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Family of murdered Toronto doctor raises awareness for charity that helps women in crisis

Last Updated Dec 10, 2016 at 12:04 pm EDT

The family of a Toronto doctor murdered last week is using the tragic incident to raise funds and awareness for a charity that helps women in crisis.

Dr. Elana Fric’s body was found strangled and beaten last Thursday; her husband, neurologist Mohammed Shamji has been charged with first degree murder.

Fric’s family issued a statement on Friday, expressing gratitude for an outpouring of support, and asking those looking to honour her memory to donate to The Shelter Movers — an organization that offers free moving services to women fleeing abusive homes.

“We’re humbled by that,” says Marc Hull-Jacquin, the group’s Executive Director. “Without knowing Dr. Fric or her family, I think it’s a demonstration of their understanding that abuse is a topic that affects us all.”

“What conditions do we make that force women to stay in abusive relationships?” asks Farrah Khan, Ryerson’s sexual violence and education coordinator. “The majority of survivors will tell someone, a neighbour, friend or family. They won’t tell a counselor. ”

That’s why she says it’s important for loved ones to create a safe environment to support women who want to leave abusive situations, noting that fear and stigma can often be the biggest barriers to getting help.

“I think the biggest thing to say to someone when someone discloses to them that they are being abused in the home is, ‘I believe you, it’s not your fault, and I’m going to help you get help.’ ”

She says help can come in many forms, from babysitting children while survivors get professional counselling, offering to keep clothing or valuables in your home when she’s ready to leave, or creating a cover story to keep abusive partners from knowing her whereabouts.

“Also, confidentiality,” says Khan. “I will not tell your partner that you are leaving. I’m not going to force you into mediation and say ‘Oh, it’s just a family conflict.’ ”

She also advises woman planning to leave abusive situations to create a separate bank account, pointing out that even those from affluent families may not have the financial means to get out.

“Financial abuse happens in all sorts of relationships. It can happen when you’re wealthy, poor. It can be people withholding money or taking money from you, saying ‘your pay check belongs to me.’ “