Domestic violence reports up, but better support for victims a possible factor

Domestic violence in Medicine Hat is on the rise, say city police.
This year so far there have been a total of 1,324 domestic violence files compared to 1,273 for the same time frame last year, said Sgt. Randy Teel, safe families intervention team, Medicine Hat Police Service.
The Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society has seen an increase in the number of people accessing its services this year.
“The increase is about 13 per cent overall,” said executive director Natasha Carvalho. “I do think the economic downturn is playing a part. It is not the cause of family violence but we know it can definitely contribute to families who are already stressed.”
Carvalho hopes some of the increase is due to greater awareness of what is available for women in dangerous situations.
MHPS breaks down domestic violence calls into two categories: Domestic disputes are some sort of active or recent dispute between two intimate partners, and domestic related calls are where police are required to attend to keep the peace during property exchanges, where a custody dispute or court order needs to be mitigated, or where there are disputes due to one of the parties having a different partner, which has created conflict, said Teel.
In 2014, there were 577 domestic disputes and 390 domestic-related files for a total of 961.
In 2015, there were 560 domestic disputes and 934 domestic-related files for a total of 1,494.
The level of domestic violence in Medicine Hat is similar to the rest of the province, said Teel.
“I sit on a provincial domestic violence committee … From what I have learned, we are comparable with other jurisdictions,” said Teel.
November is Family Violence Prevention month.
Going to the women’s shelter is a way to ensure your children are safe, said Carvalho. The threat of harm to the children, physically or emotionally, can often be the tipping point for women to seek shelter away from the abuse.
“We know now that abuse affects brain development going forward. We know that kids, even in utero, are affected when their moms are experiencing cortisol level changes,” said Carvalho.
There are a number of initiatives in partnership with others in the community to assist women who want to leave an abusive relationship, said Carvalho.
MHWSS also wants men to know there are services available for them; not in terms of shelter but they can call the crises helpline and be put in touch with appropriate resources, said Carvalho.