Backgrounder

Violence against Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women – Backgrounder

Immigrant women are a particularly vulnerable and exploited segment of our population. Recent attention has been placed on violence against women that results in murders of the woman, the child(ren) or both.

Immigrant women are a particularly vulnerable and exploited segment of our population, abused by the system as cheap labour for the most menial work, trapped in the social services system without hope, abused at home by men while finding little or no support from communities.  Non-status, Refugee and Immigrant women are navigating barriers and are disempowered in the following ways through a lack of economic independence, interfacing with service providers that are often ill prepared to deal with both their experience of violence and their immigration experience, attitudinal and behavioural discrimination in the community both mainstream and minority and women are navigating gaps in laws and policies that govern their lives (Maria Rosa Pinedo & Ana Maria Santinoli, 1991).

Prevention and intervention in violence against Non-status, Refugee and Immigrant women can be addressed by integrated intervention

Through our work at Battered Women’s Support Services we have learned that prevention and intervention in violence against Non-status, Refugee and Immigrant women can be addressed by integrated intervention in all these areas.  In 2008, Battered Women’s Support Services entered into a partnership with The People’s Law School and The Law Foundation of BC to address violence against Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant women.  This work includes:

  1. Engaging Immigrant Women In the Legal System Project
  2. Empowering Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women – Responding to the Spectrum of Needs from Settlement to Empowerment Manual
  3. Settlement Worker Training Program

At Battered Women’s Support Services we have found that a critical and essential task facing service providers is to facilitate the process of reclamation of power denied to assaulted Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant women in the Canadian society.

Battered Women Support Services will be in Victoria, BC on March 11th and 12th  2010 hosting a Settlement Worker Training Workshop. The seventh in a series that has taken us across the province to Surrey, Burnaby, Vancouver, Abbotsford, New Westminster, Kelowna and Kamloops.  Over 200 women and men working in settlement, ESL/ELSA, victim services, transition houses, neighbourhood houses, women’s centres and immigrant serving organizations have attended.

As a partnership between The People’s Law School and The Law Foundation of BC, the Settlement Worker Training Workshops have been designed to support and enhance current work while emphasizing assessment and safety planning for Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant women who have experienced violence.  Experienced trainers and guest speakers will guide participants through a process that draws on group knowledge.

Topics covered include:

  1. patterns of human migration,
  2. theoretical framework for understanding women’s experience of settlement,
  3. the roles of culture, family, and community,
  4. theoretical framework for understanding violence against Non Status, Refugee and Immigrant women
  5. models of safety planning, and
  6. legal issues relating to family, immigration, criminal and child protection law.

Participants will learn a variety of strategies that will help them comprehensively meet the needs of Non-Status, Refugee and Immigrant Women.

The first barrier Immigrant women face is the lack of English/French language. If we add to this the impact of the cultural shock experienced in the new society, which may last several years, she will be in a vulnerable position. As violent husbands usually prevent their wives from having their own friends, she will end up with no social, intellectual or recreational activities.

Among Immigrant communities, isolation is a common problem in which women can be trapped forever. This problem creates a cycle of dependence where the woman’s self esteem is gradually eroded by isolation and abuse, lack of social interaction and support systems, compounded by exploitation and discrimination in the workplace.

It is our experience as front line workers that most Immigrant women are afraid of being condemned and isolated by their communities which can very well happen if they expose their husbands’ violence either by calling the police, talking about the problem with friends or by leaving home. Fear of ostracism cannot be underestimated in its capacity to immobilize the Immigrant victims of wife assault.

The role of police can be particularly threatening in some communities, especially for those who come from countries where police are arresting, killing and torturing people. A woman will experience strong feelings of guilt and betrayal if she has to call the police in order to stop the violence. The community, again, is likely to play an important role in condemning the woman who called the police or went to court, if the man had been previously jailed or tortured in his country of origin. She, then, will be accused of using a repressive institution to inflict more pain on ‘the poor man’, so to speak.

Most Immigrant women will be threatened with deportation by their violent husbands, who are usually their sponsors.

Most Immigrant women will be threatened with deportation by their violent husbands, who are usually their sponsors. This yet is another advantage a man often uses as a tool to keep their wives scared and inside a violent home. This threat usually is coupled with the fear that he will be the one who gets to keep the children in Canada while she will be deported. Her fear is magnified by the fact that in her country there might be regulations penalizing a woman for leaving home, such as losing custody of her children.

Another factor which often keeps a woman in a violent home is to have been socialized as totally responsible for the unity of the family. She will feel so guilty at the idea of the children growing without the father that she will remain in the violent situation for the sake of the children. This guilt might be further fed by her resistance to leave the family house which she might have worked long years to help pay for. She will feel scared of having to face a society she does not relate to, without a voice or financial means and she will not be able to visualize a future without the man (Maria Rosa Pinedo & Ana Maria Santinoli, 1991 Education Wife Assault).

BWSS continues to work towards the elimination of violence against women by engaging with the communities and helping support women on important topics such as these.   We continue to offer support and advocacy for women who have experienced abuse, as well as, training and education about violence against women through many of our programs.  All our services are provided by trained workers who work from an empowerment model and from a feminist, anti-oppression perspective.

Sources:

Education Wife Assault – Immigration and Wife Assault

The City of Vancouver Multiculturalism and Diversity