Brother of murdered Andover woman speaks out on domestic violence in Hmong community
David Yang is turning his pain into a purpose by raising awareness surrounding domestic violence following the death of his 36-year-old sister Jennifer Yang in Andover just over a week ago.
The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office said Jennifer was murdered by her husband, Fue Her, on March 10. David Yang told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that his sister leaves behind three kids.
“I loved her. She always tapped me on the shoulder and was like, ‘Hi, David.’ I’m going to miss those moments,” David said as he held tears back.
David Yang said that he hung out with Jennifer Yang and her husband often, so the news about his sister’s death shocked the family.
“We probably hung out every other weekend. I didn’t see anything. She didn’t show any signs [of domestic violence] other than reaching out to my parents sometimes about disagreements they may have had,” David Yang said. “Till this day, I still don’t understand. I think she was just trying to protect us.”
David Yang claims patriarchy played a role in his sister’s death. He says it’s a system deeply rooted in the Hmong community that excludes women from holding any power.
“In the Hmong culture, us men are the ones that make all the rules. With the females, they feel like they have nowhere else to go,” he said. “They always say, ‘Siab ntev netv,’ [which means] ‘Have a long heart.’”
“Siab ntev netv” is a phrase commonly said to Hmong wives when experiencing domestic violence.
Xay Yang, executive director for Transforming Generations, explains that because Hmong wives are culturally owned by the husband’s family, mistreatments can sometimes be swept under the rug.
“Because relationships are so important across clans, they want to keep that relationship,” Xay Yang said. “So instead of having the victim survivor leave [their partner], they ask the victim to go back. That’s the Hmong patriarchy.”
Violence Free Minnesota’s latest report says in 2021, at least 20 women were murdered by an intimate partner. This year alone, there have been five victims killed at the hands of their partners.
Jennifer’s death is the third recently reported murder-suicide involving a Hmong family in the Twin Cities following the deaths of Yee Lee, Molly Cheng, and their three children in June.
In August, St. Paul Police say Ka Lor, 30, was shot dead by her partner Yia Xiong, 33, who then killed himself at their home in St. Paul’s East Side, with the couple’s five young children at home at the time.
“It’s heartbreaking and gives us understanding of where our community is at and helps us build even bigger and better programs so our people have tools to build support,” Xay Yang said.
Transforming Generations works on gender-based violence by helping victims survivors navigate court systems as well as providing prevention work with youth. The organization has a curriculum coming soon to work around prevention and learning how to talk about domestic violence.
“In all of these cases, somebody knew something and either started to talk or didn’t know where to go with it, so prevention work is really important,” Xay Yang said.
David Yang is breaking away from the patriarchal traditions and is asking others to do the same.
“You don’t have to follow the tradition. You can be the change,” he said.
Jennifer Yang’s family held a vigil this past weekend. The family will be opening her funeral on May 7 to the public to raise awareness about domestic violence.
A GoFundMe has been set up for Jennifer Yang’s funeral as well as to provide ongoing care for her children.
If you are seeking help, you can contact domestic violence hotlines like Minnesota DayOne at 866-223-1111. You can also reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.