GVLIP hosted a community dialogue to improve services that support immigrant women survivors of domestic violence.
Victoria, BC, September 21, 2023. The Greater Victoria Immigration Partnership (GVLIP) (a program of the Inter-Cultural Association) hosted a community dialogue to share information on the experiences of immigrant women seeking support as survivors of domestic violence in the Capital Region.
In Esquimalt Gorge Park Pavilion, Florentien Verhage and Robin McGeough presented the outcomes of a research project called “Safe Houses, Supportive Communities” looking at the barriers immigrant women face to seeking help when they experience domestic violence. The majority (73%) of immigrant survivors do not know where they should look for help and fear they will lose control of the situation by reaching out to the police or other community services. On top of that, they struggle with language barriers (73%) when reaching out, and feel isolated:
“I do not have anywhere to go. I have no relatives here…if I leave, I have no one.”
The research found that most participants (82%) did not know about local transition houses and that they relied mostly on their own cultural and religious communities (91%) for help though often those communities did not know where to find support either. Other services they reached out to were the police (63%) and legal support services (54%).
The community dialogue was organized to allow relevant local services to talk about these findings, share their experiences, and build bridges between services to overcome challenges such as limited resources, housing availability, and lack of information to support immigrant women survivors in our community.
Important work is underway to ensure better integration and collaboration among support services for survivors of gender-based violence. Immigrant serving organizations, counseling services, housing organizations, and the anti-violence sector are reaching out to one another to share expertise on vulnerable communities, challenges, and best practices. The findings in the report strongly support these types of community collaborations. Most importantly they recommend that diverse cultural and peer communities are a central part of all these conversations and networks.
“Finding support from people who speak your own language and who can keep your conversations private…I think that makes a very big difference because when we’re going through a tumultuous time, we tend to switch to the language that is closest to our heart.