Barriers facing women in cultural communities make it difficult to leave abusive partners, advocates say

The death of the woman in Park Extension has again raised calls for action — calls that are all the more important for women in the cultural communities.

Many of them face linguistic and cultural barriers that make it even more difficult for them to seek help before it’s too late.

The latest killing of a woman allegedly at the hands of her partner has shocked so many, especially those in Montreal's South Asian community. Police are still looking for the victim’s husband, Navdeep Ghotra, 30, who is the main suspect. 

The coordinator at the South Asia Women's Community Centre says more work needs to be done to help women who are newcomers to Canada.

"Because the women can't communicate so police don't understand why police have been called and sometimes men take the charge and he's acting like an interpreter for the woman, who has called the police," said Ghazala Munawar.

The non-profit tries to educate women about the cycle of violence. They translate resources and offer language classes — just a few tools that can help women navigate the system and escape abuse.

"It's different back home for certain people. there's no place to go for a woman and she knows this is it, this is her fate she has to accept it," said Juvaria Yasser, the centre’s manager.

"But, in Canada, there's options. Many women don't know that."

Monday night’s slaying is believed to be the 14th femicide in Quebec this year.

In May, the province announced more funding to fight domestic violence, including additional surveillance for offenders, specialized police units and prosecutors for domestic violence cases.

Those who work with survivors of abuse say the added support is welcome, but much more is needed for prevention and for keeping a woman safe in the months after she leaves an abusive partner

"There is a tendency for murders, there's a tendency for violent acts to be committed upon her children — a crucial period where abusers often find a way back into the victim's life," said Melpa Kamateros, executive director of Montreal’s Shield of Athena.

"There's a lot of financial dependency there, there’s fear for the children, there's pervasive fear for how she can do it on her own."

That's where the community can play such an important role, according to Shennel Hunte, a peer support volunteer & board member of Women Aware.

"If you're a neighbour and you see something or hear something, it's not the time now to say, "Well, it's none of my business,'" Hunte said.

"It's the time to call the police because you don't know if you're saving someone's life."

 

SUPPORT NETWORK

Victims of domestic violence can contact SOS violence conjugale at 1-800-363-9010.

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