Hidden abuse in Surrey’s ethnic communities, according to women’s centre

Sean Holden / November 26, 2018

Calls from New immigrants and Ethnic Backgrounds are on the Rise according to Surrey Women Centre Society
(Counselling/ Pixabay)

Surrey Women’s Centre Society received 5000 calls on domestic violence this year, most of them from women from a South East Asian and Indigenous background.

A spokesperson with the center said there needs to be more done to help women fleeing abuse that are from diverse backgrounds.

Allison Tanaka, with the center, said she’s glad that the public is becoming more aware of domestic violence against women following the #MeToo movement, but falls short when addressing new immigrant women.

“I think now what we should be focused on is the cultural differences,” said Tanaka.

“We’re seeing more referrals of women from the South East Asian Population.”

On Monday BC Premier John Horgan and Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity said they would be joining the UN in 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.

The campaign aims to target violence against women, transgender and gender diverse people across the world.

“We need to work together to end gender-based violence and build a better world and brighter future for our children and grandchildren,” said Premier Horgan. “We are at a critical moment in history in the struggle for gender equality. B.C. is joining people around the world in raising their voices, telling their stories and fighting to end gender-based violence.”

Aside from raising awareness, the province has committed $734 million in funding to build 1,500 new transition homes for women and children fleeing violence. The government has also laid out five million dollars to reduce service waitlists for women and increase access to counseling, another $18 million will be released over three years to improve those services.

At the announcement, Mosaic BC tapped into the conversation around gender-based violence in ethnic communities.

“Ending violence is also about challenging the systems of inequality that women and children who experience intersecting oppressions like poverty, racism and language barriers face. Ensuring newcomers to Canada are supported through culturally appropriate prevention and education is key to decreasing risks and making our communities safer.” – Ninu Kang, Director of Communication MOSAIC BC.

Tanaka said an increase in domestic abuse of South East Asian women in Surrey had its own challenges. In some cases, she suggested, that women had difficulties explaining their situation because they couldn’t find a word in Punjabi similar to sexual assault. In other cases, she found that some women were not aware of the abuse they faced at home was illegal in Canada.

She hopes with movements, like the 16-days activism campaign, more women from diverse backgrounds will feel more confident in reaching out for help.

“I think it makes it a real issue,” stated Tanaka. “often times people are dismissive with domestic violence saying why can’t you stand up for yourself, why didn’t you leave?”

She believes the more people come together, the better equipped the community will be to deal with gender-based violence, especially within ethnic communities.