Power and control issues and not holidays and money are at the heart of the number of incidents of relationship violence in Port Alberni, says Alberni Community and Women’s Services Society worker Kim Touchie.
At Monday’s city council meeting, RCMP Inspector Mac Richards cited the number of relationship violence calls police have responded to in the Valley up to the end of October.
Richards told councillors that police have responded to 290 relationship violence calls, 89 of which resulted in criminal charges.
There were 29 incidents of relationship violence in October with 15 of them resulting in criminal charges. The numbers are pacing those in 2011 where police responded to 335 relationship violence calls and recommended criminal charges in 98 of them.
“That’s almost one new investigation per day,” Richards said. “Relationship violence is impacting far too many persons in the community.”
The violence can take many forms and is mostly between adults and not adults on children, Richards said. The incidents involve husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, and former partners, he added.
There is no one particular criminal charge recommended by police, RCMP Cpl. Jen Allan said. “We most often deal with assault, common assault and assault causing bodily harm,” Allan said.
Relationship violence calls present the highest risk for police officers, Allan said. “Oftentimes the person who called will turn on us as soon as we arrest the assailant,” Allan said. “It’s really the unknown.”
Relationship violence cuts a swath across all socio-cultural demographics well, Allan said. “We attend calls in the fanciest neighbourhoods as well as the lower income ones,” she said.
Richard’s numbers aren’t just statistics in a matrix, said Kim Touchie, who is a victim support worker with Alberni Community and Women’s Services Society. “Each number represents a person,” she said.
Relationship violence follows a cycle, Touchie said. There’s a buildup of tension over money, jealously or often power and control which erupts into a violent incident. “There’s a honeymoon period afterward with lots of ‘I love you’ and ‘please don’t leave me,’ and then the tension builds into another incident,” Touchie said.
Power and control are central in relationship abuse issues, and rear their heads during the holidays, she added.
Referrals to the organization’s transition house seems to rise not during the holidays but afterward, Touchie said. “Families try hard to make it through Christmas, but things erupt in the new year when the bills come in,” she said. “Abuse can be financial too and not just physical.”
The number of clients Touchie helps has been steady over the past year. But she sees more women now willing to report the incident to the RCMP and follow through with charges.“RCMP officers are more sensitive to the issue and are better able to convince them to charge,” Touchie said.
Lack of affordable housing and few social services for men are key variables in domestic violence issues, Touchie said.
Women and children can end up trapped in an abusive relationship when they have few economic options and nowhere else to live that is safe, healthy and affordable, Touchie said.
More men and boys are coming in to ACAWS seeking help for relationship issues but there are few resources available for them, Touchie said. “They don’t want to be like this and they want help. There’s services for women but men are the other half of this,” she said.
Men who enter the court system have access to relationship management resources.“But only if they are charged, convicted and given probation sentences.”
RCMP detachments in other communities have officers dedicated to the relationship violence file, but not in Port Alberni. “This is a real gap in the community,” Touchie said.