AMHERST – Statistics show that 66 per cent of women who are abused do not contact police or social services.
“We know that because studies focusing on family violence ending in homicide show that 66 per cent of those families weren’t on the police radar,” said executive director of Autumn House, Terry Cove.
Autumn house is a home in Amherst where women wanting to escape an abusive relationship can seek help. Cove said more than 2,700 women have gone through Autumn house in the last 20 year’s they’ve been in operation in Amherst.
“But there are many more living with violence in their homes who have never reached out,” said Cove. “Statistics tell us that women often don’t reach out for help until they’ve been assaulted 35 times.”
RCMP Const. Dal Hutchinson said reaching out can be tough for the victim.
“There can be so many fears and so many unknowns out there,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s simply because they love their partner and they have seen better times and they want to stay in a relationship,” she said. “They’ve experienced the cycle and they know that right after and incident there’s a period of time when things go really well.
“Sometimes it’s because they’re very dependent on their partner financially,” she added. “And often, if there is children involved, mothers feel they’re responsible for keeping the family together. They want that ideal of a mom and dad raising children. That’s pretty compelling.”
Why women leave can be varied as well.
“Often it’s because they realize the effect it’s having on children,” said Cove. ”Sometimes it’s physical harm that comes to them and they realize that next time it could be much worse.”
It can also become a matter of choosing between life and death.
“We see it all too often,” Hutchinson said. “It might be an argument or it might be where one of the partners is assaulted by the other one and, unfortunately, we have gone to calls where someone has been killed, and you have murder suicides as well.
“One of the most difficult things going into a domestic situation is not just the danger but seeing where there’s kids involved. It’s very difficult.”
Hutchinson said a person in an abusive relationship must seek help.
“They can talk to people like Terry at Autumn House, talk to a family, friend or family, or talk to us,” he said.
If there’s evidence of an assault the police have to lay assault charges.
“It’s not optional,” said Hutchinson. “It’s an automatic assault charge if the grounds do exist.”
An Emergency Protection Order can also protect the victim.
“It can give the abused partner exclusive possession of their home, their car and their children up to 30 days,” Hutchinson said. “That can be applied through a place such as Autumn House. When they get the EPO the significant other is prohibited by law from contacting them. If somebody breaches an EPO they’re automatically arrested for breaching it.”
Women can also stay at Autumn House without charge.
“If a woman decides she is in need of some counseling she can call autumn house at 667-1200,” said Cove. “She can come and stay in the shelter, if she fits our mandate, up to six weeks while she transitions into finding a new home, or whatever it is she needs, such as removing him from the home.”`
Both Cove and Hutchinson said there’s no place for family violence in society and say people can no longer turn a blind eye.
“If we as a community make a commitment to make a change, as we did with drinking and driving, and to make family violence as unacceptable in our society as drinking and driving, we’d be keeping a whole lot of people safe,” she said.