“We know what needs to be done. The challenge is to do it.”
With those words, the Ending Violence Association BC (EVABC) summarizes findings in a report called Violence Against Women and Their Children in BC: 33 Years of Recommendations.
“Sexual and domestic violence cuts across all socio-economic lines and belongs to no one community,” say the report, written by Linda Light and released to the public in April. “And while this is true and much needs to be done across all sectors, each sector must also pay attention to the specific and unique needs of Aboriginal women, women who are immigrants or refugees, those living with disabilities, women with mental health or substance use issues, women living in poverty, transgendered women, etc.
“We know that women who are marginalized need all the same protections and services that ‘mainstream’ women need (and these are many), but they often also need additional help, like special assistance to access services, services in their own language or language interpretation, material assistance such as affordable housing, information about their rights, increased advocacy to help them navigate the complex systems whose personnel may lack education and training on violence and the intersections of oppression.”
Over the last three decades, the report says, a number of recurring themes have been identified as being critical in addressing the problem of violence against women and their children:
•access to specialized support for women who experience violence;
•better co-ordination and information sharing;
•services to better meet the needs of marginalized women who experience violence;
•consistent risk assessment and coordinated safety planning;
•clear, effective province-wide policies;
•adequate legal aid for women who experience violence;
•effective use of specialization;
•training in domestic violence issues;
•comprehensive prevention efforts; and
“Many of the factors addressed in these recommendations are closely linked with one another. A woman’s reluctance to involve the justice system, for example, may be linked to her economic situation, to her Aboriginal status or her status as an immigrant or refugee, or to her lack of access to adequate legal aid services to help her extricate herself from the abusive relationship. Police, Crown or [the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s] lack of adherence to policy may be linked to lack of training and to a lack of system monitoring strategies. Lack of effective coordination and risk-related information sharing may contribute to a wide range of system failures, including a lack of victim access to specialized support services, a lack of consistent risk assessment and safety planning, and a lack of offender accountability. In order to ensure that we make real progress on the key elements of an effective response to violence against women and children, we need to monitor both our successes and our failures. We need systematic data collection with regular reporting out by government, including a review of key performance indicators.
“We need system transparency. We need true system accountability.
“We have the knowledge and the tools to do this. What we need are resources, leadership and the will to make it happen.”
In the Creston Valley, two not-for-profit agencies work in conjunction with various levels of government to support women and children who are victims of violence.
The Kootenai Community Centre Society (KCCS) offers a number of services, said executive director Dina Bambrick.
“The services we provide include shelter — short-term crisis or longer-term transition in independent (not communal; most shelter is in communal facilities) units this provides food and all daily personal needs, laundry, etc.; safety planning and danger assessment; support, advocacy and accompaniment with police, lawyers, medical services, court and Ministry of Children and Family Development; education on rights, entitlements, services, legal processes including custody of children, family asset division; and expedited referral to counseling and other services.”
For help, or more information about services available, call KCCS at 250-402-0068.
Several programs for women and children are also offered by the Creston and District Community Resource Centre, said executive director Serena Naeve.
The Stopping the Violence program offers counseling and support for women who are current or past victims of physical, sexual or childhood abuse. Children Who Witness Abuse provides group and individual counseling services for children who are living in the community and have witnessed abuse in their family environment. Both programs are funded by the Ministry of Justice (victim services and crime prevention division).
A sexual abuse intervention program provides counseling for sexual abuse victims under the age of 19. It is funded by the MCFD.
For more information about community resource centre services, call 250-428-5547.