ACEs Study at My Sister’s House on Asian Pacific Islander Survivors



Adverse Childhood Experience and Survivors at My Sister’s House


The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study is one of the largest
investigations of the impact of childhood abuse and neglect on later in life health and
well-being. Although ACEs are extensively studied, it remains understudied among
Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities. Areas of study in ACEs research include child
physical and sexual abuse as well as child neglect and abandonment. The study also
looks at mental illness and domestic violence among other traumas in order to correlate
to both short-term and long-term negative health outcomes. Researchers are finding
correlations between these adverse experiences and long-term health outcomes related to racism, poverty, systemic oppression, exposure to community violence and
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 the staff to better understand the
adversity our clients have faced, their vulnerabilities and risks which may lead to
negative effects.
In order to identify one’s ACE score, the 10 question survey was administered to
clients. The study provided by My Sister’s House found that approximately 82% of our
API survivors reported being a direct victim of child abuse. 22% of our API survivors
reported living in a home with domestic violence as compared to the non-API survivors
which had 63% reporting living in a home with domestic violence. Even more alarming,
our API respondents scored an average of 4 out of 10 on the ACE questionnaire and
30% of our API respondents scored a 6 out of 10 or higher.
Based on the ACEs research, those survivors who score more than a 4, indicate
outcomes that significantly increase their risk for suicidality, mental illness, diabetes,
lower academic outcomes and the potential to become victims of domestic violence
themselves. At a larger scale, those who score a 6 or higher, on average, have a
shortened lifespan of about 20 years. These outcomes directly impact the API survivors
we serve at My Sister’s House as these are the realities and consequences they face.
Other notable mentions from this study indicate that out of the participants, the
percentage of divorce rates in our API survivors, were significantly lower which may be
due to their cultural and marital values. In most API countries, divorce is looked down
upon and largely discouraged with it even being illegal in some countries such as 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,
language barriers, and/or simply normalizing abuse. When assessing survivors, a
common theme is that immigrant children are taught to honor and respect parents and
elders above all else. What we consider verbal and emotional abuse in the home may
be overlooked and simply acknowledged as a normal parenting style. Exposing internal
struggles and bringing shame to yourself and family dictates the lack of the community
avidly seeking necessary support, help and education because it’s frankly looked down upon. The collectivistic cultural framework creates challenges and barriers to a healthier life which then lead to life threatening consequences.

Fortunately, My Sister’s House understands how critical lowering risk factors in order for our survivors to thrive and break negative intergenerational trauma legacies, which is the ultimate goal of our work at My Sister’s House. Our prevention and protective
factors approach has proven to be powerful and effective with our survivors. Through
psychoeducation, providing a safe space, and our culturally responsive approach, we
encourage and highlight that these women who are victims of childhood traumas are
also incredibly resilient with a survivor spirit. It is important to monitor reactions of
survivors after completing this ACE questionnaire so women do not carry shame after
identifying their score, but rather feel empowered and offer themselves self-
compassion, a critical component to healing. Additionally, educating victims of domestic
violence can help reduce the risk of the generational legacy of trauma to help break the
cycle. My Sister’s House support groups include the discussion of parenting practices
that can reduce ACEs score or lower risks as a result of an elevated ACEs score. As an
active culturally-responsive organization in Sacramento, My Sister’s House’s goal is to
continue preventing the consequences of a high ACEs score by increasing education
and protective factors in our survivors.

Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) | ECLKC (