I got a story for you, and it’s about community accountability. This Hmong woman in Wausau—she was killed by her husband and then he killed himself. He shot her boyfriend, too, and now he’s in the hospital in critical condition.
The reason a lot of Hmong women don’t leave violent relationships or go back and forth is because when you’re married, you belong to your husband’s clan in the spirit world. When you die, they bury you and you have a place to go. If you’re in-between places, then nobody’s gonna bury you, nobody’s gonna pay for a funeral, and you have no place to go in the spirit world. That’s why so many women stay or don’t do anything.
So this woman, her husband’s clan wouldn’t bury her because they said she’s a ‘slut.’ Then her boyfriend’s clan said, “she doesn’t belong to us so we’re not going to bury her.” And her parent’s family said, “if she listened to us, this wouldn’t have happened.” So they wouldn’t bury her either. So nobody’s claiming her and nobody’s going to bury her or pay for the burial. This is three weeks later.
So this woman’s been working with an advocate from Women’s Community in Wausau up there. She’s been working with this woman who was killed, and she calls me. We’d been talking with the advocates up there for a while trying to figure out what to do. I’d already been planning to go there to talk about domestic violence and community accountability to a big group of Hmong people at a conference they were planning.
So I say, go back to that clan and say that if they don’t bury her and pay for the funeral, we’re going to publicly shame them. They have until Wednesday, and if they don’t do it, then we’re going to go out nationally and write an article and tell everyone that we don’t even bury our dead. We’ll go to all the women’s organisations and shame the community. We’ll let them know that there’s eighteen clans up there, and nobody buried her.
I said, we always gotta go back to the problem which is that this is why women don’t leave or go back and forth—because they’re afraid they’re going be left with nobody to bury them when they die. You bury him first, and he’s the one who killed her. And you leave her and say that she died because she’s a slut. She didn’t die because she’s a slut, she died because this guy was abusing her and you all knew that. She died because the Hmong considered her somebody’s property, and now she gets killed and can’t even get buried. She’s not a slut. Hmong men go out with other women all the time, and nobody dies.
Everybody knew that she was getting treated like s*** by this guy. If they don’t do something about this, then we’re gonna go out and tell everybody and shame the whole community.
So one of the advocates working with the clan leader—she told them this, and you know what? They got the money together and buried her. Her husband’s clan took responsibility for her and buried her. That’s community accountability.