To combat the issue, residents formed the North of McKnight Domestic Violence Prevention Collaborative, a coalition of 18 primarily ethno-cultural and faith-based groups focused on educating and preventing domestic violence in their communities. For many of the victims, the collaborative offers vital culturally-appropriate counselling and peer support that they cannot access elsewhere.
“Going to the police or seeking help through mainstream services isn’t an option for many of our neighbours and friends. Because of their religious beliefs and cultural backgrounds, they are reluctant to reach out for help. They fear their cases won’t be handled properly, and this fear prevents them from leaving the violent situations they find themselves in,” says Atiya Ashna, North of McKnight Communities Society Board member.
When members of the collaborative first appeared on local ethnic media outlets to openly discuss the issue, they received a surge of phone calls from battered women seeking help. Since then, the group has helped hundreds of women escape domestic violence situations. Religious leaders, scholars, and community leaders from diverse backgrounds are using their influence and voice to spread awareness and provide an extra layer of safety to the impacted individuals and families.
“Most of our residents come from cultures that are male dominated. We are working with religious leaders to educate the men and help them understand the impact of family violence. Members from different ethnic groups are organizing workshops and events in order to engage residents of all ages. We’re all collectively trying to remove the stigma around domestic violence. If we keep talking about it, it’s no longer going to be a hidden problem,” says Humaira Falak, Taradale community group. “Having 18 different ethnic and religious based groups come together isn’t always easy, but we are working hard to support victims and survivors. When we started out, no one wanted to talk about the issue and now, not only are people talking, they’re taking action. That’s the power of a community.”