Fifty people braved the rain to walk in remembrance of lives lost to domestic violence, during the kick-off event for Purple Light Nights Oct. 1. Emelie Peacock/Hope Standard

How to support immigrants, new Canadians in your community facing domestic violence

Not all men are abusive to their immigrant wives, but it is a common theme in her work, says Jodi McBride

“I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike” – Maya Angelou

In the U.S.A., Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, accusing him of sexually assaulting her when she was 15-years-old. Ford stated she was terrified to be testifying but felt it was her civic duty to come forward.

Imagine how much more terrifying it is to come forward about domestic violence and assault when you are in a foreign country.

Hope and surrounding communities are home to many immigrants. We speak different languages, come from different cultures, eat different food, practice different religions and understand the world from different perspectives. But as Maya Angelou says, we are more alike than unalike, including being victims of domestic violence.

“If I don’t do what he says, he’ll send me back to my country.”

“He keeps my paycheques and says I can’t have a bank account because I’m an immigrant. I don’t have money, so I can’t leave him.”

“His friends follow me when he is away.”

“He listens to my phone calls and doesn’t let me leave the house without him.”

“He won’t let me have my passport or immigration papers.”

“He made me shave my head and took away my makeup. But it’s ok. He loves me.”

“He said he will take my children away and I’ll never see them again.”

“He forces my daughter to hug and kiss his friends. He wants to send her to his friend’s house for the summer. If I say no, he threatens to send me back.”

“I’m scared, but I’m in Canada so I have to, right?”

These are things I frequently hear from immigrant women who come to my work. Usually, their husbands bring them in for help with immigration paperwork, and we connect them with English and Canadian culture programs. Some women are allowed to attend classes, while their husbands hover in the corner monitoring every word. Sometimes the husbands speak for them. Often, once they begin to make friends, they are no longer allowed to attend classes.

At times women meet their Canadian husbands while he is vacationing in her home country. More often they meet online and are promised love and a better life. Women arrive in Canada ready for adventure and instead find themselves in jeopardy. What initially seems like a supportive husband, quickly becomes a controlling and emotionally damaging man. Eventually, physical abuse begins and women are paralyzed by lack of family support, isolation, and false fear of authorities such as the RCMP or Canadian Border Service Agency.

October is Purple Light Nights, a campaign standing against domestic violence and raising awareness of community supports. Domestic violence does not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity, culture, or nationality; it crosses cultural lines, and Canadian or foreigner, we are more alike than unalike. We all deserve respect, dignity, and a life free of violence.

Let me be clear, not all men are abusive to their immigrant wives. But it is a real and common theme I see in my work. As a community, we must be the family, support network, and if needed the voice for immigrants facing domestic violence. How can you help?

1. Learn, understand, and recognize signs of domestic violence.

2. Get to know your neighbours.

3. Welcome immigrants and help them connect and become part of the community.

4. Let immigrants know they don’t have to stay in abusive relationship to keep their immigration status.

5. Advocate for immigrants facing abuse by going with them to get help.

6. Let them use your phone or computer in a safe place to access information.

For more information about Purple Light Nights or domestic violence resources, contact:

RCMP Hope Victim Services 604-869-7770

Read Right Society for Legal Services Society information: 604-860-0510


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