Giving Victims Voice At Conference

Sex Crimes
The Ontario Domestic Violence Coordinators Conference heard from the most powerful voice – a survivor of abuse.

The two-day conference at the Toronto Police College, which takes place during Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, highlights issues faced by police and victims.

Domestic Violence survivor-turned author and public speaker Kamal Dhillon was the keynote speaker on the opening day of the conference hosted by Toronto Police.

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 stores 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’. When I speak at events like this, someone will get up and ask, ‘Why did you stay if it was that bad?’

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.”

A group of women standing together
Police Officers representing many services joined the conference: Christine Weston (London), Tracy Noonan (Peel), Ann-Marie Tupling (Toronto) Dawn Lefevre (OPP), and Sara Beck (Hamilton) Photo: Ron Fanfair

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.

Domestic violence is a crime that destroys the fabric of our society, Toronto Police Service Homicide & Sex Crimes Unit Commander Supt. Pauline Gray told delegates on the opening day of the Ontario Domestic Violence Coordinators Conference at the Police College on May 28.

“That’s why our job as law enforcement is to do our very best to stem it,” said Gray.

She said police and the community must continually keep domestic violence at the top of mind to prevent it in future.

The theme of the conference and Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, is The Power of Collaboration.

Det. Ann-Marie Tupling, the Service’s Domestic Violence & Child Abuse Coordinator and the Ontario Domestic Violence Coordinators Network Chair coordinated the conference.

“The goal of Victims and Survivors of Crime Week is to raise awareness about the issues facing victims and survivors of crime and about the services, assistance and laws in place to help victims, survivors and their families,” said Tupling. “This is another way to do just that.

The John Show Choir, comprising students from Grades Four to Eight from St. John Catholic School in the Beaches, sang Kacey Musgrave’sRainbow to launch the conference.

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