The BC Coroners Service recently released the report and recommendations of a Death Review Panel into the deaths caused by intimate partner violence (IPV), recommending further action in increasing public awareness of domestic violence, how best to respond along with enhancing collaboration and information-sharing across a variety of agencies.
The panel was composed of experts from across the spectrum of law enforcement, family-serving agencies, victim services, Aboriginal health and crime prevention, and was released during the World Health Organization-sponsored 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which targets intimate partner violence around the world.
Amy Lange, women’s outreach worker at Family Dynamix in the Columbia Valley, said she was happy with the report and the recommendations made to improve this important issue.
“I think any recommendation is a good recommendation, especially when you’re dealing with that and you need to keep current with it,” she said.
The panel investigated the deaths of 100 persons who died in 75 separate incidents of intimate partner violence from the year 2010 through 2015. They found that few victims of intimate partner violence reach out to disclose what is happening to them and even when they do, friends, family or even professionals may not understand the risks, nor how they can best help.
Lang said this confidence to disclose domestic violent incidents can often be more difficult in a rural area like the Columbia Valley because of the closeness within the community.
“Because everyone knows each other and that’s a big barrier that we run into often where they need it to be quiet because they’re fearful,” she said. “Sometimes it changes and their thinking will shift.”
One of the bigger misconceptions that Lange said she encounters during her work is that the risk of domestic violence incidents is over once a partner leaves the situation.
“It happens often where people think, ‘Oh she’s left, it’s all good now’,” she said. “No, it’s actually worse now.”
According to the statistics, she said, the likelihood of a domestic violence incident increases if a partner leaves the other as it creates a change in power within the relationship.
“When they leave, they have taken part of their power back. It’s a power and control thing, so when they leave, that says to their partner that, ‘I’ve got some power back for myself’, and that is often time when we find an escalation of violence, when they leave.”
She said it’s important that people in the community understand this fact so they are able to properly monitor the situation in their own family and friends if and when it arises.
The panel also identified a need for more collaborative risk assessment and safety planning, and for improved sharing of risk factor information so that courts can properly assess the risk in a given situation. Lange said this is one area that she hopes can be improved here in the Columbia Valley as well.
“I think, or most people think, that there needs to be more collaboration because it’s not just going to be RCMP that are in contact with women who are leaving or in domestic situations,” she said. “Letting police know this is a violent situation where she’s left so we typically know that the danger will increase for her. It doesn’t mean the police need to become involved with her, just that they know so if maybe they’re driving by more often or that she is in a safe house and just being aware.”
She said Family Dynamix is actively involved in trying to create more collaboration across different agencies that work in domestic violence incidents across the valley. One aspect that has aided this issue recently, she said, are the awareness campaigns, such as the Purple Lights campaign in October, that make it easier to talk about the issues.
“I think it can be a topic that isn’t talked about enough. It’s uncomfortable for a lot of people,” she said. “It gives people the opportunity to speak about it that normally wouldn’t or would be uncomfortable speaking about it… or at least to hear about it.”
Within the report, the Provincial Office of Domestic Violence said it will make a number of improvements within the next year including working with stakeholders to revise the BCCS Investigative Protocol to better capture essential domestic violence data in the future.