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Calgary woman draws on own experience to fight rising domestic violence

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WATCH ABOVE: An Egyptian-Canadian woman in Calgary has launched a unique business to educate and support abused Arabic and Muslim women. She is not a lawyer or psychologist; she is relying on her own experience. Mia Sosiak reports – May 19, 2016

A Calgary woman is fighting back against the city’s rising rate of domestic violence by launching a unique business to educate and support abused Arabic and Muslim women.

Ghada Darwish isn’t a lawyer or psychologist, but instead relies on her own experience. In 2010, she left what she said was an emotionally abusive marriage.

Since then, Darwish has trained or counseled dozens of abused Arabic and Muslim women, on a volunteer basis.

Now she’s turning it into a career with her new business, Stand By Her, offering workshops and one-on-one counseling.

“When something happened, [victims] can’t say, ‘oh I want to end this relationship,’ because she is forced to be with him because she can’t support herself financially,” she said.

Darwish said there are few resources specifically for Muslim and Arabic women in Calgary, and she believes she can both relate to and support the women in a way that is sensitive to their culture and their faith.

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She promotes reconciliation, but will also help clients who choose to divorce.

“First I want to talk to the husband about–this is not accepted in Islam,” she said.

This week, Calgary police said domestic violence calls are up 25 per cent over the five-year average.

“It crosses all neighbourhoods, age groups, ethnicities, religion and economic statuses,” Staff Sgt. Rob Davidson said.

Police said the increase is likely because people prone to violence are facing more stress and spending more time at home, adding that there isn’t likely to be improvement this year, unless the economy improves.

“This is not static, we are not living in a city where this is our new reality and it’s going to be here all the time,” Davidson said. “We will expect that our rates are going to decrease in time.”

Darwish, who lectures regularly in Islamic studies, hopes she can do her part through education and empowerment, by acting as a consultant to social agencies.

“I am trying now to help our community to live in peace,” she said.

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