Maine, my home in America, has a serious domestic violence problem. I know about it mainly because the state government runs advertisements on television with pictures of women and children who have died from violence in their homes. At the end of the advertisements, the Governor appears surrounded by members of anti-domestic violence groups (large bikers prominently in the front row) to urge the audience to have “no tolerance for domestic violence.” Viewers also see a phone number they can call if they’re having a problem. Anyone affected by domestic violence can call the number any time, and there are sufficient shelters in place where women and children can go if they need to get away from an abuser.
Some people have complained that when I address rape and violence in the Tibetan community I’m making the community look bad or saying all Tibetan men are bad. Those complaints are completely missing the point. Just like Maine, and anywhere else in the world, the Tibetan community does have a problem with rape and domestic violence, the difference is how we respond to it. Instead of making the situation better or protecting victims we’ve been hiding the problem just so we can look good. Instead of a hotline to call or any shelters to go to we have denial and excuses. That’s what has to change, the response to a universal problem.
The whole world has problems, there’s no reason for us to pretend we don’t, it’s not a competition. The important thing is to focus on taking care of the community. I believe the first step is getting people to acknowledge and think about the problems. That isn’t about criticizing the community, it’s about compassion for the people in it.