“You’ve reached 911, Is this call for fire, police, or ambulance?”
“Police. He’s doing it again. It sounds bad this time.”
It could be a neighbour, making the call. It might be a child. Sometimes it’s the victim, herself.
It’s a scenario played over far too often, in every community.
The issue is domestic violence and the Comox Valley is not immune.
In 2014 there were 132 spousal/partner assaults filed in our community. In 2015, there were 151.
That’s an average of nearly three reported cases per week – and while the victims were not exclusively women, they accounted for the vast majority.
Const. Keeley Deley is the domestic violence co-ordinator for the Comox Valley RCMP. She said that while no two cases are identical, there are several prevalent triggers to domestic violence incidents.
“There are a few things that could be the cause of what is happening in the home,” said Deley. “One of the things could be alcohol, or past history of abuse, or being abused. There could be stresses that are financial, children bringing on extra stress, lack of employment bringing on extra stress. There are so many triggers, but those are some of the things that come to mind as reasons people get (into conflict).”
Deley said the primary goal of the RCMP when answering a domestic violence call is to diffuse the situation.
“If it’s getting to the point that the police are needed to intervene or to assist in some way, that’s what we are here for, before it gets to the point of an assault taking place or someone getting hurt.”
The RCMP are trained to make an on-the-spot decision as to the best way of diffusing the situation.
“Each file, or each incident, the RCMP officers are going to make judgement calls along the way as far as the investigation is concerned. Our key objective is that the offence that is happening does not continue happening. So if that means separating the parties and bringing one to a safer place, that’s what we will do. Sometimes one of them is arrested and taken out of the home. But the key objective is that the situation does not continue and that it is safe for everybody.”
A safe haven
That’s where the Comox Valley Transition Society comes into play.
The CVTS was founded in 1987 and in 1992 Lilli House – a safe house for women and children trying to escape abusive relationships – was opened.
Currently Lilli House has 14 beds in nine bedrooms. The CVTS receives an average of 1,500 crisis calls every year and houses, on average, 300 women and children annually.
“Lilli House has become… over the years, we have more and more nights when we are full,” said Anne Davis, program director at CVTS. “In 2015 we were actually full, or over full, for 302 nights.”
“Part of the issue is that people are staying longer, because there is nowhere to go, other than back to their abusive situation, which is not a good option,” said Heather Ney, executive director of the CVTS. “There is no affordable housing, no supportive housing, particularly for single women, but also for women with children. So that’s where the biggest pressure is on Lilli House.”
Every year, in mid-April, the Comox Valley Transition Society carries out the annual Purple Ribbon Peace Begins at Home campaign with the support of other organizations and individuals in our community.
“This is our sixth year doing the Purple Ribbon Campaign, and it’s all about awareness,” said Ney. “We are trying to build awareness about domestic violence, broadly and then specifically the particulars of the Comox Valley.”
The RCMP works intimately with the various facilities available for people in need.
Deley had high praise for the Comox Valley Transition Society.
“We work very closely with the Transition Society, and they are a wonderful group of resources we have in the Comox Valley that work very hard to ensure that anybody that needs a safe place to go can reach out and find a safe place to go. They are a great partner that we work with.”
This year, the Transition Society is profiling the province of B.C.’s Say Something Campaign during the Peace Begins at Home period of April 10 -23.
The Say Something Campaign addresses domestic violence against women from a different perspective. Whereas many campaigns work with the female victims of domestic violence, the Say Something Campaign puts the onus on men, to take a proactive approach.
“Men in peer relationships need to be models and mentors to each other,” said Ney. “They need to speak out and say ‘that was a sexist comment. That’s not OK,’ or ‘when you say you pushed your wife last night because you were mad at her, that’s not OK.’ Men need to be standing up to the plate. I think women are working overtime to try to keep themselves and their children safe, but it takes the whole community. Women alone can’t do it,” Ney said.
“So the Say Something Campaign is a ‘be more than a bystander’ campaign. It’s time for the men to step in and come alongside the women… and challenge their peers.”
The challenge is out there. Rather than join in on the cat calls on a construction site, say something. Imagine if that was your daughter being whistled at.
Speaking out against demeaning acts and comments toward women is a growing trend.
“I went to a really good presentation by the B.C. Lions a couple of years ago, who have been speaking to the high school kids around the province about being more than a bystander,” said Davis. “One of them talked about how having taken the training and becoming really aware of the issue, when he went back to the locker room, he couldn’t be quiet anymore, when there were derogatory comments made about women. He said he had to speak up and say something, and so did the other teammates who had taken this training. He said that over time, the conversation changed in the locker room.”
More resources needed for men
Ney said one of the areas that needs improvement is services to men who are seeking help in a proactive form – men who recognize they have anger issues and want to do something about it before it becomes a criminal issue.
“Those services are woefully inadequate,” she said. “The only way there is any help, or training or support is if they get charged and convicted, and are mandated to take a relationship program. It would be nice if we were able to supply some service and be more proactive, to men who voluntarily want to help themselves.”
With that in mind, the CVTS has started a support group, specifically to address that issue. This is a free service and the group meets weekly. For more information on that service, contact the CVTS at 250-897-0511.
Join The Record this Friday at 8 a.m. at the downtown Thrifty Foods parking lot for a fundraising breakfast, with all proceeds going to the Purple Ribbon Campaign.