While responding to domestic violence crime scenes, Caroline Jaffe, the volunteer supervisor for Seattle's Domestic Violence Victim Support Team, has met countless abuse victims over the years.

One incident sticks out in her mind, however; Jaffe and her partner were called in to help an Asian American woman who had been battered. The situation they walked into was much different from most of the cases they see.

"There were all kinds of family members in the house," Jaffe says. "They were in the room while the officer was taking the report." The officer needed to take photos of the woman's injuries under her shirt, but the crowded living room offered little privacy. Jaffe escorted the woman to the bathroom to take pictures.

Jaffe and her volunteers, who stay with domestic violence victims after officers leave to comfort them and refer them to other services, are used to challenging situations. But language barriers, cultural traditions, and religious beliefs often make it even more difficult for the Seattle area's main domestic violence agencies.

As Jaffe's story shows, the cultural differences are especially pronounced for Seattle's South and Southeast Asian populations. "When you look at Asian and Pacific Islander decision-making processes, the world view--generally--is based on kinship and thinking about your family before yourself," says Norma Timbang, executive director of the Asian Pacific Islander Women and Family Safety Center, an organization that works specifically with Asians and Pacific Islanders. (Jaffe's program works with victims from all cultural backgrounds.) Timbang says South and Southeast Asian women often won't seek assistance, because they don't want to break up their families or shame the community.

Seattle has 19 domestic violence victim programs including ones like Jaffe's, which work with people from all cultural backgrounds, and a few that work specifically with South and Southeast Asian population (currently over 76,000 people in Seattle). The city kicks in about $2.6 million to domestic violence agencies.

Despite the city's budget crunch (the council is working to cut $27 million from the city's general fund), Timbang's organization, along with other groups, approached the city to secure additional funding for two groups that serve South and Southeast Asian communities. The groups, Chaya and the Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Consortium, provide everything from interpreters to legal assistance.

Chaya, a nonprofit agency focusing on women from South Asian cultures such as India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tibet, started in 1996 as a grassroots effort, primarily to help women affected by domestic violence.

"We started because there were South Asian women who didn't feel comfortable in mainstream shelters," says Pramila Jayapal, chair of Chaya's board. The agency's 2002 projected budget is $248,500. They can fund most of it with money from a wide range of private donations, but are seeking $75,000 in city funding to make up the difference. Jayapal says that in the past the South Asian population has been largely ignored when evaluating the need for culturally specific domestic violence programs.

The second group seeking city money, the Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Consortium, is a coalition of four service providers, including Timbang's, with combined domestic violence budgets of $952,000 ($350,000 of that is supplied by the city). They are seeking an additional $131,000 from the city in 2002 to increase services at all four agencies. The consortium provides everything from primary health care to batterer intervention, which seeks to educate the abuser and curb future violent behavior.