Woman abuse in the Caribbean-Canadian community and why it’s time to stop.

Dionne B.

When it comes to Domestic Violence in the community there are so many conversations that have happened over the years and in my opinion the Caribbean-Canadian Community has done a lot of talking but not always a lot of doing. 

Too many people are complacent and allow abuse to continue by having mindsets that say “its none of my business”.  When we do not talk about it with the abuser and/or the person being abused, we are leaving the door open to acceptance.  We see it but accept that it’s their business to fix and walk away both physically and mentally by checking out.
In our community people know domestic violence is happening, most people will agree that they’ve seen it or experienced it, but there are very few who can report having done something about it. 

Understandably, it’s not the easiest subject to address and consideration for our own personal safety does have to come into play – But when in community, and I mean true community, we have a responsibility to keep each other healthy, personally developed and connected through love and respect.  We live and function in the same space, and with the same people, who are experiencing the broken-ness of domestic violence, whether as abuser or being abused. 

We can ignore it only for so long, because eventually the effects of domestic violence will enter our workplaces, our daycares, our schools and anywhere else we interact with people.
But how? How do we address this situation in a safe and non-judgemental way that will bring about healing for all? How do we have discussions that shift cultural and individual mindsets away from destructive behaviour? How do we protect the children, the women and the men, without triggering our own emotions and/or our own safety? In my opinion it’s education, discussion and courage.  We need to have programs and literature that can help support our decision to eradicate domestic violence.  The community needs tools to communicate with men who abuse and education around identifying women who are experiencing abuse, whether they ask for help or not.  The cultural mindset must shift from individualism of “it’s not my business” to a collective of individuals who live among each other and believe together we can change our community and ultimately impact the world.

This is why I support the work of the Caribbean Women’s Society (CWS) partnering with the Women's Issues branch of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), and Neighbours, Friends and Family (NFF) - a public education campaign to raise awareness of the signs of woman abuse so that those close to an at-risk woman or an abusive man can help.   NFF has developed literature and partnered with community groups to start the conversation in a way that is authentic to their unique cultural mindsets and behaviours.

To broaden the reach of NFF's "See it. Name it. Check it." bystander approach to woman abuse, CWS created the #SNCit social media campaign; with the intention of calling on community bystanders to respond to domestic violence. In addition to social media, CWS has been bringing awareness through participation at large Caribbean events in the GTA. 
People experiencing abuse can often have difficulty ‘seeing’ what is happening to them and as a society, we are trained in many ways not to see.  But learning simple steps can help move us forward in a positive way.  Are you concerned about someone you think is being abused, but don’t know what to do? If yes, there are specific ways to help any woman being abused and it can begin with your assurance that you believe her and that it is not her fault.   Some would say this part is not too hard, because as mentioned, many people in the Caribbean-Canadian community have seen abuse and perhaps spoke to the woman about it.  But now it’s important to move past acknowledgement so you don’t get stuck in acceptance.  For our community to grow and thrive, we must overcome any hesitations we have to help because violence is a community problem, not an individual one. 

If you are experiencing abuse at home, it’s key to know that there are services, people and resources just ready and waiting to assist you through this difficult time.  There are tips and ways to deal with safety planning for yourself and any children you may have.  As a member of this community, I know that stigma and condescension are two very real attitudes that reveal themselves during situations of domestic violence, but your life and the safety of your children are nothing to ignore because of what “so-and-so will say”.  There are many people in the community who will believe you, help you and give you the safety you deserve. ​​
My encouragement to all of us, is to learn more about See it. Name it. Check it. and get comfortable safely correcting behaviour that we know exists and know is wrong.  Let’s not stay blind to the unnecessary abuse in our community and learn the tools that will help us end the cycle of domestic violence.  Whether we wish to believe it or not, when one hurts, we all hurt, and I personally am committed to moving towards a stronger & healthier community for our next generation.  Together we can put an end to Domestic Violence.
For more information:

Neighbours Friends & Family at www.neighboursfriendsandfamilies.ca

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants https://ocasi.org/

Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services http://www.women.gov.on.ca/owd/english/about/index.shtml

Assaulted Women’s Helpline www.awhl.org | 24 Hours | 7 Days a Week | 200 Languages | Confidential The Helpline provides free crisis counselling, emotional support, safety planning, information and referrals to all women in the province of Ontario. GTA: 416-863-0511 Toll Free: 1-866-863-0511 TTY: 1-866-863-7868