In November 2011, the provincial government committed to developing a multi-year domestic violence strategy. This strategy would assist the government in improving prevention efforts and responding more effectively to family violence.
It is important to note here that total funding for family violence prevention programs has increased by 104 per cent since 2000 to over $12 million in 2012/2013.
While that shows the commitment of government, it also indicates the alarming level of domestic violence in our province.
Research shows that from 1974 to 2009, there were at least 199 spousal homicides in Manitoba.
In the 2011/2012 fiscal year, Victim Services (Manitoba Justice) assisted survivors in over 18,000 domestic violence incidents where police services were present.
These numbers represent only a small fraction of all those who have been affected by family violence, including survivors, friends, family members, co-workers and neighbours.
In addition to the physical and emotional costs to victims of abuse, domestic violence results in significant economic costs to all citizens because of expenses related to police services, legal aid, courts, crisis intervention, health care, social services and even lost productivity at work.
Studies estimate that these costs are in the range of billions of dollars.
According to research, while both women and men experience domestic violence at the hands of their partners, women constitute 80 per cent of survivors in dating and spousal violence incidents reported to police.
As well, women are more than twice as likely to be injured as a result of the abuse.
Younger Canadians, aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence.
In order to develop the strategy, in the spring of 2012, the province held public consultations with those affected by family violence.
They also reviewed provincial residential facilities, agency funding, as well as research and best practices from other provinces.
Manitoba’s funding model remains strong, and it was found that Manitoba is the only province where all domestic violence shelters are purchased, owned and maintained by the province.
Following the public consultations, the Strategy Review Committee was formed consisting of 19 members from various women’s, men’s and research organizations across the province, such as Klinic and Rainbow Resource Centre.
I was asked to be on the committee to bring a disability perspective to the strategy.
The goal of this committee was to assist the government, using our collective expertise, to ensure that the strategy covered all the areas that we felt were critical, such as support for survivors and families, and prevention.
Currently, the province provides services to survivors of domestic violence and their families that include counselling, crisis accommodations, specialized programs, court orders and legal help.
This includes a provincial toll-free domestic violence information/crisis line.
In the future, the province is committed to providing broader supports, such as accessible housing, child care, financial resources and addictions resources.
Interventions that are available now for people with abusive behaviours include specialized court, a prosecutions unit and probations unit, community-based counselling and collaboration domestic violence prevention programming for offenders.
The province is looking at programming to better address the root causes of abusive behaviour, as well as addressing the cultural aspects of abusive behaviour.
Prevention, awareness and training initiatives are ongoing and include declaring November as Domestic Violence Prevention Month.
This year, the province engaged 10 members of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to be a part of public service announcements entitled, “Be more than a bystander. Break the silence on violence against women.”
It is important that respected men in our society give the public the message that it is not acceptable to hurt women.
Hopefully, Manitobans will get the message.
Emily Ternette is a freelance writer and co-chairperson of DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Manitoba.
Published in Volume 67, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 28, 2012)