ACEs Study at My Sister’s House on Asian Pacific Islander Survivors
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which are traumatic experiences children from newborn to about 17 years of age endure are still largely understudied amongst the Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities, even though its effects can be life-threatening. Some of these traumas may be sexual or physical violence, abuse, neglect, or being witnesses to violence either in the home or in the community. These experiences, especially with exposure at a young age, have the potential to impact a victim’s quality of life. In order to better support survivors at My Sister’s House (MSH), a recent study was conducted by staff to better understand the needs of the clients so that negative impacts could be lowered and intergenerational trauma decreased.
In order to gauge one’s ACEs, the 10 question component survey was utilized with the clients to identify and discuss its impact on them and their children. The questions inquire about the abuse, neglect, and household issues they experienced. The study provided by My Sister’s House found that approximately 80% of API survivors experienced at least one ACE while only 61% of those outside of MSH experienced one. Even more alarming, approximately 45% of API respondents scored a 4 out of 10 on their ACEs score compared to those who are not a survivor. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2019), an average of 16% of adults score a 4 or higher.
These outcomes indicate that API Survivors may experience increased suicidality, mental illness, and poor quality of life if action is not taken to mitigate impacts. A higher score could also lead to an increase in chronic disease, cancer, and heart disease, those with higher ACEs score also have a shortened lifespan of about 20 years. As illustrated in the chart, the higher the ACEs score, the higher the likelihood of experiencing negative outcomes as an adult:
Other notable mentions from this study indicate that out of the participants, approximately 60% of API respondents reported being verbally and emotionally abused. In stark contrast, less than 10% had parents who were divorced. The percentage of divorce rates were very low which may be due to their cultural and marital values. In most API countries, divorce is largely looked down upon and even illegal as in the Philippines (Library of Congress, 2020).
Despite the alarming results of the survey for API survivors and respondents, My Sister’s House suspects that scores may be under-reported due to comprehension, an inability to complete the survey accurately if they are surrounded by others, or other factors. According to Yen Marshall, My Sister’s House Executive Director, Asian immigrant children are taught to honor and respect parents and elders above all else, so verbal and emotional abuse in the home may be overlooked and not acknowledged, and may be untreated and carried over to the next generation.
Fortunately, My Sister’s House understands how critical it is to lower all risk factors. Their support groups include the discussion of parenting practices that can reduce ACEs score or lower risks as a result of an elevated ACEs score. Additionally, an API mother’s ACEs 2-series class was offered for survivors at My Sister’s House. As an active culturally-responsive organization in Sacramento, My Sister’s House’s goal is to continue preventing ACEs as well as decreasing the effects of a higher than normal score through its various support groups, counseling services for survivors, and outreach to educate the local community.
Advokids. (2022). Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACES). Retrieved on 6/12/2022 from https://advokids.org/adverse-childhood-experience-study-aces/
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Adverse Childhood Experiences: Preventing Early Trauma to Improve Adult Health. Retrieved on 6/2/2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aces/pdf/vs-1105-aces-H.pdf
Library of Congress. (2020). Philippines: House Bill on Divorced Approved in Committee. Retrieved on June 12, 2022 from https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2021-09-06/philippines-house-of-representatives-bill-on-divorce-approved-in-committee-referred-to-house-plenary-for-debate/#:~:text=On%20August%2017%2C%202021%2C%20the,of%20the%20House%20of%20Representatives.