April 22, 2014 - 4:08 PM
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN — When James Buhler allegedly stabbed his wife and daughter before trying to commit suicide, he was already facing charges for threatening her. He was released on a promise that he not contact her.
That's not all that surprising to the people who run the South Okanagan Victim Assistance Society. While she wouldn't speak about this case specifically, victim support worker Stevi Nagle says protecting women from domestic violence remains a serious challenge. Breaches of court orders are not uncommon.
“It happens a lot more than people realize,” she says.
But it's complicated, she says. Not all breaches are reported and part of her job is counselling on the importance of reporting them to the RCMP. Once police are involved in a domestic violence case, they are obligated to remove one of the parties—typically the aggressor, whether men or women. But “breaches happen a lot,” especially when kids are involved or there are other familial circumstances. When simple removal is insufficient, the society can help women by providing a safe home in a shelter, says acting agency coordinator Christine Schwarz.
“It’s not ideal to move the victim because it’s like punishing them," she says. "It causes more stress.”
Nagle and Schwarz both said there needs to be more focus on prevention education and services. While there are probationary programs for offenders, both men and women need somewhere to turn for help with behavioural or unhealthy relationships, they say. The Society ran a program called Change for Good for people not yet facing criminal sanctions but who volunteered to get help. However after two years, they ran out of funding in March.
According to research done by the Ending Violence Association of B.C., show the changes in legislation and services for women in violence relationships back to the 1960s, though more significant changes came 1990s. In 1993, courts made a specific “K” case designation to separate domestic violence cases. Three years later, after a man killed eight members of his ex-wife’s family and himself in Vernon, Judge Josiah Wood investigated the case and concluded police need to respond better to domestic cases and violence against women. Since then, police have little discretion in domestic violence cases—someone must be removed.
That same year, 1996, the Criminal Code was amended “requiring the court to consider a victim impact statement and providing that abuse of a spouse or child, or abuse of a position of trust, shall be considered an aggravating factor in sentencing,” according to the study.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014