March 23, 2018 5:40 pm

‘Her supports are gone’: Domestic violence among immigrant women discussed at Halifax conference

Domestic violence experts gathered at the Halifax Convention Centre on March 23, 2018.

Alexa MacLean/Global News
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The largest conference on domestic violence in the history of Canada was hosted by Halifax this past week — as experts attempt to deal with the public health issue that 93,000 Canadians reported in 2017.

The World Health Organization has even declared domestic violence is a global public-health issue.

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But according to some support workers in Nova Scotia, those numbers from Statistics Canada don’t paint the “real” picture of how widespread the issue is because many cases go unreported, especially among the population of immigrant women in Canada.

“Often they come and they have left much of their extended family behind. So, they come here and if charges are laid and the man has to leave the house, all the supports that she [the woman] has had before, is not there anymore,” Wenche Gausdal, the manager of settlement and community with Immigrate Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS).

“So it’s extremely stressful for the women to try to deal.”

READ MORE: Domestic violence court opens in Halifax, officials anticipate 1,000 cases annually

Some of the topics discussed by experts this week focused on misconceptions that surround beliefs of what constitutes intimate partner violence.

“I think what most people think of is the kind of physical violence that would happen on a continuous basis, that’s not that common. What’s more common is the emotional and psychological abuse that happens in relationships, where people are yelling and screaming at each other,” Tod Augusta-Scott said, the executive director of the Bridges Institute in Truro, N.S.

Provincial Nova Scotia statistics show just over 5,700 people immigrated to Nova Scotia between 2016-2017.

WATCH: Family escapes domestic violence, denied services in English

While Gausdal says there isn’t necessarily a spike in domestic violence incidents among immigrant women compared to non-immigrant women, there is a “disconnect” between realizing there are services available to help support them.

“I think the main thing is that they need to be aware of the Canadian system and making sure that they understand the pathways and what’s going to happen when they report and also to have access to information and resources that they need as they go through the process,” she said.

Statistics Canada only tracks the number of police-reported cases and 2,475 Nova Scotians filed intimate partner violent incidents in 2016.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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