Published online at GlobalTVEdmonton.com on February 17, 2011.
Linda Hoang, Global News: Thursday, February 17, 2011
Dealing with domestic violence
Despite the skyrocketing number of domestic violence calls that continue to climb in the province and here in Edmonton, police say efforts to lower domestic abuse rates have been met with some success.
Edmonton police received 6,724 domestic violence calls in 2010, and that number is about the average for those types of calls each year.
While crime overall in Edmonton was down 18% last year, reports of domestic violence remain high.
But while those numbers seem troubling, police have a bit of a different take on them.
They see the increase in those coming forward and reporting domestic abuse as positive, that it shows more people are feeling more comfortable coming forward.
Over the past few years the Edmonton Police Service has completely changed the way they respond to domestic violence calls, including employing a social worker with each constable focused on domestic violence out of every division.
They also have a team of five detectives working in the unit on top of that and its those extra efforts that have shown some success.
“I think there’s increased awareness, increased support for victims of domestic violence. We’re doing a better job as an organization of taking these files seriously and putting real effort to solve the investigation,” said Det. Mark Fussell, with the domestic offender crimes section.
“I think when you support victims of domestic violence and there is the belief that they are taking the matter seriously, I think it encourages them to come forward.”
Barbara Kasianiak, a social worker in the domestic offender crimes section, says social workers who work in tandem with constables have seen a huge difference in many cases.
“We’re able to figure out what kinds of supports we can put in place so we can stop some of the gaps that might happen if it wasn’t recognized,” she said.
“It’s the first line of contact. We’re able to see the victims and address some of their needs right then and there.”
Kasianiak said as a result of the work the domestic offender crimes section does, the Crown is better able to assess domestic violence cases.
“I think we’ve seen a better response by the Crown in addressing some of the issues that come up,” Kasianiak said.
Still, despite an improved domestic abuse unit, the fact remains that people continue to be abused, here in the province and across Canada.
Statistics show that rates of domestic abuse in the country haven’t been declining.
In Newfoundland 4% of people in a relationship have been abused.
In Ontario and B.C. that number is 6%.
But Alberta has the highest rate of domestic abuse, with 8% of people in a relationship in the province having been abused.
For Lucinda Patterson, executive director of the Lurinda Shelter Society for abused women, the hope is that one day domestic violence numbers will be gone completely.
“I’d like to believe every home could be safe,” Patterson said, “My hope is that in Edmonton we won’t have homes that are troubled.”
Domestic violence will be the main topic at an Edmonton Police Commission meeting Thursday night.
With files from Vassy Kapelos