Between 2014 and 2016, Julie Waters’ abuser—and then-boyfriend—socially isolated her, and made her feel as though she couldn’t trust law enforcement. He held her captive in her Hyundai Elantra and physically assaulted her daily for about ten months before she was able to escape. Though Waters’ story is horrific, it isn’t uncommon (sadly, it was also not the last time she survived an abusive relationship).
Though her experience took place years ago, intimate partner violence (IPV) has skyrocketed in recent months. Many experts suggest this increase is the result of isolation associated with stay-at-home orders. The Canadian government, which lists violence against women as one of the most significant societal issues endangering Canadians’ health and well-being, confirmed the pandemic made the problems more severe. A recent Statistics Canada analysis of data collected from 17 Canadian police forces found that calls related to domestic disturbances rose by almost 12 per cent between March and June of 2020 when compared to the same four months in 2019. This created additional challenges for police. Waterloo Police Inspector Terri Turner said the main reason police dread IPV calls is because they’re often unpredictable.
“You have no idea what the range of emotions are going to be. It could be a verbal argument or a physical assault, but it could also be a homicide—and it can also change while you’re on scene,” Turner said.
In 2008, Waterloo police formed a domestic violence unit with 20 officers trained in risk management, trauma informed interviewing and other areas related to IPV. Turner explained that typically, the Patrol Unit responds to the call but once it’s determined that charges will be laid, the IPV unit takes over.
“Since the unit was created, we’ve had about 6,000 domestic calls a year. Ultimately, it’s important that we focus on getting the offenders into therapy and treatment as well as the victims,” she said.
Some provinces have begun taking steps to combat the issue. For example, Quebec, where 10 women were reportedly killed by their male partners in the first four months of 2021, announced a $223 million investment over five years in the fight against domestic violence.
Watch the full webinar on Tracking Domestic Violence Perpetrators that took place May 5, 2021:
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