A couple of weeks ago, I attended an event entitled Domestic Violence Report to Community regarding Immigrants and Refugee Populations.
There were pastors, ministers, RCMPs, victim’s services, non-profits, service providers, colleges & universities, and other important stakeholders in the community that attended.
What I learned from the conversations in groups is important. While the issue of domestic violence is not new, the fact that this is also prevalent amongst the immigrant and refugees needs to be addressed.
This is not talked about because of the stigma attached to the issue. Under-reporting is very common. Immigrants and refugees do not talk about this for fear of being deported or threatened to be deported by their sponsoring spouse or family members. Families of immigrant tend to resolve it through informal channels that sometimes increase the risk of vulnerability and decrease their options that can potentially remove them from further risk of harm and violence.
While this is not culture-specific, the pressures and tensions of immigration are one of the causes why immigrants and refugees resort to using violence in resolving their family issues. Women and children are mostly the vulnerable parties in this situation.
The changing gender roles in the family is also a factor since most immigrants come from a culture where men are responsible for providing for the family while women take care of domestic responsibilities including child rearing, care for the elderly parents and other household chores. The economic strains of holding two to three jobs at a time to put food on the table for immigrant families have an impact on their emotional health and physical well-being.
What can be done now?
The local research showed that institutions that welcome and provide information, services, and resources to newcomers and immigrants must have an information on domestic violence and resources available from a wide variety of service providers, institutions such as churches and other religious authorities, the law enforcement agencies and the legal organizations, and immigrant-serving organizations.
Involving men and boys to foster positive healthy relationships in the family is an important step towards changing the perspectives, behaviors, and attitudes towards gender roles, conflict management, and seeking professional support when necessary. Specific funding from the federal, provincial and independent sources allocated to increase supports and behavioral change programs towards positive, healthy relationships.
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