If you are an immigrant suffering from any kind of domestic abuse/violence or Immigrant Partner Violence, remember that in Canada, abuse is not tolerated. You do not have to stay in an abusive situation.
While Canada continues to enjoy mutually beneficial relationships with her newcomers drawn from around the globe, it remains a fact that immigrants can only thrive in an atmosphere of relative peace of mind and personal sense of fulfillment.
One issue that is of growing concern is an unprecedented increase in cases of domestic violence among immigrants, alternately called Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) or Physical Abuse. It is one phenomenon that undermines the productivity of immigrants, as well as the capacity of immigrants to rebuild their lives in their new environment.
Domestic violence or IPV is “physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse”. (Government of Canada, 2014, para. 1).
It covers physical, verbal, emotional, economic and sexual abuse. Talking about spousal or partner abuse is almost an anathema to many victims who prefer to suffer in silence until depression or other grave situations set in.
According to Canadian Women’s Foundation, women in Canada live at greater risk than men of domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, and sex trafficking. The data is pretty grim. Approximately every six days, a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner. Violence against women costs taxpayers and the government billions of dollars every year: Canadians collectively spend $7.4 billion to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence alone.
The history of domestic violence among Canada’s migrant population is sadly not abating. A 2018 research reveals that the case is worsening among recent immigrants and refugees:
“As in other Western democracies, recent immigrants and refugees to Canada are highly vulnerable to IPV; they arrive with limited support systems, wrestle with changing family dynamics, and may have to adapt to new gender roles. IPV often occurs in the private domain of the family and poses serious risks to women, children, families, and the broader society.”
They face bigger challenge when trying to seek help from the system. “Immigrant and refugee women who experience intimate partner violence (IPV) face numerous barriers and challenges to disclosing and reporting abuse, accessing supports and services, and navigating intersecting legal processes and social support systems.”
Here’s what to do:
If you are an immigrant suffering from any kind of domestic abuse/violence or Immigrant Partner Violence, remember that in Canada, abuse is not tolerated. You don’t have to stay in an abusive situation.
Consider these steps:
- Seek help. Reach out to authorities and agencies established to provide assistance. Help for spouses or partners who are victims of abuse.
- Acknowledge that there are gaps in your relationship which need to be addressed. Once this is settled, begin to take proactive steps to recover the situation.
- See the gap as an opportunity to grow personally and in your relationship.
- Don’t go physical with each other (if it hasn’t yet come to that).
- Ask for help. Look around you and identify sources of help from your immediate family, community, your religious group and civil society and governmental organizations (there are numerous such organizations with online presence). Call 911 if it gets to that. Just don’t be silent.
- Go for counselling.
- Get more involved with your family – kids and spouse. It’s one sure way of closing the gaps.
In more serious situations where physical abuse occurs, move out from the home, find a shelter.
- Acknowledge that the process of healing and recovering from abuse and IPV is long. Healing takes time. Take it one day at a time.
- Build positive social support and relationships.
- Count on God to help you through the journey of recovery, if you believe in God.
Domestic violence among immigrants in Canada impacts women more than the men and can have devastating consequences on the psyche of both children and women. However, immigration status can provide better opportunities for women to combat their situation through better legal and social support in Canada than in their country of birth.