In memory of Ashdeep Kaur, age 9

Ashdeep Kaur (Photo Credit:
Ashdeep Kaur (Photo Credit: NBC)

By Guest Contributor: Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi)

Sometimes a story appears on the local news that’s so sad, tragic, and infuriating that it completely takes your breath away. That’s how I felt when the news broke that a nine-year-old Queens girl named Ashdeep Kaur was strangled on Friday, allegedly at the hands of her stepmother.

NY1 reports Shamdai Arjun, 55 was charged murder by strangulation after the child’s body was found inside a bathtub at her home.

Ashdeep’s short life was apparently filled with turmoil and violence, with many neighbors and family members wondering if she was being abused. Ashdeep was said to even have told a relative that she was afraid to return home with her stepmother.

The response she received is extremely troubling. “That is how we grew up in Punjab. I was thinking, ‘It’s normal, it’s OK. It’s family,’?” said Ashdeep’s uncle Manjinder Singh told the New York Post.

Singh went on to say that, “[Ashdeep] always told me she doesn’t like to be with her stepmother. Sometimes she got beatings from her. Sometimes she grabbed her, threw her on the bed. I’m not thinking she’s going to kill her.”

Research has shown that attitudes like Singh’s regarding abuse are common among many Asian immigrant families in the United States. As Anna Lau, a professor of psychology at the University of California-Los Angeles has noted, abuse in Asian American immigrant families is probably vastly undetected and underreported for a variety of cultural reasons.

“Parents from Asian cultures are often more likely to view the use of physical discipline as part of being an involved and concerned parent, and as a way to teach children duty,” said Lau. “The children themselves may not even perceive it as abuse.”

Other researchers theorize that instances of child abuse in Asian American families is disproportionately low because of a cultural emphasis on showing family unity and not wanting to involve authorities in private family matters.

Outrage over Ashdeep Kaur’s death is sure to grow over the coming days. We as Asian Americans should take this opportunity to start a long overdue conversation on the signs of abuse and the need to intervene for the sake of the children in our communities.

Perhaps the saddest part of Ashdeep’s story is that she hadn’t even been living in the United States for very long; Ashdeep reportedly arrived in the United States just a few weeks ago.

“She came here for a bright future, you know?” relative Shalanjit Singh told the Post. “She was going to go to school and everything. She didn’t deserve it.”

If you are in the United States or Canada and suspect you know a child who is being abused, please call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

Lakshmi Gandhi
Lakshmi Gandhi

Lakshmi Gandhi is a journalist and pop culture writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Metro New York, NBC Asian America and NPR’s Code Switch blog, among other sites. She likes it when readers tweet her @LakshmiGandhi with their thoughts on Asian American issues and romance novels.

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