Shashi Assanand  Photo by Chandra Bodalia




IN spite of increasing awareness about domestic violence in our community with more dialogue, discussion and initiatives such as the City of Surrey’s Raakhi Project Rakhi Project, the caseload at agencies that deal with this issue has not gone down.
Shashi Assanand, Executive Director of Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services, pointed out to Asian Journal this week that “it’s not just about the victims who get murdered.”
She added: “In fact, I am so happy that the women who come to us get saved, because we take so many precautions so that something so drastic doesn’t happen. Unfortunately, women who get killed are the women who do not seek any help at all.”
Just last month, the issue of domestic violence in the community was highlighted by the sentencing of Manmeet Singh, who pled guilty to second degree murder in the gruesome killing of his wife, Ravinder Bhangu, 24, in July 2011 in Surrey, to life in prison with parole ineligibility for 16 years, and the murder-suicide case of estranged couple Dilber Singh Atwal, 49, and Gurpreet Kaur Atwal, 30, also in Surrey.
Assanand, a nationally renowned registered social worker who has worked extensively with South Asian and other communities for almost three decades now, said that once a woman seeks help, she is then guided through how to deal with this situation that “doesn’t just start with someone coming and killing you.”
It starts with: “We are not getting along together. What are my options? What can I do?”
Assanand added: “So we work out a safety plan with the woman, have her moved into a transition house, and then helping her to find a place to live. Housing is not a very easy thing.” Then there are financial issues and legal issues with the police getting involved.
She noted that there are so many things that are required to be done and provide help at every step. Yet there are many women who are not aware that there are things available for them “because if they have lived in a controlled situation, they haven’t had the opportunity to learn about what’s out there.”


WHEN I asked Assanand what a woman facing domestic violence should do, she said that is a violent incident were happening, then they should call police (911). That is very crucial.
Then there are so many different agencies to help them. All the different agencies do things in different ways. Her agency [Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services] deals specifically with domestic violence.
Assanand said: “So basically they should seek out help, even if they talk to a friend or if they talk to their child’s counsellor in school, someone in a helping profession. In the health field, they can see a nurse, for example.”
She noted that nurses tell their workers that South Asian women do not speak about the domestic violence they are encountering.
Assanand said: “But these women need to speak to some professional helper who will make it their business to either refer them to someone or support them when they are going through something like this … that is a safety measure.”
She noted that if a woman doesn’t do that and just leaves without resolving the anger issue and the man thinks ‘how dare she do that!’ then what happened in the cases mentioned above can take place.
Assanand noted that in society “there is a culture of male dominance over women and a woman being considered a possession and generally, irrespective of culture, 60 per cent of the women get killed after they leave a violent relationship.”
And in our culture, when a woman leaves, “it becomes an issue that neither men nor women seem to be able to tolerate. Even when a woman gets killed I’ve heard stories about ‘yes, she deserves it … if she hadn’t done something that she shouldn’t have, he wouldn’t have gotten so angry and killed her.’”
Assanand noted the problems of possession and anger. There is generally lack of communications in South Asian families and dialogue is a problem. She added: “We either obey or tolerate or accept.” So what ends up happening is that when the man gets angry at the situation, he doesn’t know how to deal with it, and his anger “explodes and murder can very easily happen.”


FOR help, you can call Vancouver and Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services at (604) 436-1025.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This issue’s news deadline was Thursday morning as it was brought out a day earlier. Next week we will be back to the usual Friday morning deadline.