Breaking the silence: Abuse victim speaks out at workshop

Author Kamal Dhillon was in Abbotsford to facilitate a session for police officers and others.

Kamal Dhillon

Kamal Dhillon

Kamal Dhillon has no explanation for what prompted her husband to beat and torture her over their 12-year marriage, other than his desire to exert power and control over her.

She was 18 years old when she was wed through an arranged marriage. She grew up in a “healthy” home and had not previously been exposed to abuse.

“Within weeks of being married, he broke my nose because I spoke out. I said, ‘Please don’t drink and drive.’

“I didn’t know that this family didn’t take orders from women.”

The abuse occurred almost daily and included several attempts and threats on her life. He would choke her when she was trying to sleep or try to push her into the ocean so she would drown.

He would drag her by her hair, burn her with his cigarettes, rape her and beat her.

Whenever Kamal tried to leave, her husband would threaten to kill her and her family, or to take their four children away.

“For the fear of my family’s lives, I stayed. I was living with a terrorist in my own home.

“My husband had traumatized me to the point of complete submission.”

Once, when she had escaped to her parents’ home, her father invited her husband to meet with him to talk about the situation. He convinced her dad that Kamal was the one with the issues: “I love your daughter so much, but she is a problem.”

Kamal eventually left the relationship, believing that she would not survive if she stayed.

Her husband died two years after she left.

She is now an author, a speaker and domestic violence counsellor.

Dhillon was the facilitator for a domestic violence workshop in Abbotsford on Tuesday at Matsqui Centennial Auditorium in Abbotsford.

Author of Black and Blue Sari, she told the crowd of police officers and others that victims of abuse often suffer in silence, but the community needs to step forward when they know it’s happening.

“Everything I’ve gone through, I’m using those tools now to drawn attention to this situation because if we remain silent, it will continue.”

Police Chief Bob Rich said stopping domestic violence remains a primary goal of the Abbotsford Police Department (APD).

“The majority of violence that occurs in the community isn’t part of reported crime. It happens on the other side of the door.”

He said a task force will meet with a focus group of victims to determine how police can better handle domestic violence situations and how abuse can be prevented.

“How do we convince men not to beat their partners?” Rich asked.

Also speaking at the workshop in Abbotsford was the APD’s domestic violence unit and members of Abbotsford Crown counsel.

ABBOTSFORD DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STATS

Statistics Canada recently reported that Abbotsford-Mission ranked fourth in Canada and second in the province for reported incidents of domestic violence.

According to the report, based on 2010 figures, Abbotsford-Mission had 566 reports of family violence, which translated to a rate of 325 per 100,000 population. But Abbotsford Police recorded different stats: 784 incidents of family violence in 2010 and 647 in 2011.

Const. Ian MacDonald said the discrepancy is likely due to the fact that local police include more cases under the umbrella of “family violence.”

The Abbotsford Police’s domestic violence unit reported in 2011 that of the 80 files handled by the unit, 70 successfully went through the court system. Of those, three resulted in acquittals and the rest resulted in convictions or the issuing of peace bonds (restraining orders).