RCMP officers’ comments disappointing to Autumn House executive director

Cove said police usually supportive toward victims of domestic violence

Darrell Cole webcomments@ngnews.ca
Published on April 2, 2014
Terry Cove, shown speaking during recent International Women's Day events, says she was shocked and disappointed at comments made by RCMP officers in Oxford that were picked up on a woman's voicemail.
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Terry Cove said she was shocked and disappointed at comments made by RCMP officers in Oxford that were picked up on a woman's voicemail.

AMHERST – The executive director of Cumberland County’s centre for abused women says she’s disappointed with comments made by RCMP officers in Oxford and is sorry the woman had to endure the degradation.

“Family violence is a very serious issue and must not be taken lightly by those who are tasked with keeping our communities safe,” Terry Cove said Wednesday. “With the rising number of women losing their life at the hands of their partners, we must strive to make ourselves aware of the dangers and the resources available to those who are in need. They are our neighbours, friends, and families.  Cumberland County has a very high rate if family violence and we have a long way to go in our work to end family violence.”

Cove’s comments come a day after CBC reported the story of a Parrsboro woman, who received a voice mail from an RCMP officer investigating an alleged assault by her boyfriend.

The voicemail occurred when the officer pocket dialed her phone number. When she didn’t answer, the call went to voicemail and the comments of the two officers were left on the recording.

The officers were talking about the woman’s claim that she crashed her car while driving to Springhill to retrieve her cellphone. She claimed to have swerved to miss a deer.

When she got to Springhill, she alleges she was assaulted while being forced from the residence.

One of the officers asks on the voicemail if the injuries came from the assault or the crash.

Chief Superintendent Brian Brennan said Tuesday that the incident is being investigated internally to determine if disciplinary actions is required or if the officers will be sent for sensitivity training.

He also said the woman’s partner will be in court in Amherst next week to face an assault charge.

Cove said she was shocked by the comments, saying police officers are expected to deal with reports of crime with an unbiased, professional approach.

“The comments on the phone recording should never have been made,” Cove said. “They indicate a lack of empathy and understanding, not to mention an air of disrespect for this victim by those who were recorded.”

Cove said the officers used the woman’s lack of emotion while telling her story as an indicator of the level of truth. 

“Women who have been abused often tell their stories with a lack of emotion. For some this is a tool used to cope with their experience.  For others it is an indicator that they have normalized the abuse. Also, there was a comment about whether or not ‘she deserved to be hit.’ Assault against anyone is a crime and violent behaviour should never be excused, especially by the police. No one deserves to be hit.”

Cove said this is not the first complaint Autumn House staff have heard about regarding the police response to claims of domestic violence, Cove said municipal police and RCMP are very professional and supportive of victims.

“My concern would be that women who need help would avoid calling police because they fear they will not be supported,” Cove said. “I trust that this incident will be investigated and the proper steps will be taken to make sure that it does not happen again.”

Cove said for anyone who has been assaulted by their partner, Autumn House offers support and information through in-person and phone appointments.  The centre has a 24-hour crisis line (667-1200) and an email account (info@autumnhouse.ca) that people can contact anonymously if they wish. 

Transition house staff can accompany women when they report assaults to the police and throughout the court process.

Cove stressed that women should not hesitate to call 911 whenever they are in immediate danger.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell