Anjali came to the Red Door as a refugee claimant from India. She fled to Canada with her daughter because she was trapped in an abusive relationship.
Born in a very traditional family, I lead a sheltered and protected life and spent my time focused on my studies. Once in my 20’s, my parents sought a husband for me as arranged marriages still remain the norm. I got married and moved to Mumbai.
The trouble started surfacing very early on. I was not allowed to go anywhere on my own. I did not have any friends and family in Mumbai, so I stayed indoors. I did not even have money to go anywhere. My husband and his mother controlled the finances completely. I could not even call my parents. I was so depressed and lonely and miserable. I could not confide in anyone.
Emotional abuse, control, misogyny – these were not things I had to accept. I had to live for my daughter and do everything possible to give her a better life.
My husband and I briefly moved to the US. We had my daughter Maya there. Living there I was exposed to a very different culture and I learned a different way of life. Emotional abuse, control, misogyny – these were not things I had to accept. With my daughter in my life I felt new strength. I had to live for her and do everything possible to give her a better life.
But after five years in the US, my husband decided we are going back home to Mumbai. I knew what it would be like, and I feared things would turn for the worse, but my daughter was just 3 years old at the time, so if I stayed back in the US with her I would have no support, and no family. She was too young and I was not confident that I could make it on my own.
I went back with my husband as I had no choice. I was back to being the domestic servant for he and his family. The very first week, they started at me, complaining about the food, and other little things, things that I used to endure and accept, but because I had seen another way of life in North America, I couldn’t just accept them anymore – I spoke back, and I defended myself. This was not acceptable to him or his mother. He would scream at me and threaten me. His mother was worse. At one point after rebuking one of her insults, she came at me with a rolling pin and started to beat me, my daughter watching from the doorway.
For my daughter’s sake, I could not bear any more of this abuse. I did not want her to witness her mother being screamed at, humiliated, beaten. I took Maya and went back to my parents but they could not support me either. They told me to go back to my husband’s home, saying that I had caused them shame by returning. I felt so isolated. All I wanted was to live with dignity and integrity. He began threatening me on the phone and told me he was coming to take my daughter away. My family wouldn’t help me, and neither would the authorities. My only choice was to flee the country.
I came to Canada with Maya and made a refugee claim at the airport. After getting the documents, the immigration officer gave me information about the Red Door Shelter. Red Door was my first contact in Canada.
It was such a huge blessing. I don’t know what I would have done without the Red Door’s help. I was lost, and needed help with everything. From helping me find an immigration lawyer, getting legal aid, connecting me with the Ontario Works, all of the resources were there. The staff was so empathetic, and were always going out of their way to help me even with the most basic things, like showing me how to use the TTC, or opening up a bank account. Never living on my own before, I felt so safe because there were other women there. I made friends with many of them.
My outreach worker helped me find an apartment near the shelter so I could stay close and connected, and they helped me with moving and provided some very good furniture for me. They helped Maya integrate with her new school and provided her with school supplies. We were invited to the Christmas party which was so meaningful because we would have been all alone in a new country with no friends or family during the festive season.
Much to my worst fears, my refugee claim was denied. With no money to pay the lawyers and no legal aid, it was only a matter of time before I would be removed from the country. It was like being diagnosed with cancer and being told I had six months to live. The uncertainty was awful to bear. I was connected with the Barbara Schilfer Clinic, who began working on my case. All the while I was preparing for the inevitable – being deported.
But after months of waiting, I finally received the decision that my claim had been accepted. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude. It was like a miracle. After all that I’ve been through, I know that I am now safe, and I can really start a new life in Canada. Since then I have been volunteering with a social service agency in my area, because I want to give back some of the help that I received. I hope to pursue a new career in social services so that I can continue to make a difference in the lives of other women like me.
Learn more about how you can help women like Anjali.