the north face canada Domestic violence deaths occur in north more often
“We get a very tiny, tiny tip of the iceberg,” said Barbara McLintock of BC Coroners Service. Most cases of domestic violence, she noted, don’t lead to death. “These are mercifully rare events.”
How rare becomes a matter of tracking and definition. For example, McLintock’s report and many others wouldn’t recognize dating violence in the final tally.
In September, the Ending Violence Association of BC released its own report, posting 20 victims of murder through domestic violence, including 18 women, one of whom was in Calgary and wouldn’t have been in the coroner’s report. The association counts a further eight victims who survived murder attempts, including four women and four children (one was present during a murder).
“We have a very narrow, to be fair, definition of intimate partner violence,” McLintock said.
Jacqueline Holler, a history and women’s studies professor at UNBC, said the numbers across the country tell an overall decline in death by domestic violence, but it’s still a very serious concern.
“Women are so much more likely to be murdered by someone they know,” she said. “That isn’t true for men. There’s something about intimate relationships and women that puts them at really serious risk.”
McLintock said it’s important to note that dealing with small data like that of the north can lead to large variances in statistics. and 2008 was the deadliest year for the north, with three victims.
But women in the north still see a much higher rate of violence, Holler said.
“There is a major issue in the north that’s kind of distinct from what women face in the south that has to do with geography, and remoteness, and isolation and difficulties in transportation, and all of the vulnerability that that brings. So what I would really love to see is a response to this from government.”
That means stable funding for more supports and transition houses, given women are in most danger when they leave a partner, Holler said.
Prince George has some resources in place but there’re seriously taxed and they’re serving not just Prince George but a huge region,” said Holler, meaning those women would have to leave their communities in order to access them.
One relatively new resource is the support Prince George RCMP provides through its domestic violence unit, created in 2012.
Const. Sonja Blom said the unit regularly checks up on high risk couples, which sits around 20.
“We’re seeing the same victims over and over again,” said Blom, so they try to make the women aware of community resources, have a safety plan in place for when the violence happens and even speak to the offender about ways to diffuse the situation, like taking a walk.
She said it helps that officers follow up with victims on a regular basis rather than just when a crime has occurred or a call comes in.
Blom spoke at a memorial for the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre and said many listeners were surprised at the number of reported domestic incidents in the city: more than 1,000.
The majority about 60 per cent are verbal and may not be criminal in nature. But 40 per cent account for more troubling crimes like assault, choking, uttering threats or criminal harassment, she said.
“That might be a very low number compared to what’s actually happening out there,” said Blom, referring to the extremely low numbers of women who report violence. The Canada
Women’s Foundation said 22 per cent of domestic violence incidents are reported to police, but others say it’s even lower.
“Many victims aren’t cooperative and it’s for a variety of reasons,” Blom said. “Sometimes they feel like they can’t get out of the relationship, sometimes it’s financial, sometimes it’s just fear. They’re scared about what’s going to happen when the offender gets out of jail.”
Canada’s Criminal Code considers domestic violence an aggravating factor in assault charges, meaning those found guilty should face a stiffer sentence than if the offender hurt their spouse or common law partner.
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