Women living in violent situations are getting more support from cops and social workers.
But it will never be enough until men stop abusing them.
It’s highly encouraging to see caseworkers from Outaouais women’s shelter Maison Libère-Elles accompanying MRC des Collines Police officers on domestic violence calls. The new MAINtenant Ensemble program – a first of its kind in Quebec – will see caseworkers intervene on all domestic violence calls throughout the Outaouais.
But does this ambitious project miss the mark?
While in theory this seems like a move that would be met with applause – sending caseworkers on calls to support women and children often in volatile and violent situations – it’s important to question whether this is what survivors of domestic violence have been asking for.
Carleton University Professor of Law and legal studies Dawn Moore says the new program and its $433,400 price tag do have the potential to benefit some survivors, but according to her research, it misses the mark.
Survivors of domestic violence genuinely need safe places to go, and while the new program aims to support them in a variety of ways, it does nothing to tackle the central crisis: there are just not enough shelter spaces for women.
According to Maison Libère-Elles, a staggering 300 women in the Outaouais were turned away from the shelter due to space constraints this year alone. The “heartbreaking” situation, says Moore, is even worse across the province, with a terrifying 6,000 women turned away at shelter doors.
It’s important to understand that domestic violence is a social problem, says Moore, but we are trying to treat it as a criminal justice issue by using a penal system instead of a rehabilitation system.
In her research, Moore says that she has found that there is a common misconception around what survivors want. For many who believe that survivors want to call police and see their abusers in handcuffs, they are a bit out of touch. Rather, survivors want services; they want easy relocation so they can leave abusive situations on their own; they want easy access to legal representation to avoid lengthy custody battles, which often keep survivors in abusive situations longer than necessary; and they want opportunities to re-educate themselves and the ability to push reset on their life and start over.
But ultimately, what survivors of domestic violence want to see is an end to domestic violence altogether, and that all starts with the behaviour of men. The fact that MRC des Collines Police even had to secure nearly half a million dollars to ensure women are safe in their own homes is stomach-turning.
The pandemic has only exacerbated the issue, with a 51 per cent increase in domestic violence cases throughout the Outaouais since 2019. These numbers are on us, guys.
Seriously, we must do better as men. And there is help out there. Places like Donne-Toi une Chance in Gatineau are taking in violent men who want to make a change.
Anyone struggling can call 819-205- 1451. Seriously, make the call.
For our daughters, for our sons, for the future of all women, we have to do better.