Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Protecting Vulnerable Women

"It's like a little bodyguard in my pocket. It preserves the victim. It saves us."
"Once I realized that was all in response to my alarm [police response to alarm], I had mixed emotions. Relief and comfort knowing that's how seriously they take the matter, but also a bit of terror realizing that it's this serious."
Janet [last name withheld], Ottawa

"I'm going to go out in style. I'm going to go out big."
"I'm going to take people down with me. I haven't decided if you will be the person I take down with me."
Janet's ex-husband

"If the accused put her in the car and went on the 417 [highway], it will track her."
"They have a live eye on her so she can be intercepted by police."
Lisa Warriner, executive director, Victims Services of Hastings, Prince Edward, Lennox and Addington County

"The hope was that if we were to provide them with that quick access to services and mitigate those barriers they [abusers] were facing, they would be less likely to re-offend."

Traci Bowen, team leader, Ottawa police victim crisis unit

"It resonates not only for me but for our community."
"Far too many women have died or have been injured through domestic violence."
Chief Charles Bordeleau, Ottawa Police Services
Free Ottawa west mental health services at PQCHC

Janet wears an alarm device especially designed to be used by women who are in danger of domestic or spousal violence She began wearing it three years ago. Wearing the device gave her the confidence to leave her home, to resume a normal life. She felt comfortable in going out with her children, knowing that with the touch of a button police would respond swiftly. She was, in fact, a pioneer in the use of the mobile tracking device; the first in Ontario to use one.

At the present time there are about 150 trackers being used across the province.There is now provincial funding for emergency cellphones in calling 911. In Janet's experience, her husband was twice arrested after their separation. First it was for criminal harassment, uttering death threats and stalking. On the second occasion he was charged with criminal harassment and breach of probation. Janet is thankful police are at her back, thanks to the alarm system.

And, as it happens, Janet's former husband was in fact a policeman.

Soon after their separation her ex-husband stalked her and their children at a public park. His intention was, he informed her, to say goodbye. And that's when he expressed the threat that threw her into a panic. The moment he drove off she dropped the children over to a friend's home, and visited the police. The mobile tracking program that helped Janet was initiated by the Victims Services of Hastings, Prince Edward, Lennox and Addington County.

Even the Ottawa Humane Society is called upon on occasion when women are considering separating from an abusive intimate relationship. There are times when companion pets' lives are in danger at the hands of a vindictive abuser. Women are as reluctant to leave an intimate partner when there are animals involved, as they are when there are children in the picture. A program was put together by the Ottawa Humane Society to hold animals in trust until such time as a woman can retrieve them.

The Ontario Veterinary Medical Association has a very similar program they call SafePet, established in 2003 where women are enabled to drop off their animals at a local veterinary clinic. The association claims that 48 percent of women, because of concerns over a pet's welfare, delayed leaving an abusive relationship.

There is also an active program to help the men who have been charged with domestic violence. Their needs are assessed, taking into account housing, financial matters and emotional counselling. Donna Watson-Elliott, who manages the Ottawa police victim crisis unit says her office tracked 86 domestic violence cases early in the year to discover that of the total, ten men had accepted assistance and had been referred to New Directions, a program set up for abusers.

A criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, Holly Johnson, analyzes data from domestic violence cases as well as data from an online survey of survivors taking into account race, religion, sexual orientation, living situation, eduction, occupation, income and the kind of violence experienced to determine how best police should respond. Nancy Worsfold, executive director of Crime Prevention Ottawa leads a subcommittee examining how domestic violence can be prevented.

Early education was pinpointed as an effective means of teaching youth about violence against women. Hoping to prevent dating violence, in 2006 Ottawa schools added a curriculum section on developing healthy relationships to grades 7 to 9 physical education courses. But in teaching mutual respect between the genders, there is nothing quite as effective as a child observing the interaction and affection between soundly-functioning parents.

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