New database shares success stories, best practices in helping the victims of domestic violence

Edmonton mass murder in 2014 sparked idea create database where shelter staff can learn from each other

Original Article:  CBC News  |  May 11, 2018  |

In Red Deer, a sex-trade worker agreed that the women's shelter could call police if she didn't return to the shelter in an agreed time period.

In Edmonton, a senior who suffered abuse at the hands of her husband, and then her adult son, was helped into a subsidized apartment and a secure income.

In Grande Prairie, a shelter worker's presentation on battering has inspired women to leave abusive relationships.

Across Alberta, employees who work with abused women, children and men are faced with delicate situations and coming up with creative solutions. 

Now, those success stories — along with anecdotes, tips and a massive compendium of resources — have been documented and compiled in an online database, created by the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, to be used by anyone dealing with victims of domestic violence. 

"It's going to help get people all on the same page," Carolyn Goard, the council's director of member services, said at the launch of the database on Friday.

Three-quarters of the 10,000 women who attended emergency or secondary-stage women's shelters in the province last year were at severe or high risk of being murdered by their intimate partners, she said. 

"We've had two domestics in the last two weeks in Edmonton. That means things are not working," Goard said.

To reduce the risk to women in vulnerable situations, more collaboration between agencies — including the sharing of what the website calls "promising practices" — is needed, she said.

The new database, which brings a wealth of information into one place, was developed with input from 298 service providers, along with 75 interviews with domestic violence survivors. Many of the organizations nominated their own success stories to be included as a promising practice.

Years in the works

The Alberta Council of Women's Shelters, with support from the provincial and federal governments, began developing the database following a mass murder in Edmonton at the end of 2014.

During the shooting rampage, Phu Lam killed his wife along with her son, her parents, her sister, her niece and a friend who was visiting at the time. Finally, he turned the gun on himself.

At Friday's launch of the database, Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley said that tragedy which was rooted in domestic violence, posed an impossible-to-ignore question: What can be done to prevent something similar from happening again? 

"I commend the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters for building this online inventory," Ganley said. "It will be a source of valuable, up-to-date information for the organizations working to keep women and children safe from domestic violence."

John Ferguson, the RCMP's assistant commissioner, added that there is no single cause of domestic violence. 

"No one organization can tackle this alone," he said.