Former B.C. Lt.-Governor Steven Point leads a prayer at the outset of the Domestic Violence Community Awareness Forum at Chilliwack city hall Oct 24. Point is also the chair of the advisory committee on the safety and security of vulnerable women.

Forum unites experts working to prevent domestic violence

Speakers included service providers who work in the very specialized arena of intimate partner violenc

One in three families are hit by domestic violence in B.C.

But despite the prevalence, many aren’t aware of the range of specialized services available in Chilliwack to help, said RCMP Insp. Barb Vincent, head of crime prevention services for the RCMP in B.C.

“We don’t hear that much about it, do we?” she asked the crowd of about 65 people.

That was the whole point of the Purple Light Nights Community Awareness Forum held at city hall on Thursday evening. Speakers over the two hours included a vast array of service providers who work in the very specialized arena of intimate partner violence.

The crowd was introduced to transition house experts,  police, social workers, Crown counsel, and psychiatric nurses. There were service providers who work in child protection, abuse prevention and those who treat victims of sexual assault.

For Supt. Deanne Burleigh of Chilliwack RCMP, the community event was a “very important forum on a very important topic.”

Part of the challenge is it’s a devastating topic that is often kept secret.

“It tears away at the fabric of our communities,” she said.

The entire focus at Ann Davis Transition Society is how to mitigate and prevent domestic violence.

It’s crucial to start by viewing it as a “community problem,” rather than just a woman’s issue, said Bobbi Jacob, executive director at ADTS.

“It all comes from deep emotion and deep pain.”

The real and true costs of domestic violence have never really been tallied.

“So it’s a huge cost to society that I don’t think has ever been measured,” Jacob told the crowd.

From the peaceful shelter of the transition house, to the full range of counselling ADTS offers for couples, for women, for men and for children, it’s all focused on the various manifestations of violence, anger and bullying in relationships.

“Everything we do at Ann Davis is about domestic violence, from how to stop domestic violence, to why people act and feel the way they do,” Jacob added.

Next a speaker from Specialized Victim Assistance of Chilliwack Community Services explained how they go from preparing a client to speak to the RCMP, to court orientation and possibly court accompaniment.

“Maybe you know someone who could benefit from talking to us,” Beverly Coles of Specialized Victim Assistance said to the gathering. “I have a little job for you. Think about treating everyone in your life with respect. It can be tough, but worth it.”

Cpl. Harinder Kheleh, is a member of the serious crimes unit of Chilliwack RCMP, who also sits on the Violence in Relationships committee.

The role of police in a domestic file has changed significantly over the years, he pointed out. Now they carefully assess if charges should be recommended.

One of the misconceptions is that the onus is on the victim to press charges.

“We definitely need the victim to provide details but the onus is on police to make recommendations to Crown on whether or not to move forward. Our policies are very strict.”

When a victim of domestic violence makes that call to police, specially trained officers know they have “a small window of opportunity” to act quickly before the partner apologizes and is taken back into the home.

In conducting evidence-based investigations, which include taking statements and documenting injuries with photographs, officers also have to go through a check list of 19 risk factors to determine the level of action required.

They assess factors like drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, history of violence, and the presence of firearms in the residence, which is always a serious one.

“So safety planning is huge for us,” he said.

It’s important to make the victim feel as safe as possible in the interim, especially if it goes to court.

Many will weigh their circumstances and either stay and work it out with counselling, or leave the home if their safety is in jeopardy.

“There’s lots of help out there. This is just a topic that’s not talked about enough.”

For more details call ADTS at 604-792-2760 or go to http://www.anndavis.org/

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

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