Forum focuses on South Asian family violence

After years of domestic abuse, Harpreet finally reached her breaking point.

“I was being shoved against the wall repeatedly and being punched,” she said. “I stood up to my parents and to the rest of my family and I said… I’m going to move out. I’m going to have to survive on my own.”

Harpreet, 31, told her story to empower others affected by domestic abuse. She spoke out at CBC’s Turning Point town hall discussion on Monday.

The discussion addressed domestic violence within the GTA’s South Asian communities. In the wake of several murders in South Asian families, authorities now recognize domestic abuse within these communities as a significant issue for all of Toronto.

Moderator Matt Galloway and panellists Aruna Papp of Family Services York Region, Baldev Mutta of Punjabi Health Services and Farrah Khan of Babra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic joined the discussion.

Khan said South Asian women such as Harpreet are not alone.

“When you experience violence, oftentimes you think you’re the only one, (but) one in three women (in Canada) will be sexually assaulted. This is a huge statistic that goes across race,” Khan said.

Mutta said South Asian families can abuse a woman by making her feel alone.

“To make her isolated and make her fearful (is a) technique of the abuser and that is what we need to understand as a community,” he said.

Harpreet, who identifies herself as Sikh, felt isolated when she experienced domestic abuse, like many South Asian women.

“My mom wanted to protect my brother,” she said. “Instead of the police dealing with my male sibling… I was being pulled out of my home (and taken to a shelter),” she said.

Papp said isolation is also a barrier for South Asian women looking for help in Toronto.

“Women who finally get the courage to go into a shelter are safe for six weeks, but what happens after shelter?” she said. “The isolation from the community… is horrendous,” she said.

After years of isolation, Harpreet has come to terms with the abuse she faced.

“I’ll never forget, but I think I’ve reached a point of forgiveness and that’s what allows me to move forward,” she said.

Harpreet and the event’s panellists believe that the GTA can move forward as a community by highlighting the issue as a national problem.

“I got away from it. But there are hundreds of thousands of women across Canada who don’t get away from it,” Harpreet said.