The Kelowna RCMP told City Council on Monday that they had hoped domestic violence stats would go down, but they went up five per cent last year.
Kelowna RCMP superintendent Nick Romanchuk said that the increase was due to higher reporting of domestic violence, which he says is a good thing, and the Kelowna Women's Shelter agrees.
“I think positioning these results as an increase in domestic violence doesn't really represent the reality of the situation,” explained Executive Director of the Kelowna Women's Shelter Karen Mason. “I think that woman who feel they are at risk and who are at risk, know that there are more places that they can go to find safety and have results for their case, which is really encouraging.”
Mason says that suggesting domestic violence in itself has gone up or down does not address the real problem.
“The reality is that the police are seeing more instances of violence, and Kelowna is seen as a place with more instances of violence because more reporting is happening and this is a good thing. If women feel there is a safe place they can go, if they feel comfortable that the services they require are there and they can find a way to get out of these intolerable situations (which can save lives if they can get out) that is fantastic and that is what is happening,” says Mason.
She says women in Kelowna are becoming more aware that services like the police domestic violence unit is there and expanding their services and there are places they can go like the Kelowna Women's Shelter.
“There are a number of services in this community to help women and children fleeing abusive situations but the reality is that we could always do more. The Kelowna Women's Shelter is busy all the time, we are full right now, we have been full for weeks and when we have to turn people away we know there is more we could be doing,” said Mason.
She says last year alone the shelter housed 230 women and kids, an average of 12-people stay in the shelter every night, and their 24-hour counselling line answered 2,000 calls.
“There are incidences that are not reported, cases we never hear about and those are the tragedies and those are the ones we need to be particularly concerned with and we need to work even harder at removing the stigma attached to domestic violence,” says Mason.
The Kelowna Women's Shelter has been servicing the community for over 35-years and she says domestic violence is an issue that covers all cultures, all demographics of society and all income levels.
“The reality is that it is an ongoing issue we need to be concerned with all over North America and we in Kelowna are doing what we can.... but the need is still there, it is still great and there are still women that are not speaking out and we need them to know the services are there to help them and their kids, to keep them safe and give them a fresh start.”
According to canadianwomen.org half of all women will experience some form of physical or sexual violence in their lives and most of those go unreported. It is estimated only 22 per cent of domestic violence and only 10 percent of sexual assault incidents are ever reported to police.
The Kelowna Women's shelter is available 24/7 for women who need help.
- If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and ask for the police to respond.
- If you need to stay at the shelter or talk to one of the caring counsellors call 250-763-1040. There is someone on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- You do not have to leave your relationship or make a police report to access the counselling and support services.
- All services are free, safe and confidential.