Police Accountability and Police-Involved Domestic Violence

Right now in Canada and the US, police brutality and misconduct are under mass scrutiny. The need for police accountability and transparency has never been more apparent.

In light of the suspicious death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Afro-Indigenous woman living in Toronto and the killing of Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old woman of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, who was fatally shot by a police officer during a wellness check in New Brunswick, it is evident that Black and Indigenous women are at much greater risk of police killings in Canada.

While statistics are not available in Canada by police, the CBC complied a database of every person who died or was killed during a police intervention from 2000 to the end of 2017 and they found that Black and Indigenous people were severely overrepresented.

We want to contribute to the conversation by examining how police hold their members accountable for police-involved domestic violence and killings.

Earlier this week, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) ordered a retired judge to review the Vancouver Police Department’s disciplinary decision that dismissed allegations of a Vancouver police officer repeatedly physically assaulting his girlfriend. The judgment failed to fully consider the woman’s evidence, and relied on myths and stereotypes about the dynamics of gender-based violence in intimate partner relationships.

This is certainly not the first time police have been perpetrators of “domestic violence”. In January 2015, a Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officer was arrested and charged with two counts of unlawful confinement of a young woman and her mother, as well as one count of assault causing bodily harm against the mother. The man involved in the alleged assault was an off-duty police officer who has been on the force for 10 years and has now been taken from “front line duties, pending the results of the investigation.” BWSS responded immediately highlighting critical concerns relating to police accountability and the safety of women victims.

At BWSS, a significant part of our work and energy is spent on advocacy for police accountability ensuring they follow their own policies and investigations when it comes to assaults.

In 2017, VPD Detective Constable Jim Fisher was arrested and charged with three counts of sexual exploitation, one count of sexual assault, one count of breach of trust, and one count of attempt to obstruct justice against two young women, one of whom was under age. The VPD’s counter-exploitation unit is responsible for and responds to cases involving sexual exploitation/human trafficking along with online exploitation of children and, child luring and child pornography.  Jim Fisher used his badge and delegation of power in this specially-designed unit to gain access to these specific women and girls, in which he was in a position of trust and a figure of authority assigned to investigate the exact assaults he himself had committed.

Several studies have found that the intimate partners of police officers suffer “domestic violence” at rates significantly higher than the general population. Two studies have found that at least 40% of police officers’ families experience domestic violence, in contrast to 10% of families in the general population. A third study of older and more experienced officers found a rate of 24%, indicating that domestic violence is 2-4 times more common among police families than American families in general. A police department that has domestic violence offenders among its ranks will not effectively serve and protect victims in the community. Moreover, when officers know of domestic violence committed by their colleagues and protect them by covering it up, they expose the department to civil liability.

When women are victims of violence by their male partners who are also members of police services, they are in a uniquely vulnerable situation. When women experiencing abuse consider police a part of their safety plan, they are entrusting the police. Women who are subject to abuse by a member of police services may actually be unable to receive assistance as police services may not be a safe resource for them.

In many cases of domestic violence against women, the main witness is more often the woman herself, and her testimony is crucial to proving the allegations of abuse. It is routine that the woman’s credibility is weighed with the accused and determined through examination of the evidence. When the accused is a member of police services, his status is authoritative and as a respected member of the community therefore given more weight than the woman victim.

Many women will not report domestic or sexual violence to the police as they risk being retraumatized, not only by the inhumane process of reliving a violent experience through sharing the details, but also by the violence of the criminal justice system itself, which treats victims like suspects. According to Statistics Canada, 35 of the sexual assault cases (nearly 40 per cent) that were reported to Kelowna RCMP in 2019 were dismissed as unfounded. In 2017, The Globe and Mail reported that police in Canada dismiss 1 in 5 cases of sexual assault claims as baseless.

Police committing domestic violence is concerning for several reasons.

Police officers’ romantic partners who are women may be especially vulnerable and reluctant to report violence. Women are also more vulnerable because their partners who are police officers have  a gun, and likely knows how to manipulate the system to avoid penalty and/or shift blame to the victim. They may feel scared to report the violence out of fear that police officers will side with the abuser and not investigate the matter properly, which is completely warranted given the history of how police departments have handled cases of police-perpetrated violence. Women may be aware that reports of abuse made to a police department will not be kept confidential within that police department. Women may also be concerned that reporting domestic violence will impact the accused officer’s employment,thus,she may fear retaliation by other police service personnel, his family and friends, as well as the accused.

A US study found that most police departments typically handle cases of police family violence informally, often without an official report, investigation, or even checking the victim’s safety. This informal method is often in direct contradiction to legislative mandates and departmental policies regarding the appropriate response to domestic violence crimes.

The reality is, even when police officers are found guilty of domestic violence they are unlikely to be fired, arrested, or referred for prosecution, raising concern that those who are tasked with enforcing the law cannot effectively police themselves.

What needs to happen to police officers who commit domestic violence

When there is evidence of gender-based violence by police officers, they should be removed from the police department. They should no longer have the privilege of participating in law enforcement and it is the responsibility of the police department to remove him from duty.

Sometimes, the victim of domestic violence gets arrested

For over a decade, at BWSS we have responded to wrongful arrests of survivors of intimate partner violence. In 2008, we became alarmed by the growing number of women, mostly Indigenous, Black and/or Immigrant/Women of Colour, who accessed our services who had been wrongfully arrested for allegedly perpetrating domestic violence against their male partners. Since then, BWSS has been supporting arrested women while advocating for police accountability.

It is essential for police in Canada to acknowledge and eliminate the ingrained culture of sexism, colonialism, and racism within the police and make changes. The demand for accountability is not new. There needs to be change.

What’s your safety plan?

Take back your power – Create a Safety Plan

Your safety is a priority. We know that what you’re going through is challenging and we are here for you to help you in every step of your journey.

If you’re unable to call us at this time, we hope you can consider creating a safety plan. Just as abusive partners continually shift their tactics of power and control, your safety plan is an adaptable tool to help keep you safe in your ever-changing situation.

Otherwise, please reach out anytime, 24/7:
• Call 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868
• Text 604-652-1867
• Email intake@bwss.org

Incel charged as a terrorist activity

A lethal attack by a 17-year-old boy in Toronto has led to a historic first: the RCMP announced that the murder and attempted murder charges would be regarded as “terrorist activity” incited by the “incel movement.”

Incel or “involuntary celibate” is a sub-group of men’s rights activists, the movement of men based on the perception of loss of power, that somehow when women gain any sort of equity men are being oppressed. Incel forums online exist to normalize the resentment and violence, men encouraging each other to be misogynists and violent, and recognize those who make commitments to be violent to women as heroes.

My Sister’s Closet Online Store

In case you missed it, our social enterprise, My Sister’s Closet opened its doors to an online shop with a curated collection of clothes, accessories, shoes, and handbags that we know you’ll love. My Sister’s Closet has a Brother’s Corner too!

As many of you know, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) decided to temporarily close our stores and programs at both My Sister’s Closet locations. Closing My Sister’s Closet has taken a huge toll on our financial capacity as a non-profit organization. BWSS relies heavily on the funds we receive from shoppers and donors to continue supporting survivors of gender-based violence with crisis intervention, counselling, and legal advocacy.

Register for Resistance and Resurgence – Unpacking “Asian Heritage Month”

Feminists Deliver presents an online roundtable on Thursday, May 28 “Resistance and Resurgence” on decolonial, anti-oppressive, intersectional feminist leading-edge discussions on learnings from COVID 19. Brilliant panelists will be unpacking “Asian Heritage Month” from the lens of intersectional “Asian” feminists. This event will be moderated by BWSS Violence Prevention Coordinator, Rona Amiri.

We are a proud member of Feminists Deliver, a grassroots collaboration of BC-based Two-Spirit people, non-binary folks, Indigiqueer, trans women, lesbian women, and cis women and girls, and the organizations that support them.

Thank You for Making Our #GivingTuesdayNow a Success!

Thank you so much for making #GivingTuesdayNow a success! Together we raised $30,000 through our matching campaign with a generous donor!

Want to continue to support our work? With your help, we’re able to extend our crisis lines, provide legal advocacy to women, offer texting as a way to reach out to us, continue to provide counselling and employment services—to mention a few. Staying connected saves lives. 

You may donate online or call us 778-996-5451. If not at this time, thank you for helping us spread the word about our services.

Job search during COVID-19

Women with abusive partners will often face serious threats to their financial well-being and barriers to realizing their personal financial capability. Economic abuse often occurs alongside other forms of abuse and is commonly part of a pattern of behaviour through which abusive partners seek power and control. A woman may not be allowed to work, or if she is working, her money is taken from her right away. Economic abuse is a form of abuse that can be especially difficult during this time as many families are experiencing financial stress due to layoffs during COVID-19.

Job search during this time may seem challenging, pointless, and discouraging. Yet, can be a time for economic empowerment strategies. It is a time to prepare to look for work, learn new strategies and adapt to new technologies such as professional networking online, preparing for video interviews, and learning how to work remotely. It’s also an opportunity to identify employment and life goals and work on planning next steps to achieve them, which can include connecting with AWARE, employment program here at BWSS.

Through AWARE, you—as a job seeker—can access a full suite of free virtual, telephone, and online supports now.

The AWARE team offers one-on-one help in navigating and accessing government, community, and peer supports as well as offering workshops on relevant topics that will set you up for success.

Our employment counsellors, Claudia Maldonado and Stephanie Tsokas, are currently offering vital employment services through phone, e-mail, and video conferencing.

AWARE services include:

  • Employment counselling and support
  • Career exploration, development and planning/career change
  • Employment readiness workshops (1:1 or group) – including The Impacts of Violence and Abuse, Self-Awareness, Resilience and Coping with Change, Setting Boundaries: Communication and Assertiveness
  • Employment support services workshops (1:1 or group) – including resume, cover letter, interview skills, new trends in job search
  • Essential work skills workshops (1:1 or group) – including computer skills
  • Skills enhancement training services (depending on eligibility)
  • Job search support – including applications and interview preparation
  • Job sustainment services
  • Self-employment services (depending on eligibility)
  • Personal counselling
  • Assistance to apply for eligible benefits
  • Assistance to apply for child care support
  • Assistance to apply for volunteer work
  • Work experience placements

Connect with us today

If you or anyone you know is seeking employment services or supports, contact us by email claudia@bwss.org or phone 778-628-1867.

Economic Abuse and Violence Against Women – How Battered Women’s Support Services Takes Action

External information that may be helpful to you

The following information and resources are support services for women, including job search, employment, and benefits available for individuals through the federal and provincial governments:

All clean hands on deck during COVID19: Services available across BC from Feminists Deliver partner organizations

COVID-19 Restrictions & Closures

Job searching during a pandemic

Job seeking during a pandemic

Who’s hiring in Canada?

90+ companies currently hiring in Canada amid coronavirus pandemic | Venture

FIND AN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM

What to do if you’re laid off because of the coronavirus

Government of Canada 

COVID-19 Spring 2020 notices

Information for Individuals:

Includes information on:

  • Employment Insurance (recommended to apply online, limited resources at Service Canada Offices)
  • Emergency Care and Emergency Support Benefits (Available in April – no date specified)
  • Canada Child Benefit (Available with May CCB only)
  • Canada Student Loans
  • Passport Services
  • SIN

In your workplace:

Includes information on:

  • Employment Insurance – Record of Employment (ROE)
  • Work-sharing program
  • Labour program and federally regulated workplaces

COVID-19 Provincial Support and Information

Financial Supports in Response to COVID-19

British Columbia’s Response to COVID-19

This site covers resources for:

  • Orders and notices
  • Online symptom checker
  • Child care
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Businesses
  • Housing and tenancy updates
  • Transportation updates (ICBC, Transit, Translink)
  • Travel and tourism
  • Mental health
  • Being prepared
  • MSP updates

Taking a Leave Related to COVID-19

For simple questions, text 1-604-660-2421.
For complex questions, call 1-800-663-7867.
TDD – 711 (across BC)
Email: servicebc@gov.bc.ca

Student Aid BC

Phone: 1-800-561-1818
Mailing Address:
StudentAid BC
PO Box 9173 Victoria BC V8W 9H7

Province boosts emergency funding supports for students

Ten cases of men killing women in Canada in the last 36 days

We are deeply devastated to hear of the recent murders of women and girls who suffered at the hands of violent men they once trusted.

Since the start of mandated social isolation, there have been eleven domestic violence cases resulting in lethality across Canada:

  • April 1 – 41-year-old woman murdered by a 35-year-old man in their home. CTV News
  • April 1 – Audrey Hopkinson, 33 years old, was a young mother and Brockville General Hospital nurse, and was murdered by her domestic partner in Brockville, Ontario. The Recorder & Times
  • April 2 – Tracy MacKenzie, 35 years old, was killed by her partner in Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia. Saltwire
  • April 8 – 61-year-old Tina Seminara was assaulted by her husband in Osoyoos, B.C., and
    died a week later from her injuries Global News
  • April 11 – Julie Racette, a 34-year-old female, was killed by her Caucasian partner in Winnipeg Manitoba. Julie was a member of Manitoba’s Ebb and Flow First Nation. She was a mother, a sister, a daughter, and a popular coworker. APTN
  • April 17 – Tina Seminara, in her early 60s, was a yoga teacher who died from the life-threatening injuries inflicted on her by her common-law partner who heavily assaulted her in Osoyoos, BC. SOOToday
  • April 18-19- A woman was assaulted in Portapique, Nova Scotia by her long term common-law partner, and then she managed to escape, hid in the woods overnight, and survived. The man proceeded to murder 22 people, making it the deadliest mass shooting in Canada. The same man had intentions of killing his ex-wife.
  • April 27 – Brittany Ann Meszaros, 24 years old, was killed by her common-law partner in Calgary, Alberta. Global News
  • May 2 – Tina Tingley-McAleer, a 43-year-old woman who was an “amazing sister, a great mom, a wonderful grandmother” was killed by her domestic partner in Hillsborough, N.B. Global News
  • May 4 – Lois Paterson-Gartner, 55 years old, her 13-year-old daughter, and their family dog were found dead in a murder-suicide carried out by a man they lived within rural Strathcona County in Alberta. Global News
  • May 15 – Marie Morin was found dead in Winnipeg, after what police believe was an incident of domestic violence. CBC News

Combined with escalated COVID-19 home quarantining measures, abusive partners can use isolation, coercion and threats, emotional abuse, economic abuse, abusing children and companion animals, as well as their male privilege to fully maximize their power and control and exert violence on their victims.

Eighty four per cent of intimate partner violence occurred in a private dwelling in 2018. As more people are asked to stay home due to COVID-19, more victims are quarantined with their abusers, removing times and opportunities to leave and seek help, exacerbating the patterns, frequency, and degree of abuse.

For victims of homicide, there is already a known pattern of family violence that leads to lethality. Women and children are killed by people they know, including by their long-term partner (husband and boyfriend), and fathers.

We are dedicated to the elimination of violence against Two-Spirit people, non-binary people, women and girls. Since COVID-19 became a health emergency in Canada, we have increased our efforts in helping women and children escape abusive homes safely:

  • Our crisis lines are now available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and offer text messaging as an option to women and children escaping violence, as well as their loved ones who want to support them
  • Our trained staff help women create safety plans including identifying transition homes as well as providing them with a hotel room where they can seek refuge
  • We provide counselling, both long-term and short-term to women who have left their abusive partners
  • We advocate for women navigating family law, ensuring that their children are kept safe
  • We help survivors identify their employment goals and assist them in accessing services as they work through a precarious job market

If you or you know someone who needs to plan around leaving an abusive home, please call our crisis line when it is safe for you at 604-687-1867 or 1-855-687-1868, text 604-652-1867 or send us an email at intake@bwss.org.

While people are encouraged to stay at home, victims may feel isolated from people who love and care for them. Even when victims are isolated, we encourage them to maintain social connections online or over the phone, if it is safe to do so. As Dr. Bonnie Henry once said, “Your immediate safety is more important than physically distancing.”

Every Dollar Will Be Matched! #GivingTuesdayNOW

Just in time for #GivingTuesdayNow, a generous donor will match all donations made to Battered Women’s Support Services—up to $10,000! Make any sized donation and it will be doubled: your gift will go twice as far!

As you know, in light of COVID-19 and mandated social isolation, we quickly moved to make our crisis line available 24 hours, seven days a week without any government funding. It is through donors like you who make it possible for thousands of women and their children to get support in these unprecedented times.

Your gift will help BWSS as we:

  • Increase staffing to provide additional support and extended hours for the crisis line.
  • Purchase additional talk minutes and internet data on cell phone plans for women to stay connected to the crisis line, counsellors, and emergency services.
  • Translate COVID-19 information as it relates to domestic violence and other information about the virus for women’s safety into different languages.
  • Help secure safe temporary housing for women who need to flee which is critical right now since shelters and transition houses are full or not accepting women due to COVID-19 precautions.

For more information on how COVID-19 and mandated social isolation affect those experiencing gender-based violence click here

Thank you for your generosity, and we would love for you to help us spread the message. Please share the matching campaign on social media using the hashtags #GivingTuesdayNow and #SafetyChangesEverything or tag us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also share that you’ve made a donation!

Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19: Before, during & your role in the reset

Gender-based Violence and COVID-19: Before, During, and Your Role in the Reset

In 2017, 79 per cent of reported victims of intimate partner violence in Canada were women; a stark reminder of how gender-based violence has been gravely affecting the public health system long before COVID-19. Gender-based violence knows no bounds: it is endemic.

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) team members came together in an online discussion about what we know about gender-based violence before COVID-19, how these public health issues are currently intertwined, and learnings we will take with us after the pandemic.

We need to envision a tomorrow that eliminates gender-based violence.

We need to take action in an individual, communal, and systemic manner.

Your role in the reset will soon reveal itself: are you ready to join us?

This discussion happened live on Wednesday, April 22 from 11 am to noon (PST). Watch the full discussion below. 

Panelists:

Summer-Rain (she/her), Indigenous Women’s Program Manager, and Legal Advocate

Summer-Rain, comes from the raven house and the raven clan on her maternal side from a small northern community called Kitwang’a. She is from the Gitxan nation, which is the people of the misty river. She is also Coast Salish from the Squamish nation on her paternal side. These beautiful lands and territories she works, plays, and live on every day are her home lands. Currently Summer-Rain is the Manager of the Indigenous Women’s Program at Battered Women Support Services, and a Legal Advocate. She has dedicated her life and work on the front lines, in grass roots organizations working to end violence against women and girls with a particular focus on Indigenous Women and Girls for the past 16 years. Summer-Rain lives and breathes everyday as a strong Indigenous warrior, and as a survivor.

Rosa Elena Arteaga (she/her), Manager of Direct Services and Clinical Practice

Rosa Elena Arteaga has been working in the anti-violence field for over twenty years delivering workshops on violence against self-identified girls and women, and providing training to service providers at national and international level. In her role as Manager of Direct Services and Clinical Practice, she oversees a number of programs within BWSS. Since 2008, Rosa Elena has researched and addressed the issue of battered women being wrongfully arrested, and has been successful with a number of police complaints. Rosa Elena holds a Master’s degree on Narrative Therapy and Community Work and she works from a decolonizing, feminist, anti-oppression, practice.

Angela Marie MacDougall (she/her), Executive Director

Angela Marie MacDougall is an award winning speaker, advocate and practitioner who consults with thousands of individuals and organizations on trauma informed practices grounded in anti-oppression theoretical frameworks. Based in Vancouver, with experience spanning 30 years, Angela works as executive director at Battered Women’s Support Services, where she oversees a matrix of clinical and community-based services and dynamic team that support thousands of survivors.

Angela has brought tangible transformation to service and program delivery as well as community development and partnerships. Angela’s impact includes development of empowerment and advocacy-based service delivery models grounded in strong theoretical frameworks and intersectionality that connect feminism, substance use, mental health, violence and women’s leadership. In recognition of this important work, Angela was named a Remarkable Woman by the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Magazine named her one of Vancouver’s most powerful people.

 

Questions:

If you have questions you’d like the panel to address during the live discussion, or questions about the event in general, please email communityengagement@bwss.org.

Accessibility:

We acknowledge that access to technology including mobile devices, computers, and internet may not be always available for many folks who wish to join this online discussion. As well, the time we’ve chosen may not work for everyone. We will have a recording of the video available after the event, and we will post this on our social channels.

We would like to acknowledge that this event will be online, taking place from the Unceded Coast Salish traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.