New domestic violence program addresses ‘taboo’ topic for Calgary’s African community

A new domestic violence and abuse support program for Calgary’s African community will address what is a seldom discussed issue, its executive director says. 

Ruth’s House executive director, Dee Adekugbe, says she launched the support centre after living through domestic violence. 

“It’s visible, but we don’t address it, we don’t talk about it.…This is a taboo topic that we want to unravel, we want to open up, and we want to equip our community on how to handle it,” Adekugbe told The Homestretch

Ruth’s House was created in collaboration with more than 50 community groups, religious organizations and agencies. In a press release, its staff said many domestic violence victims find it difficult to work with government agencies and regulatory authorities due to their unfamiliarity with the Canadian system, which differs from African culture. 

“It’s tearing up families, it’s causing havoc within the community, and so there is a need for Ruth’s House to be established to be able to support our community,” Adekugbe said.  

Ruth’s House, which opened Saturday, offers free temporary safe housing for those experiencing domestic violence, programs for newcomers to Canada and outreach training to community organizations and faith-based groups on how to identify domestic violence. 

Dr. Tope Fagite, a Nigerian family doctor and Ruth’s House board member, says domestic violence within the African community has been ignored for too long. 

She says having people from the same background to offer support is crucial as well. 

“We know this is a problem. We understand the culture and the beliefs, and want to challenge some of those,” Fagite said.

“We’re all about just supporting people and letting them know that they have a voice, and [their] voices can be heard and there is help available in Canada. People don’t have to live with abuse.” 

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