About 100 people arrived slowly, quietly, to the civic plaza in Abbotsford Friday night for a candlelight vigil.
The event was organized following the death of Kamaljit Sandhu, a 45-year-old mother of two daughters.
Kam, as her co-workers called her, died July 28 following an assault in a residential area of Abbotsford. Her husband, Inderjit Sandhu, was arrested at the scene and subsequently charged with first-degree murder. The public details of the case will be few and far between, due to a publication ban on evidence at any hearings before the trial.
But the speakers at the vigil, and those in the crowd, spoke assuredly about the fact that domestic violence should no longer be kept quiet. It was organized by Santosh Powar, who put the word out through the media and word of mouth, particularly in the Punjabi community.
Many of the people who came to the vigil did so in mourning. Members of Sandhu’s family were present.
All who spoke at the open microphone said more needs to be done for those who suffer domestic abuse in silence.
One after another, women offered condolences and also spoke out against violence against women. Some spoke in Punjabi as well as English to ensure the message was heard by all.
Two city councillors, Kelly Chahal and Patricia Ross, spoke about how to reduce violence in the community.
Ross was moved to tears as Chahal comforted her by rubbing her back.
“How many times are we going to have to come together to mourn victims of domestic assault before something severe enough happens that it stops?” Ross said.
Chahal encouraged people to learn more about the Purple Light Nights campaign, an awareness campaign that takes place every October.
Other speakers educated the crowd about SARA for Women (see information below) and how transition houses work in the community.
One woman drove from Surrey to take part in the event and for the first time opened up about being a survivor of domestic violence herself.
“It will not get better,” a co-worker of Sandhu’s said of violent partners in general. “He will not change.”
She said she wanted the older generation to stop telling young women that violence will get better.
Powar said, although she has been at events with Sandhu in the past, they had never spoken personally. They almost met at an event the week of Sandhu’s death, but plans changed for Powar. She said the vigil was not just for Sandhu, but others who have died recently.
She is planning more events to help share resources and bring more awareness to stopping violence.
SARA for Women is a non-profit society providing safe refuge and community-based resources for women in Mission and Abbotsford. They can be reached by phone at 604-855-3363 or online at saraforwomen.ca.
Purple Light Nights is an awareness campaign held in October in many communities, including Abbotsford. Businesses and homes can put on purple lights and help share resource information. Watch for more information in the coming weeks.
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