This book provides important insight and context to help understand the very challenging set of issues that face immigrant women in Canada who are victims of spousal abuse.  The book starts with a concise discussion and analysis of the issues, and then offers a rich and moving set of narratives about 15 individual cases.  Each case is unique, but similar themes run through all of them.  These women face intersectional issues of discrimination and disadvantage based on gender, race, class, immigration status and lack of English language proficiency.  They also face significant social, familial and cultural challenges in even recognizing that they are in an abusive relationship and need help.  The legal system often offers a siloed approach, with the potential for proceedings in family, criminal, domestic violence and child protection courts.  These victims and their children need legal and social service professionals who are aware of the complexity and potential inconsistency of justice system responses to these cases, and can also understand the human context and challenges that these women face.

 Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities: Case Studies provides a unique and very timely set of materials that will be especially useful for students in social work, law, policing and immigration & settlement studies.  While the individual stories are disturbing, students will be inspired when they learn about the intervention and supports that can help improve the lives of these women and their children.”

– Prof. Nicholas Bala, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University

A timely book in the wake of COVID-19 and the mounting pandemic shadow of gender-based violence, both locally and globally. The authors utilize a multidisciplinary and critical lens to situate narratives of racialized immigrant women at the crossroads of theory, law, and professional settings. Each chapter takes the reader through a reflective journey with the underlying intention of disturbing a chain of systems that sustain and perpetuate gender oppression. “

-Dr. Soheila Pashang,  Professor, School of Social and Community Studies,

Humber College 

“The authors of this important open-access book should be congratulated for putting together a unique collection of material aimed at eradicating domestic violence.  This book provides a first-class insight into the challenges facing immigrant women who experience domestic violence in Canada.  Fifteen case studies give readers a remarkable window into women’s lives.  The authors buttress these heart-breaking stories with detailed information that will be invaluable to social work and law students, as well as to the practitioners who hope to protect their clients.  The authors leave us with significant questions about what needs to change to resolve this urgent crisis.  I recommend this clear, concise, and helpful book to all readers who wish to contribute to ending intimate partner violence.”

-Professor Constance Backhouse, University of Ottawa

“The stories of immigrant, refugee, non-status women survivors of gender-based violence, offered as case studies in this book, highlight their strength, courage, and resilience, not only to survive but also to fight back for their rights and to make better lives for themselves and for their children. The case studies presented in this book powerfully illustrate the complex intersection of multiple systems of immigration law, family law, child welfare, and criminal law, with historical and ongoing transnational systems of patriarchy and societal cultural forms of oppression that contribute to increased vulnerability to gender-based violence and human rights violations. As practitioners, educators, advocates, and students in interdisciplinary fields of law, social work, social services, immigration studies,  and other human services, we have the obligation to honour and amplify these voices, and often untold stories in all our work. We have an ethical, moral, and professional responsibility to learn from these stories and to work towards eliminating all forms of gender-based violence and dismantle the historical, systemic, structural, and cultural forces that create and maintain these forms of violence.”  

-Dr. Sajedeh Zahraei, Senior Manager, Professional Development and Training, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants; Sessional Lecturer, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto

“The violence experienced by women and children in the 15 case studies in this book is definitely heart-rendering and frankly difficult reading.  But these case studies, together with the literature review and questions provided for reflection and discussion, are essential reading if we are to better understand the impact of domestic violence in our immigrant communities.  These women’s stories are not only about physical and emotional abuse, but also about a family justice system that often lacks awareness of the cultural influences that leave these women financially, emotionally and socially isolated.  How can we adequately address their abuse if we view it only through the narrow lens of our own personal cultural experiences?  Throughout, the authors highlight the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to help address the complex issues faced by immigrant women and their children.  This interdisciplinary approach is essential.  ‘Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities:  Case Studies’ provides us with a needed wake-up call.  It should be recommended reading for every professional working with immigrant families in the family justice system in Canada.”

 –Judith. L. Huddart.  Founding member and Past Chair of Collaborative Practice Toronto, Past Chair of Canadian Bar Association’s National Family Law Section and past President of Ontario Collaborative Law Federation.


“Immigrant women’s stories and their experience of violence are always a complex story to tell. These experiences involve the survivorship of interpersonal and structural violence while focusing on how patriarchy, sexism, racism, and multidimensional discrimination remain persistent throughout their experience of migration. Purnima George, Archana Medhekar, Bethany Osborne, and Ferzana Chaze have taken the approach of case studies and stories that capture the multidimensional experiences; drawing attention to the collective experience, but also the distinct and unique aspects of their stories. The book invites the reader to reflect on beyond the experience of violence; on causation and solutions available, and on the role of various legal and social actors and instruments of law and policy available. This book will help legal and social work students and practitioners to deepen their understanding of violence against women from immigrant communities. Authors have made sure to include a range of perspectives, sources of problems, and how cases can be addressed from both legal and social perspectives. Practitioners and students will be immensely benefited from the literature review, legal terms, and list of international instruments. Inspiring and well-executed book, it is timely and illustrates the intersectional experiences of immigrant and racialized women”.

-Deepa Mattoo B.A, LL.B, MBA, PGD, Executive Director, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, Toronto


“The case studies in this book are difficult to read without sadness and outrage at humankind’s capacity for causing pain; they are also hard to read without recognizing the extraordinary humility, and professionalism of their advocate/s. While the book is written with Canadian law as the context, it is absolutely relevant to ALL communities impacted by the migration of populations. At a time when the world is experiencing the largest migration of populations in humankind’s history, the identification of the experiences of women and the importance of understanding their cultural context is laid bare in the stories and the discussions. The global context and glossary should make the signatories to UNSCR 1325 and CEDAW pay attention and require that their educational programs for practitioners include this useful book. This book may also serve as an orientation text for advocates entering family law, staff at shelters, police departments,  and first responders including medical practitioners. The current pandemic makes its publication even more timely as we see the surge in DV across the globe and wrestle with creative measures to increase safety for all.”

Prabha Sankaranarayan, President and CEO, Mediators Beyond Borders INTERNATIONAL, People building peace.


“Domestic violence in immigrant communities: Case studies is a compelling read. Conceptualized by social work and legal scholars and practitioners deeply committed to social and political justice and well being for immigrant women, this book draws on a range of legal cases to throw light on family violence – a politically charged issue in Canada where domestic violence is often discursively mobilized to further racially rank communities – as it takes place at the intersections of gendered and racialized vulnerabilities and regimes of migration and settlement. In doing so it invites readers to not paint immigrant female survivors of domestic violence with a broad brush, rather place such violence and women’s response within nuanced structural conditions. The theoretical framework of intersectionality and the tangible resources built into the project will be helpful educational tools in social work, law and socio-legal studies etc. as students are introduced to a highly complex issue demanding multi-systemic knowledge in family law, migratory patterns and policies, domestic violence and sexual assault support services and victim and witness assistance programs etc. These stories took courage to tell and work with and I credit the authors and contributors for taking the leap. It is heartening to also see a number of emerging professionals contributing their emotional and intellectual energies to this project. What makes this book beyond timely is its execution at a time of increased risks of domestic violence due to a public health emergency of historic proportions, and subsequent closure or curtailing of services that women and families often access during situations of domestic violence. I look forward to referring this important and resourceful book to students across social work, socio-legal and other relevant programs.”

 -Dr. Soma Chatterjee, Associate Professor, York University, Keele Campus, School of Social Work (Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies)


“I strongly recommend “Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities: Case Studies” for University and College Social Work and Social Service Worker students.  These real world examples illustrate the complex intersections of race, gender and immigration status in cases of domestic violence and the challenges women face while navigating the legal, child welfare, and social service systems.  Hearing the stories of resiliency and survivorship motivate us to integrate an empathetic understanding and an intersectional, culturally responsive lens when working with women that have experienced domestic violence.  The book highlights the need for community coordination and advocacy efforts to bring about real systemic change.  I look forward to integrating the case studies and the critical reflective questions as a teaching tool with our students.  

-Nicole Johnson, Social Service Worker Professor, Sheridan College


“This multi-faceted book forces the reader to imagine the faces of these families, as more than people in a case study, but as neighbours, colleagues, friends and family. Their experiences are shocking and difficult to read but thoughtfully and respectfully composed. Recognizing the complex challenges faced by racialized families, we are encouraged to understand how culture intersects with family violence, and of our responsibility to expand our thinking beyond what we “know”. As professionals, we are honoured to help families to transition to a path of stability and safety. As we extend our hands temporarily, the authors invite us to hold close the reality of the present and future lives of families affected by violence. It is our responsibility to respond especially to the persistent challenges faced by racialized women as they intersect with ongoing services, and to be mindful of the scars left behind that may create roadblocks to safety. The authors invite us to engage in reflective practice and provided resources with cultural depth to prepare the reader to be fully available to listen for, and respond to, the needs of families. I highly recommend this book as a heartbreaking reminder of the community responsibility we all have to each other and as a valuable resource that equips the reader with the ability to sensitively respond in the face of family violence.”

Mary-Anne Popescu, AccFM, AccEM, Executive Director, Ontario Association for Family Mediation (OAFM)


“I have had an opportunity to read your book and find it to be a helpful resource for students as well as fellow practitioners. It is a long awaited resource, especially for work with families from Racialized and various Ethnic communities who have come from many war torn countries and lack the knowledge about the Canadian system. Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence continues to infiltrate many families in Canadian society and it is important that we equip ourselves with the tools to work with these families.  As a Domestic Violence specialist I see the need for a book such as this one as it is so relevant to the work I do.  I applaud you for taking this major step to address these critical issues”.

-Antoinette Clarke, MSW, RSW, Grd.Dip.Soc.Adm, AccFm Comprehensive Family Mediator & Executive Director, Peel Family Mediation Services; Faculty, York University


“Domestic violence is a pervasive social problem that respects no boundaries of cultures or continents. For immigrant women who arrive in Canada with the anticipation of a better life, the experience of domestic violence is extremely painful, distressing and alienating. At my first employment in Canada as the executive director of a community agency that supported immigrant women in their pursuit of a violence-free family life, I became intensely aware of the barriers faced by women, including the lack of information. I was also privileged to listen to stories of resistance, resilience and survival –women successfully navigating complex and sometimes inconsistent systems with the help of culturally sensitive interventions. The power of human agency and the effectiveness of appropriate services in challenging oppression and creating an empowering environment was all too clear to me. 

This pioneering work provides the much needed analytical and practical tools for an emancipatory approach to domestic violence. The stories in this book are all unique and personal; however, some threads are common to all of them: patriarchy, devaluation of women and the pervasiveness of gender-based violence irrespective of age, class, race or status. The authors have explored the complex contextual factors that are unique to each of the cases. Presented in an accessible format, this book offers a holistic approach to address the issue of domestic violence and is an excellent resource for practitioners and students in the helping professions. The interdisciplinary perspective is a unique strength of the book”.

-Dr. Usha George, Director, Ryerson Centre for Immigration & Settlement, Professor, School of Social Work, Ryerson University


“SAWC is pleased to endorse this e-learning Pressbook using case studies to support the work of violence against immigrant women. We congratulate you on bringing out this excellent resource that will enable professionals, front-line staff, and students to better understand the complexities and challenges of immigrant women trapped in abusive and violent situations. This excellent resource is a much needed, well-researched support that can be used in several spaces to address the issues of violence and abuse in immigrant communities”.

– Kripa Sekhar, Executive Director, South Asian Women’s Centre


“This is a very timely resource that provides a critical intersectional perspective on working with migrant women experiencing IPV that allows for practice-based reflection and solution-focused discussion. As Canada looks to increase immigration for economic and population growth, emerging practitioners in the human and social services in any practice setting need to be aware of the issues presented in this resource as well as the critical questions posed when working with migrant women.”

– Dr. Anh Ngo, Assistant Professor, The Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University



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Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities: Case Studies Copyright © 2020 by Ferzana Chaze, Bethany Osborne, Archana Medhekar and Purmina George is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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