Often victims of intimate partner abuse, especially immigrant women, are portrayed as completely powerless and helpless in addressing the abuse. What isn’t recognized is the enormous strength and intelligence many South Asian victims of violence have exhibited. South Asian women are quicker to report instances of abuse now than even a few years ago, and this is likely due to greater awareness of the dynamics of abuse and greater awareness of their rights. Much of the credit for this goes to the tireless crusaders who have skilfully used the media to get such messages across, and to the ethnic media (which has grown considerably in size over the past couple of years) that help deliver these important messages.
Some advocates have even suggested that South Asian women may be more prone to call police than their Caucasian counterparts – an interesting suggestion that seems to turn the view of the helpless South Asian victim of intimate partner violence on its head. Given many South Asian women want to stay with their partner, it is feasible that they call police early to intervene and get their spouse some help – to end the abuse early on rather than letting it get worse. As well, they may be more prone to address abuse than their Caucasian counterparts, who are just as apt to walk away from an abusive relationship as they are to call police (in many instances, they may be dating, whereas in the case of South Asian couples they are often married and may have children, therefore the woman sees a greater reason to address the abuse sooner rather than face the prospect of a lifetime living with it). Another key point that seems to indicate women are in fact actively dealing with the abuse is that they often tell others (usually their siblings or their parents) and have those people first intervene to stop the abuse or have them call police. The victim may do this as a strategy: so she can maintain that she never called the police – and avoid potentially being blamed by her spouse or members of his family – if she and her spouse reconcile.
Whether South Asian women call the police or tell a trusted family member, what seems clear is that many South Asian women are not idle victims who ignorant of their rights and suffer in isolation. Of course those situations still exist, and we as a community need to help those victims in any way possible. And there is still a great deal all of Canadian society can do to end relationship abuse, but we should not forget that women – including South Asian women – who are victims of violence exhibit great strength in the face of adversity.
The Centre for the Prevention and Reduction of Violence is committed to ending violence and abuse in any form. The Centre is currently engaged in a research project entitled “A Process of Discovery,” which is an exploratory project that is concerned with the development of effective prevention and intervention strategies for male perpetrators of intimate partner violence in South Asian communities.
For more information on the project, visit the website www.jibc.ca/appliedResearch