rely on legal systems to seek justice. 

Park said May Tsubouchi’s murder exemplifies this injustice in the legal system. In 1944, Tsubouchi, who was held at the Poston Internment Camp, was murdered by her co-worker, who had previously stalked and threatened her. However, official camp reports did not take action against the perpetrator. 

The government dismissed Tsubouchi’s experiences, labeling her a prostitute, Park said. At the same time, the government used her story to increase state surveillance in an already highly surveilled camp.  

Though the legal system claims to support those affected by gender-based violence, that doesn’t hold always true, Park said. 

“Those protections are primarily for white, cis women,” Park said. “It often brings greater danger to the women in our communities, femmes, trans folks, nonbinary folks — who try to report and then end up getting punished, incarcerated or further surveilled.” 

At the end of the presentation, Jacob and Zhu highlighted the war on terror. The 2001 Patriot Act legalized the unconstitutional surveillance of Muslim communities, which contributes to the overpolicing of Muslim women, Jacob said. 

Zhu spoke about Yang Song, a sex worker who died in a New York police raid in 2017. The previous year, a police officer sexually assaulted and threatened her at gunpoint. If she didn’t cooperate, the officer said, she would be deported. 

Zhu said this case illustrates how policing, imperialism and militarism tie together. These forces are complicit and active agents of violence against AAPI women, Zhu said. 

“(There’s the) idea that sex workers or people who are participating in the sex trade are somehow deserving of violence, because they’re inherently immoral,” Zhu said. “What pushes people to participate in the sex trade are also those larger systems of domination and oppression.”

Jacob emphasized the importance of naming violence against AAPI women, whether it be racism, fetishization or imperialism. 

Conversations about gender-based violence typically center white, middle to upper class women, according to Jacob. Histories and experiences of Asian and Asian American women have been traditionally excluded from mainstream narratives, Jacob said. 

“The solutions generated by the mainstream anti-violence movement that exists as of right now have been ineffective and harmful to Asian and Asian American survivors,” Jacob said. “This is what we want to remedy.”

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Twitter: @JessicaMa2025

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