The Reality of Domestic Violence for Immigrant & Refugee Women in Victoria
Marlene Goley and Candace Stretch
The Cridge Dovetail Program provides emotional support, life skill development, counselling, connections to community resources, financial literacy, and social opportunities to the women and children that live in our Supportive Transitional Housing. Over the past several years, we have had the opportunity to support several women who have come to Canada with the hope of becoming an immigrant or refugee, but who have been left in limbo because their abusive ex-partner is their sponsor. The reality of living life in immigration limbo is frightening- essentially these women find themselves cut off from any sort of financial support, and 100% dependant on the kindness of strangers.
Take, for example, the story of Rachel. Rachel was brought to The Cridge Transition House for Women (CTHW) by police, who had been called to her home because her husband was assaulting her. After a few weeks at CTHW, Rachel was notified by Immigration Canada that her husband had pulled his sponsorship and that she was expected to leave the country immediately. Her only hope of staying in the country was to hire a lawyer and apply for refugee status. She had no money to pay this lawyer, or even to pay for rent or groceries, as she was not able to work and was ineligible to apply for Income Assistance, due to her lack of status in Canada.
The next few months of Rachel’s journey were an exercise in faith. From the moment she walked through our doors, she was forced to rely on the kindness of strangers for her survival. Fortunately, the staff of The Dovetail Program were able to accept her as a tenant in our supportive transitional housing, and used funds from a donation account to pay her rent. She was entirely dependent on the staff of the Dovetail program, who organized furniture and clothing for her, ensured her rent and legal fees were paid each month, and gave her monthly grocery cards (also covered through donation accounts). Each day was a challenge, as Rachel dealt with the anxiety of living life in such a state of dependency, as well as her deeper fear that she would be deported and sent back to the country she had fled. By the grace of God, five months after Rachel first moved into Cridge housing, her refugee status was granted!
The staff of The Cridge Dovetail program are privileged to be a part of the group of “kind strangers” who lead women like Rachel through the scary journey of escaping relationship violence and facing immigration limbo. For us, this is a journey that takes us from the role of stranger to the role of friend in these women’s lives. And while these women may never know the names and faces of the generous donors whose gifts feed and house them, they live with the knowledge that these “kind strangers” are their allies in the truest sense of the word!