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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the blog posts are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Hnub Tshiab: Hmong Women Achieving Together.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Is He a Sexual Predator?

I recently read about the Penn State sexual abuse scandal and I don’t know what was worse that sexual predators are active community members or that institutions protect sexual predators.

This made me think about when I was thirteen years old and in 8th grade.  A Hmong guy who was in college pursued me.  At the time, it seemed normal because many of my Hmong girlfriends were dating college age Hmong men.  Is this Hmong man any different than Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky?  Are the people in the Hmong community who witnessed the behavior and said nothing any different than those who knew Sandusky's sexual assult of minors at Penn State and did nothing?  


  

21 comments:

  1. So common. I have a friend who met and married her husband as a teenager when he tutored her in an after school program. He was 22 and she was 14. He was supposed to help her, but I guess he helped himself.

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  2. The difference between Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky and this Hmong man is that Sandusky knew his behavior of sexually assaulting the minors in the shower at Penn Sate was wrong and against the law but did it any way. In the Hmong community, it is socially acceptable that adult males date younger girls.

    As a young girl, how do you understand or reconcile the juxtaposition that in your cultural community it is okay for a college age guy to date a minor but it is illegal in the mainstream community?

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  3. The Hmong community will always protect the Hmong Institution. Had Penn State been a Hmong clan, they would have made the victim marry the gross, aged, and decaying old guy.
    Zong

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  4. Hnub Tshiab, thanks for sharing.

    This kind of behavior was certainly a community issue 10 years ago but I think that the community is changing. I personally don't see this so much in today's society especially among the young people.

    Also, you can't just equate a Hmong cultural practice with something like sexual assault. They are not exactly the same things.

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  5. This is in response to MX above:

    How can you say that a Hmong man in college pursuing a Hmong girl in high school is not sexual assault? I will not go into the technical definition of sexual assault, but an older man, regardless of ethnicity, going after an underage person is committing sexual assault. Just because it is socially acceptable and tolerated in the Hmong community doesn't mean it's right.

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    1. Because sexual assault is not consensual. Many so called advance society don't even set the consent for sexual relationship at 18. Only in America did they do so, which is a broad stroke of the legal system to not over complicate things. Right and wrong is subjective and mostly opinion, thus does not make you any more right than those that don't agree with you. Each situation warrants its own analsys, as I also don't believe some of the practices that older Hmong men marrying young girls is right. But you can't just categorize everything into sexual assault. That is just irresponsible, and especially igrnorant.

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  6. I think it is important for us to check ourselves and assess whether we are applying a Western cultural lens to a Hmong cultural practice.

    It has only been recent (since coming to the United States in the 80's) that in the Hmong community there is such a thing as the stage of adolescence. Back in Laos, there was a childhood stage (before menstruation) and adulthood (young adulthood and elder stage). I don't think the Hmong culture condoned adult men dating/marrying children nor was it practiced. It was common practice for any male...say around 16 years old and older to court/date/marry a young girl after menstruation - an indication that she is ready for reproduction. I think we have to recognize that in the Hmong community the stage of childhood is very short - children are given a lot of responsibility and mature much faster than in Western society.

    It is only through the influence of Western society that the perspective of this cultural norm is being questioned/challenged in terms of what is acceptable and tolerated.

    If we were in Laos today and the cultural framework was different (i.e., it is acceptable for younger girls to date/marry anyone--because early marriage is an issue too--including 18 years or older), would we be questioning whether this man is a sexual predator or not?

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  7. We can't use culture as an excuse for taking advantage of young girls. If anyone knows a 13 year old, despite how mature they may appear, they are still socially and emotionally immature.

    The point is that girls should have the ability to make an informed decision about who they are, who they want to be with, and their what their future holds. At age 13 you are not thinking about your life in the same way that a 22 year old is.

    I am a guy and I think this behavior gives Hmong men a bad name.

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  8. WELL SAID:

    The difference between Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky and this Hmong man is that Sandusky knew his behavior of sexually assaulting the minors in the shower at Penn Sate was wrong and against the law but did it any way. In the Hmong community, it is socially acceptable that adult males date younger girls.

    ADDING ... the story mentioned of the Hmong man and and you was during our transition. Today that is different and not acceptable.

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  9. I think the questions is, do you think your "dad" is a a sexual predators? because he is older them your mom or Do you think your husband is a sexual predators? because he is older then you. If you don't think your dad or your husband are sexual predators, then the answer is "no" because we Hmong people do for love and accepted while Sandusky did for pleasure.

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  10. In response to the post about the "Western Cultural Lens", I believe in Laos and Thailand, it is illegal for an adult 18 years of age or older to have sexual intercourse with a minor aged 17 years or younger. So, this legal age of consent is not only present in the United States, but it's also present in Thailand and Laos. It is only within the Hmong community that adulthood behinds at menstruation.

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  11. It is becoming very common nowadays for Hmong women to make up allegations of rape, abuse, forced marriage, etc, during a divorce b/c of underage marriage within the Hmong Community. Most do b/c it a lever to get child custody and child support...Underage marriage have become less practice nowadays, but do you think the Western legal system should have the right to prosecute a Hmong men after 5-10 years of marriage?

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    1. That is an easy answer. You live in the country, you follow the laws. If you don't it doesn't matter what culture or religion says, you will be prosecuted regardless. Does it make it right? The courts do not decide what is right and what is wrong, they only decide what is legal and what is illegal.

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  12. To Love:

    If an individual killed someone 5-10 years ago, he can still be prosecuted for his crime. In fact, it would be expected the he/she be prosecuted. Why then shouldn't a Hmong man be prosecuted for pursuing, having sex with, and marrying an under age child 5-10 years after the fact? If a crime is a crime, it's still a crime even with the passage of time.

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  13. Another Hmong guys commentsNovember 14, 2011 at 2:45 PM

    First of all, thanks to Hnub Tshiab for initiating the conversation. This is a highly loaded question but an important one for discussion nonetheless. Before I “check” my opinions at the door, I want to make it clear that I do not agree with the practice of older Hmong men courting/marrying much younger Hmong girls (ie teen-aged and pre-teen). Mr. Hmong is absolutely correct when he stated above that no one at that stage has matured emotionally, socially, intellectually and so on. That an older Hmong man, having had the opportunity to develop and mature, would choose to court/marry a young girl who has not had those same opportunities could very well be seen as predatory. In any event, the law is clear as it relates to the definition of a minor, an adult and the allowable relationship between the two, and Hmong culture doesn’t trump the law.

    That aside, I would ask a very basic question, why is it acceptable within the Hmong culture for older men to marry much younger women in the first place?

    Personally, I believe it is about economics, and at its core the economics of Hmong culture is closely related to what a writer above raised about women and child-bearing years. Historically, the Hmong culture has been an undeveloped, subsistence agrarian culture with limited access to education and other forms of advancement. Furthermore, the Hmong support system has predominately relied on the immediate family. Whether this is realized or not, the natural tendency then would be to maximize family size in order to maximize the support system; eg agricultural support, personal support in old age, etc. This further means that men would choose to marry very young girls as they would have the longest time-span of child bearing years. From this point of view, I get why Hmong guys want to marry young girls. It’s economics. Less developed economies favor labor capital as they rely heavily on it.

    Of course, the follow-up question then becomes do the economics of a developed society advocate for the marriage of under-aged girls (for the purpose of maximizing child-bearing)?

    To this I think we would all agree “no”. I can’t quote the statistics, but it is fairly common knowledge that early marriages, teen pregnancies and teen child rearing dramatically decreases the probability of an individual completing a HS education. This of course has downstream effects such as limiting access to vocational training, a college education and further academic advancement. In more developed economies where intellectual capital is favored, failure of a population to achieve a technical skill-set would actually serve as a drag on the advancement of that population. Therefore, the marriage of under-aged Hmong girls effectively places them at a statistical disadvantage not only relative to older Hmong men, but also to the broader society in general thus greatly reducing their ability to compete and advance.

    So in the end what we have is a Hmong cultural framework around courtship and marriage which does not necessarily apply in a developed economy and more importantly, we have a framework which can act as an impediment to the advancement of Hmong women. Of course an impediment to the advancement of Hmong women is an impediment to the advancement of Hmong people overall.

    As people of color in America, all of us face institutionalized roadblocks as it relates to academic, economic, political and social advancement. Why then would we want to layer on additional cultural barriers for 50% of our population? We do not live in an undeveloped agrarian society any longer, but rather must compete in a highly complex, technical and industrialized economy. As such, we would be best served to promote for the full development, the full maturity, and the full engagement of all Hmong people regardless of gender. This should be reason enough for us to no longer accept relationships between older Hmong men and very young Hmong girls.

    I’m just sayin.

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  14. to voice of reason:

    Let re-address the question "do you think the Western legal system should have the right to prosecute a Hmong man after 5-10 years of good marriage when the ex-wife totally lie during divorce to get custody"? And "no" he is not a killer but a good father....

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  15. How long ago did this happen? 70s, 80s, 90s that probably was seen acceptable but nowadays its changing. If you're to compare to the present time, old Hmong men marry young Hmong girl in Laos is closer comparison. But what about marriage, do marriage still count. This Sandusky dude was molesting one kids after another, but Hmong men commit to marriage instead of molesting numerous minor.

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  16. I think that if you live in America you should obey it's laws and re think the hmong culture such as underage marriage, forced marriage etc. after all if we live in America it's the right and respectful thing to do if you think that it's right to allow these customs then go back to your ancestor's native country and follow these customs

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    1. As I do agree with you, that the hmong needs to learn the laws of the country they live in, and there is much that needs to change around underage and force marriages. To just sweep everything under the rug and say go back to your native country is ridiculous and does not resolve these issues. By your post, I assume you are not hmong. It's always easy to judge from the sidelines as you have no stake in the issue, but that also means your opinions don't really matter.

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  17. I just took care of a Hmong couple who spoke no English at the hospital. When I first walked into their room I thought the man with the 22 year old girl was her father. I was mistaken. It was her husband. Made me feel real uncomfortable. I understand that the Hmong come from a primitive nomadic tribal culture in southeast Asia but a, shocked that these cultural practices continue in this country.

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    1. I don't know what ethinic background you came from, but to assume we are primitive shows your ignorance. There are many other cultures that these practices are allowed. Here's an example, I assume you are some white person in the US, I can bet you there are plenty of white people doing this type of thing. As in many states the legal age to marry is 14 with the consent of the bride's parents. You can be shocked all you want, but at least the marriage between these hmong couple upholds family values, not like your white counter parts. Where older white men have sex with underage girls and then toss them aside like trash so they wont get in legal trouble.

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