Woman beaten by husband, jailed by police is suing force

Bride from China spent seven days in custody

From Thursday's Globe and Mail

Within three days of arriving from China in 2005 to join a husband she barely knew, the woman was being routinely punched and suffocated by him.

Knowing no one in Canada and unable to speak a word of English, the 36-year-old implored passersby for help and screamed loudly to try to attract attention during the beatings.

However, the worst was still to come. Her husband called the Toronto police and accused his wife of assaulting him. In early March, 2005, two officers entered their apartment, handcuffed and arrested her for assault.

The woman spent the next seven days behind bars, being bounced around from police holding cells and jails to courtrooms - unable to give her side of the story because she had not been provided with an interpreter.

In a lawsuit she has launched against the Toronto Police Services Board and several officers, she is seeking $2.5-million for wrongful incarceration, and for physical and emotional trauma.

In a 90-minute interview conducted with the aid of an interpreter, the woman's voice shook frequently as she described how her ordeal has crushed her spirit and destroyed her confidence. "I am living in hell," she said. "I can't concentrate. It has been two years, but I still think about it all the time. I just sit at home by myself. I can't face speaking in public."

Her lawyer, Louis Sokolov, said his client "has clearly suffered severe and long-lasting trauma. For an entire week, no one in the justice system could be bothered to take the time or effort to provide this woman with her basic rights."

Prior to meeting her husband - a salesman at a Toronto computer store who had immigrated to Canada in 2000 - the woman was a factory manager in China. They were introduced by a mutual friend, and married on Jan. 6, 2004.

She arrived in Toronto on April 11, 2005. She says her husband promptly turned cold and refused to give her any food. On her third day in the country, he began hitting her. "He put a pillow on my mouth to stop me from breathing and then sat on the pillow," she recalled. "Then, he choked me with his hands."

She said she spent the next month alone and hungry for long periods. Afraid of the blows and kicks she would receive when her husband returned, she was nonetheless totally dependent on him. "I was afraid to even talk to him," she said.

One day, according to her statement of claim, her husband forced her face and mouth against his thigh and yelled at her to bite him. He left the house and went to report to police that she had assaulted him.

Two police officers woke her up that afternoon and took her away. She said that some inmates in jail bullied her, while others pitied her and tried to help. "I couldn't sleep; I couldn't eat," she said. "Nobody could help me, because nobody knew I was there. I thought that I would stay there forever. I was thinking that I would die."

After seven days, a charitable organization obtained bail for her. Finally provided with an interpreter, she told her story to a prosecutor and the charges were dropped. Her husband was charged instead and, according to Mr. Sokolov, he later signed a peace bond in return for his charges being withdrawn.

After six months in a women's shelter, the woman moved into assisted housing. She is taking courses in hopes of landing a job. She said it would be far too shameful and humiliating for her to return to China, and that her family would be furious at her for giving up an excellent job and ruining her life.

"I had a very good future in China," she said. "Now, I have changed a lot. I hate being here, but I can't go home and face my family. I don't have friends. I never smile."

Lawyers for the Toronto police could not be reached yesterday.

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