Believing in Survivors of Domestic Violence

By Martin Blake, Toronto Police Service Published: 11:04 a.m. November 25, 2019

Kamal Dhillon knows that domestic violence can happen to anyone but it takes a tremendous amount of bravery on the part of victims to stop the cycle of abuse.

A close up of a woman
Kamal Dhillon speaks about her own struggle to leave a violent relationship

Entering an arranged marriage at 18, she was sexually assaulted on her wedding night and had to be treated in hospital for serious injuries.

Dhillon endured a horrendous string of violence and torture throughout her 12-year marriage.

“A lot of victims will tell you their stories afterwards,” said Dhillon, who migrated from India to British Columbia with her family at age 16. “You will hear it and you will wonder, ‘If it was that bad, why did that person stay?’”

Having four children made it difficult for her to walk away and leave them behind and unprotected.

Dhillon has had 10 jaw surgeries and as well as facial reconstruction.

“I don’t have any feelings in my face and I can’t raise my eyebrows,” she said. “The only ability I have right now in my face is to blink a little bit. I share all of this with you because I believe in opportunities. I believe that the very thing that my husband tried so hard to do was silence me. He made every effort to rape me and break my jaw to make sure that I never speak and I never go in front of people.”

Dhillon, whose abusive husband died in India a few years ago, is the author of two books:Black and Blue Sari and I am Kamal: Survivor To Thriver.

Dhillon talked about her experiences and gave advice to those living with the reality of abuse today in a series of videos produced in partnership with Toronto Police Services Domestic Violence Coordinator Ann-Marie Tupling.

“I wanted people to hear her voice, because her story is similar to many victims of domestic violence,” said Tupling. “I hope her story will resonate with victims and give them some inspiration to get help. Some people don’t realize they are in an abusive relationship, some people might be afraid to ask for help. She shares an important message – that there is help out there – you are not alone as a victim of domestic violence.”

Dhillon said that abuse can come in many forms, whether it be physically violent, sexual, psychological or financial, it doesn’t necessarily leave scars or bruises obvious to those around victims.

Types of Abuse - Kamal Dhillon

Domestic violence is also not restricted by marital status, sexual orientation, occupation, vulnerability, age or gender, it can happen to anyone. She notes that victims should know that they are not alone – that it has happened to many others and there is a way out.

Advice to Victims In Crisis: Kamal Dhillon

Many times, victims are protecting the breakup of their families and want to ensure their children are cared for. 

“The exposure to domestic violence can cause physiological effects that can last a long time. The impact of exposure to domestic violence on children can cause physical, emotional, behavioral, academic and social issues,” Tupling said.

Advice To Children exposed to domestic violence - Kamal Dhillon

Dhillon also says the abuser plays a role in ensuring the cycle of violence stops and whether they can still participate in the lives of their families. She recognizes that as victims need counselling, so too do abusers.

A Message to the Abuser - Kamal Dhillon

She hopes that through awareness and education that victims of domestic violence no longer feel stigma and are likely to come forward.

Final Thoughts on domestic violence - Kamal Dhillon

Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence can call 9-1-1 if they are in immediate danger or the non-emergency police line at 416-808-2222 to report a past assault.

If a victim wants to reach out for non-police crisis support, counselling and advice, they can reach to these organizations: 

Assaulted Women's Helpline l 416-863-0511 l Toll Free 1-866-863-0511 l TTY 1-866-863-7868 l#SAFE (#7233) on your Bell, Rogers, Fido or Telus mobile phone

Victim Services Toronto l 416-808-7066

Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care Centre at Women’s College Hospital 416-323-6040

Link Toronto SafePet Program
 fosters pets for victims of domestic violence

Learn more about Kamal Dhillon, on herwebpage

TPS crest watermark