Hills police and social workers are making life safer for victims of domestic violence.
The MRC des Collines celebrated the first anniversary of its domestic violence intervention program, MAINtenant ensemble, on Oct. 5.
The regional police force made 530 follow-up calls to domestic abuse cases since May 2021. Additionally, police referred 65 victims of domestic abuse to Maison Libère-Elles, a 24/7 women’s shelter based in Chelsea.
It was in May 2021 that the Ministry of Public Security gave the MRC des Collines-del'Outaouais $433,440 over a five-year period to help victims of domestic abuse.
The program consists of sending social workers with cops on domestic abuse calls. Ever since social workers began accompanying police officers on domestic calls a year ago, the mobile team visited with 20 potential victims at their homes. Together, cops and social workers, referred 65 victims to Maison Libère-Elles, a 24/7 women’s shelter based in Chelsea. They are also standardizing the MRC-des-Collines police intervention practices for domestic abuse cases. The term domestic abuse includes all forms: physical, sexual, psychological, financial, and religious.
“We place the victim in the centre of the intervention process. This means that, with [the victim’s] authorization, we refer them to resources and services that they need,” said Caroline Clément, a coordinating agent for MAINtenant ensemble. According to Clément, the initiative gives victims the support to share their experiences without fear of judgement.
The MAINtenant team offers support for victims of domestic abuse via video calls.
“We establish common ground, and we build trust. The [victim] has to be comfortable sharing what they have experienced in detail. It’s very personal. If we can’t establish this connection, then we can’t help [them],” said Nadia Dessureault, sergeant detective with the MRC des Collines Police.
She said MAINtenant’s social workers are willing to stay on the phone with victims for over seven hours sometimes — whatever it takes to help those who experience abuse at home. According to Dessureault, once a domestic abuse victim reaches out to the police, the police must follow up with them.
“It takes a lot of energy for victims to reach out [to the police]. For this reason, social workers do their best to accompany the victim throughout their case — from the first time they phone the police to their judicial hearing,” she said.
Something else that MRC des Collines Police do is keep a file of calls concerning couples with a violent history. Since May 2021, authorities followed up with these files – 195 of them – and identified 47 abusive households.
Stéphanie McLeod, a social worker with MAINtenant ensemble, said the average victim of domestic abuse leaves and returns to abusive partners several times before leaving them permanently. Also, for couples with a history of conflict, the risk of violence increases during a period of separation.
The MRC des Collines Police reported that there were 127 domestic violence cases in the region. Also, as of Sept. 1, they reported 95 cases in 2022. Over the last five years, reported domestic violence cases rose in the Outaouais, with 53 cases identified by regional cops.
Many MRC des Collines employees underwent specialized training with Maison Libère-Elles and Donne-toi une chance, a shelter for men experiencing domestic abuse based in Gatineau. However, due to low funding, Donne-toi une chance has limited capacity for men who evade violent situations.
If you or someone you know is in need of help:
Intervention coordinator email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Donne-toi une chance
Email: liaison.info@ donnetoiunechance.org