Helping battered women.: Becoming Minnesotan

Kusum Saxena, c.1995.
  • Name - Kusum Saxena
  • Age at interview - 61
  • Gender - Female
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 09.30.1994
  • Women at the School of India for Languages and Culture (SILC), Como High School.

    We Are Here

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    Essential Question

    We Are Here: What does it mean to this immigrant group to be here in America?

    Contributions: How is America better off because of this group of immigrants?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    Traditional Indian culture is patriarchal, where the father makes most of the decisions for his family and his wife is expected to honor and obey his wishes.  Unfortunately, some Indian men take this too far.  Although domestic abuse is not unique to Indian culture, it is something that is even more difficult for immigrants to deal with here in the U.S. because of the distance from the support of their extended families and lack of knowledge about resources that may exist to help them.

    To learn more about Asian Indian history and culture, visit our Asian Indian Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Kusum Saxena 4
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    Narrator: Kusum Saxena (KS)

    Interviewer: Polly Sonifer (PS)

    KS:  I set up a group for battered females for the Indian women.

    PS:  Is that much of an issue? That is something I haven't heard anyone talk about.

    KS:  It’s a thing which we should be ashamed of, but it is there. It is an evil which is there. It’s kept very subdued because most of the Indians here are from educated, socially high status but this evil has no bounds, it's all over. And the problem, we know that it is there, we know that it's in this community.

    Once I realized we had this problem, I got a couple of American ladies who, like you, have a certain interest in Indian background. So, this friend of mine - he’s from India, but his wife is American - so I said, “Probably these women will open up more to you rather than to me."

    Then I had one Indian social worker who is from Uganda. She didn’t know many people from New Delhi, so we set up that. I said I have a lot of resources through my work where I can direct the people, women who need help. They don’t have to tell me any problem. They can call Sandy or Sushila and they will give the number. I would just be the facilitator because I don’t want to be the counselor.  They should realize there is some help which is available to them and some way we can help them indirectly.

    And every culture has different opinions. The social worker who is in American culture, she probably will not have all the understanding of the interactions of the Indian woman, so you have to give input into that. I think it’s best from people who understand the culture.  Because husbands, as we grew up, the training that we have had, and I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but there is a certain way we have been taught to think about our husbands, and that’s difficult, the social worker here will not understand that feeling.

    PS:  So what would be the culturally Indian way to deal with a battering situation?

    KS:  I think the dealing is the same, that you are not meant to take all the abuse, and you should stand up for that, and if the marriage has to come to an end, it has to end.

    PS:  But in India, divorce is very rare.

    KS:  Oh no, oh no, not anymore. I can say that about my mother’s time. But there is a lot of cruelty going on, lot of abuse going on. People are realizing that this is a evil, and women are not being passive, they are taking an active stand. I think that comes from education, and why would a woman take the abuse unless she is very submissive, and why would she be submissive if she does have means to support her?

    Not everybody can run to their father’s house and stay there. So now more women being in professions and able to earn their own things, they are facing it, they are challenging it and they are getting out. So divorce is not such a rare bird anymore.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Noun:  A group of people who share a common understanding of the same language, manners, tradition and law.


    Noun:  An indifference to suffering or positive pleasure in inflicting suffering; a cruel act.


    Noun:  The arts, customs, and habits that characterize a particular society or nation.


    Noun:  A person who contributes to the fulfillment of a need or advancement of an effort or purpose.


    Noun:  Information and opinions added into something. 


    Noun:  A conversation or exchange between people.


    Noun:  Debate; controversy; problem.


    Noun:  Resources; riches.


    Adjective:  Being subjected to an action without producing a reaction.


    Noun:  1. A person’s position or standing relative to that of others. 2. Prestige or high standing. 3. A situation or state of affairs.


    Adjective:  Quiet; toned down.


    Adjective:  Meekly obedient or passive.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
    nid: 636