Original Article: CTV News | March 26, 2018 | https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/a-panic-button-for-victims-of-domestic-violence-in-longueuil-que-1.3859654
Victims of domestic abuse are often unable to dial 911, but a program in Quebec aims to put help in the palm of their hand.
Police in Longueuil are following the lead of Laval and Montreal and launching an initiative to put “panic buttons” — small black clickers attached to lanyards — in more homes where there is a risk of continued violence.
“Let’s say you’re in bed and you hear the door being smashed in, you don’t have time to (pick up) the phone, use the panic button,” said Longueuil police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Voutsinos. “If you’re not beside your phone it’s very quick.”
An alert is sent directly to the police, who will respond with prior knowledge of the address and the suspect, he said. “When the police officers will show up at the address, they’ll be able to locate the suspect faster.”
In 2017, more than 1,000 women reported being victims of domestic abuse from a marital partner, or “conjugal violence,” in the Longueuil area alone. The panic button system is already in use in Montreal, where 36 women were given buttons last year, and in Laval. Though reports of conjugal violence are high — 18,000 every year in Quebec — the buttons are reserved for the most at-risk cases. Response to the initiative in Montreal has been positive, said Montreal police spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant.
“It’s been working. It’s always good to have every equipment or everything to support our victim. We know it’s not easy, especially when we’re talking about conjugal violence,” he said.
A woman who attended the Longueuil press conference held back tears as she explained to CTV Montreal how she felt the alarm could help save her life. She did not want to appear on camera.
Though the button is not going to resolve the widespread issue of domestic violence, it’s an important step in the fight, said Deborah Pearson with the Pavillon Marguerite De Champlain, a crisis intervention centre.
“All actions moving towards elimination of violence towards women support and help every woman, including women that are not just yet born,” said Pearson.
Action is being taken by a number of groups in Quebec, including a coalition of women’s groups that has been putting pressure on the provincial government to expand services for women who are victims of domestic violence, outreach that should go beyond panic buttons and into the realm of prevention, education and the law.
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Amanda Kline