Displaying items by tag: relationship - New Canadian Media
New Canadian Media
Monday, 12 February 2018 20:46

Understanding the Roots of Abuse

By: Tazeen Inam in Toronto, ON

One woman is murdered in Canada every six days, according to the Canadian Women’s Foundation. This statistic belies what's been happening in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) since the beginning of 2018: there has been a dramatic increase in female homicides, with five women killed in a span of six days.

Three were from the Peel Region, one from Halton and another from the Hamilton Region; all at the hands of their male partners.  

Sharon Floyd, Executive Director of Interim Place in Mississauga, calls it “horrific” and says that there is “no specific cookie cutter that can tell what abuse looks like.”

“Women are murdered because they are women, they are not valued in their families and their voices are not heard,” she added.

In the midst of volatile situations, many women often turn to the shelter system which provides a safe haven for thousands annually. And although it may seem like a viable option for many, a lack of resources can force many shelters to turn away prospective residents in need.

The thought can be alarming, considering that in Ontario, 65 per cent of female shelter residents were fleeing emotional abuse and 46 per cent were escaping physical abuse.

Immigrant women more vulnerable

For women who have immigrated from countries that do not share the same gender-neutral values, abuse can manifest itself at even more alarming rates. Studies show that "immigrant women may be more vulnerable to domestic violence due to economic dependence, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge about community resources."

Canada is fraught with examples of this exact scenario and Samira Farah (name changed to protect victim's identity), a Bengali immigrant, endured many forms of abuse before finally finding access to the resources needed to remove herself from a potentially dangerous situation. Following an arranged marriage in Bangladesh, Farah immediately migrated to the U. S. before settling in Canada with her husband. Throughout their 10-year marriage, she was bombarded with emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse.

Her husband asked Farah to obtain money ($50,000) from her father to pay-off his own debt, but she refused. Instead, she resorted to jobs as a salon worker in a failed attempt to raise money.

Even through emotional abuse and intimidation by her in-laws, Farah gave birth to a baby boy in 2003. Despite the trauma she had experienced, which included multiple miscarriages, positive thinking allowed her to find solace in her newborn.  

Seeking help

However, her husband did not share her joy. With an eye on Farah's inheritance, he tortured her with threats of murder in isolated barren areas. Going as far as physical abuse with a knife in the presence of their then three-year-old son, she knew she had to make a change.

Farah struggled in silence to improve her marriage by opting for marriage counselling. Her counsellor suggested she call the police and later referred her to a shelter home.

“I didn’t want my son to grow in this violent environment, I want to teach him respect for women and that’s when I decided for divorce,” Farah says bravely.

Canadians spend roughly $7.4 billion annually to deal with the aftermath of spousal violence alone

Every victim is different, however, their aspirations are revived when “they hear that they are not alone”, explains Floyd, who runs a crisis centre for women. “With some initial counselling they learn that it’s not their fault and women are not to blame; this is more of a societal issue.”

Raising Awareness

Farah initially started her mobile beauty spa to make ends meet. But in the process, she has met women from diverse cultures who have been through varied kinds of trauma inflicted by their intimate partners.

She believes that sharing stories with others has helped many alleviate the trauma they have endured.

“I am not the only person who has gone through this, [there are] worse stories out there, but that little bit [of] light of hope can change a lot of things,” Farah says.

Working in different sales and marketing departments, she has now been able to gradually regain her self-esteem. With the support of her co-workers, instructors and mentors she has even followed through on previous plans to further her studies by enrolling in a College program.

“Besides taking action on divorce and get[ting] out of that relationship, I am capable of doing anything that is possible in life,” she says with new confidence.

A woman's self-worth

Generally, it takes a woman 6-7 attempts before she actually pulls away from a relationship because they are not sure of the abuse.Especially when the perpetrator is controlling, it’s important to note that a woman’s security risk doubles when she decides to leave.

Nancy Gibbs, a professor of Community Social Work at triOS College, suggests that education, information and a safety plan must be readily available. Working with victims for over 25 years, she maintains that only through greater public awareness will there be more consistency on what actually constitutes abuse.

“Advertising, blasting social media with what is available to women and what abuse looks like,” she explains, are great ways to spread the word. “It’s important to educate [a] woman [on] her own personal value.” 

What one person would call abuse, another may refer to as just normal behaviour. Gibbs concludes that creating consistency in what is considered acceptable behaviour, stands as one of the first steps to eliminating abuse and ensuring a safer Canada for all. 


This piece is part of the "Ethnic Women as Active Participants in Ontario" series. Writers interested in participating are encouraged to join the NCM Collective for an opportunity. 

Published in Health

 by Daniel Leon Rodriguez in Calgary 

Many immigrant men feel isolated, fearful and lost upon arrival in Canada, according to multiple researchers and social agencies in the country.

Vic Lantion, a program coordinator with the Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary (ECCC), explains that many of his clients are men suffering from clinical depression. 

“They wake up at 3 a.m. asking themselves, ‘What I’m doing here?’” says Lantion. 

Lantion explains that these men often struggle to cope with their ethnic and cultural expectations, which are often distorted during their resettlement process. After immigrating, they and their wives often find jobs or new avenues of social expression that might not have existed in their home countries.

At the same time, however, a lack of research on how immigrant men handle these changes makes it difficult to resolve these issues.

Immigrant men hesitate to reach out

Even when they’re struggling with mental health issues, many of these men might not ask for help because their culture sees it as weakness. “Man from visible minorities have more societal pressure not to seek support,” says Lantion.

Only 25 per cent of immigrants seek support with social agencies, and most of them are women, according to Lantion. This puts male newcomers at a disadvantage because they aren’t receiving the support they need to overcome the challenges of resettlement. 

Back in their home countries, these men also enjoy a certain respect and prestige connected with their careers—one which that they might lose in Canada when forced to take other jobs, explains Lantion. 

A lack of research on how immigrant men handle these changes makes it difficult to resolve these issues.

“If you’re highly educated, you have a hard time accepting you’re not a doctor or a lawyer anymore,” says Lantion, who adds men are psychologically affected by underemployment and the challenges of getting their credentials recognized. 

“Men are having a cultural shock in regards [to] their gender identity and values,” he says.

Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA) CEO Beba Svigir, says men don’t seek help as often as their wives due to many reasons. 

One reason she cites is that some men don’t trust government and social agencies: “Men feel very uncomfortable because they feel the government [might] undermine their authority.”

Immigrant women are more successful than men

From his experience working with Ethiopian, Somali, Filipino and other immigrant communities in Calgary, Lantion found that men were worse off after resettling in Canada compared to women. “In the long term, immigrant women are being more successful than men,” he says.

In their traditional family roles, immigrant men are often pressured to be family providers. Meanwhile, women are expected to take care of the children. Because immigrant women tend to have more free time, they attend social programs, improving their language and their employment skills, says Lantion.  

“In the long term, immigrant women are being more successful than men."

“Culturally, men are supposed to be the providers,” says Priyadarshini Kharat, a counsellor at the University of Calgary, who found in her PhD research that ethnic men were afraid of being ashamed and ostracized by their communities for not fulfilling their roles as breadwinners.

Svigir agrees with Lantion that women are often more successful than men. She says men feel more “entitled” to cling to their careers than women, which creates self-esteem problems.

Women in the workplace

Lantion says this doesn’t happen to the same extent with women, as their identities aren’t tied to their profession, but to their role as mothers: “When women move to Canada, no one can take away their identity as a mothers.”

David Este, a University of Calgary social work professor, has conducted research on immigrant male refugees over the last 16 years. He says many ethnic men see themselves as failures if their spouse has to work, which is often the case in cities like Calgary, which are expensive to live in. 

Women sometimes find work easier than men as they’re more flexible at the time of employment, says Este. “Women are more pragmatic; they need to work to survive economically.”

“Women are very resilient and they will do whatever to succeed," says Svigir, who adds that female immigrants are open to seeking help, changing careers and accepting any job for the well-being of their children.  

Many ethnic men see themselves as failures if their spouse has to work.

Este says men struggle more to adjust their newly necessary responsibilities. “Immigrant men in Canada are doing domestic chores they would never do in their home countries,” he states.

He adds that back in their countries, couples would get support from extended family members to raise their children—something not available in Canada.

“There is a [saying]: ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” says Este. 

 Men traditionally ignored by the research community

“There is a humongous gap in the research about immigrant men,” says Kharat, who did her PhD research on intimate partner violence among immigrants from South Asia in Canada.

Because this demographic is often neglected by the research community, there is a lack of understanding of how the immigration process influences the well-being of men as well as their likelihood to commit domestic violence, says Kharat. 

Lantion echoes Kharat, saying there are few if any studies on how men are adapting to egalitarian values.

Last year, this gap lead to the creation of a survey by multiple Alberta social agencies, including the ECCC, to better understand the barriers immigrant men face when resettling.

Preliminary results found that 96 per cent of men said it was important to have support, but only one in four men knew of any support service for men in Canada.

This is the third part in a three-part series on changing family dynamics and what it means for women immigrants in Canada. The first part and second parts discuss how women are socially and economically empowered once they reach Canada. If you are an immigrant who has experienced significant social change in your life after arriving in Canada, please contact 360@newcanadianmedia.ca.

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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