Chris Adams said domestic violence calls have doubled since 2004.
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The number of domestic violence calls in the city has doubled in the past six years.
In 2004, Thunder Bay Police Service responded to 1,107 domestic violence calls. In 2007, it was more than 1,800. By 2010, it was 2,218 resulting in charges for more than 600 men and 100 women. Police spokesman Chris Adams highlighted the statistics in an article he recently wrote for the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Unfortunately many of these were victims for quite a while before these incidents even came to light so certainly it’s disturbing from a violence standpoint,” Adams said.
What’s also disturbing is that police and other social agencies don’t know how many people never call the police to report an abuse.
Northwestern Ontario Womens’ Centre coordinator Gwen O’Reilly said many women she speaks with say they don’t report it because they’re afraid they won’t be believed or that they will be charged with something themselves. Another fear is poverty. If the abusive spouse is also the financial support, it can be tough to leave the situation she said.
“A lot of women have to choose between raising their kids in poverty and staying in an abusive relationship,” O’Reilly said.
Both Adams and O’Reilly say the underlying issues driving the alarming statistics need to be addressed. From a police standpoint, substance abuse is often involved when officers investigate. O’Reilly said research shows however that while addiction plays a factor, violence is present regardless of whether substances are involved.
“There is no evidence to show that substance use causes violence and it can of course complicate the situation and may result in more severe injury and many other problems but it doesn’t cause violence,” she said.
“Violence happens because one person in the relationship has more power and feels the need to use force or coercion to maintain control and that doesn’t change when people use substances.”
Tackling the issue as a community with many organizations working together is already happening and needs to happen more she and Adams said.
“There are a lot of reasons why it happens but I think more importantly we as a society we as a community have to recognize that it’s not acceptable. We have to do everything we can. Police can only go and investigate and create safety where they can for the victim but the root causes, the issues, we have to encourage women to feel confident in reporting it getting help getting out of those abusive relationships,” Adams said.
Getting people out of poverty and having a safe place to go would help O’Reilly said.
“I think we need to keep up pressure on government to make sure people have living wages and have good living conditions.”
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