Battered Women Who Have Been Arrested


Back in 2008, Battered Women’s Support Services confronted the growing problem of police services misapplying “pro-arrest” policies and criminalizing battered women for self-defending in domestic violence situations. We came to this confrontation authentically when we began supporting a growing number of women who were arrested for allegedly perpetrating domestic violence against their male partner and these arrests occurred despite the fact that in all cases the women were in relationships where their male partners were abusing them. This was evidenced by previous police reports, hospital/doctor visits, child witnesses and neighbour or co-worker accounts.

Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS) continues doing this work as one of the only organizations in B.C. supporting women who have been arrested. In 2017, BWSS will provide training to service providers on this issue.


To help with planning for the training and future advocacy for battered women who have been arrested. we are asking you to participate in our short survey.


By completing the survey you can enter to win a $200 gift certificate to Battered Women’s Support Services social enterprise, My Sister’s Closet! Closing date to enter the draw is January 31, 2017.

Thank you!

New Statistics Canada Report on Family Violence

A new report on Family Violence in Canada is released by Statistics Canada this morning. The report highlights that there were just under 88,000 victims of family violence in Canada in 2013, according to police-reported data. This represented more than one-quarter of all violent crimes reported to police.

Police-reported data also reveal that in 2013 almost 7 in 10 family violence victims were female. In comparison, females represented 46% of victims of violent crimes that were not family-related. The over-representation of female victims was most prominent in the spousal violence category, where nearly 8 in 10 victims were female.

The report confirms what we know at Battered Women’s Support Services is that this form of violence is gendered and that the victims are largely women and the perpetrators are largely their male partners, husbands, or boyfriends.  Recognizing the gendered nature of this violence is important in the search for solutions to end or prevent violence against women.  Gender neutral terms, such as family violence or domestic violence render invisible the reality of the gender power imbalances in abusive relationships.

Violence against women has serious implications and women’s access to equality is severely compromised in society when violence against women is allowed to exist.

As in previous years, a majority of police-reported incidents of family violence involved physical assault, which included actions and behaviours such as pushing, slapping, punching and face-to-face threats.

Overall, the rate of police-reported intimate partner victimization was higher for females than for males, regardless of age, with women accounting for nearly 80% of all intimate partner victims reported to police.

Charges were laid or recommended in the majority of intimate partner violence incidents brought to the attention of police.

It is important to note that a conservative estimate has police reports as representing a mere 25% of actual occurances of male violence against women in intimate relationships.  The vast majority of women victims do not report to police and rather to report to friends, family and/or women’s support services organizations.

The importance of women’s organizations was highlighted in our press release responding to the recent release of BC Coroner’s report concerned with homicides resulting from domestic violence.

To read full report, please visit here.

If you and/or you know of any woman experiencing violence in her life, please refer to our Crisis and Intake Line to get support:

BWSS Crisis Line: 604-687-1867

Toll Free Number: 1-855-687-1868

 If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?


BC Coroners Service Report


For immediate release

December 19, 2014

BC Coroners Service Report Confirms

There’s a war on women and the battlefield is in their homes

Vancouver, B.C.– The BC Coroners Service has made public a report examining the number of homicides resulting from intimate partner violence (IPV) over the past decade. The statistics cover the period from January 1, 2004, through December 15, 2014. They show that throughout that time period, the average number of persons who died each year from intimate partner violence is 14. For the current year to date, the number is 14 and about three-quarters of the victims in IPV instances are women.

Terms like IPV, or domestic violence, or family violence are gender neutral and render invisible the grim reality that there is a war on women.  A 77-year-old woman shot dead in her two-storey Saanich home along with the family dog. A 67-year-old woman brutally assaulted in a Surrey home who died later in hospital. An East Vancouver mom killed in the basement with her son in the same house. For every woman who is murdered there are thousands more all across the province that are living in fear.

Violence against women is preventable, predictable and research confirms that the lethality for women in abusive relationships increases when women are leaving or have left abusive male partners.

Since 2009, several of the women murdered in BC have had heavy system involvement including police, court services, and child protection services. Also since 2009, the province of BC has been increasing resources and emphasis on police and court services even though the vast majority of women, as in 75%, do not report to the police and reporting goes down to 10% with instances of sexual violence.

“At BWSS, we have been unable to track a single instance where a woman has been murdered who has been receiving services from a women’s organization, and unfortunately the province of BC has not increased funding or resources for women’s organizations in decades.”, states Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS).

Women’s and women-serving organizations play a critical role in women’s safety:

  1. Provide emotional support to women dealing with the effects of trauma
  2. Provide information about the dynamics of abuse and it’s effects
  3. Provide accompaniment to appointments
  4. Help women make safety plans
  5. Assessment of risk, threat and lethality
  6. Understand women’s process of staying, leaving and returning
  7. Help to co-ordinate systemic response between police, court services, child protection
  8. Advocate with police, court services, child protection when systemic response is substandard
  9. Help women find housing – transitional or permanent
  10. Help women deal with economic challenges
  11. Help women to support their children with the effects of witnessing their mother’s abuse

Women are coming forward more than ever and seeking support. In the past eight years, requests for services at BWSS has more than doubled from 6,000 in 2006 to over 13,000 in 2014. There is a war on women and the battlefield is in their homes where it is supposed to be safe.

BC, Canada, has a responsibility to ensure that there are relevant and enough support services and programs in place for girls and women experiencing violence and a responsibility to ensure the vital support services and programs existing are adequately funded and secure.

Women’s organizations make a real difference in women’s lives and in our larger community. Let’s make sure these organizations have the support they need to continue their vital work.


For more information or to schedule an interview:

Angela Marie MacDougall

Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services

Tel. (604) 808 0507



If you could do something to end violence against girls and women, wouldn’t you?


CEDAW Report Card 2013

CEDAW enshrines important protections for women in international human rights law. The UN CEDAW Committee is an international body of independent experts who are charged with monitoring state parties’ compliance and implementation of the Convention. Every four years, each country that has signed on to the Convention must report to the CEDAW Committee about how well it is measuring up to the CEDAW standards of women’s equality. Non-governmental organizations may also submit what are called “shadow reports”, expressing their views on that country’s CEDAW compliance.

Canada ratified CEDAW on December 10, 1981. In October and November of 2008, the CEDAW Committee considered the sixth and seventh reports from Canada, along with reports from local NGOs, and issued its observations on Canada’s compliance and implementation of the Convention. The BC CEDAW Group, a coalition of women’s organizations in BC including West Coast LEAF, produced a shadow report about the situation for women in BC.

The Committee was very concerned about a number of issues concerning women’s rights in Canada, and singled out some issues of significance in BC especially. The Committee took the unusual step of requiring Canada to report back to the Committee in a year on its progress on two issues of particular concern:

(1) establishing and monitoring minimum standards for the provision of funding to social assistance programs, and carrying out an impact assessment of social programs related to women’s rights; and

(2) examining the failure to investigate the cases of missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and to address those failures.

The Government of Canada submitted its response to these questions in February 2010, and the BC CEDAW Group submitted a shadow report entitled “Nothing to Report.” The UN Committee has not yet responded to these reports. Canada is due to make its next submission to the CEDAW Committee in December, 2014.

This Report Card measures how well BC is measuring up to some of the CEDAW obligations that fall within provincial jurisdiction, including these two areas of urgent concern to the Committee. For more information on our methodology and grading scheme used, please turn to the back cover of the Report Card.

So… How is BC measuring up to international legal standards of women’s equality?

West Coast LEAF's CEDAW report card

The goal of West Coast LEAF’s CEDAW Report Card project is to raise public awareness about the shortcomings and successes of BC in meeting its international obligations on women’s rights, and to advocate for adequate responses to the CEDAW Committee’s concerns.
West Coast LEAF distributed a draft of the report card to a number of community organizations and representatives. We sought their written input and feedback, and engaged in telephone and in-person conversations as well. The feedback we received was extremely valuable in formulating the final version of this report card.

Imagining Courts that Work for Women Survivors of Violence

Written by Darcie Bennett
on November 26, 2012

British Columbia’s justice system is at as critical juncture on the path to developing an effective system response to violence against women. With the exception of a small pilot program in Duncan, British Columbia is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada without specialized courts mandated to hear cases involving violence against women in relationships. Vulnerable women in BC have been disproportionately impacted by cuts to legal aid, and BC has been without a Minister for Women’s Equality since that position was eliminated ten years ago. However, in 2012 the Provincial Government took some actions that offer important entry points into a renewed discussion about meaningful access to justice for women who have experienced violence. The Premier created a new Provincial Domestic Violence office and the Minister of Justice and Attorney General initiated a large-scale review of the justice system. While the focus of these moves has not been adding resources to our beleaguered legal system or addressing poverty among women and children, there is a now a lot of talk about reforming BC’s justice system to better handle the large number of cases involving violence against women in relationships.

This report began in 2009 with an informal conversation among anti-violence workers about whether specialized courts could better meet the needs of the women we work with. At that time, it was neither envisioned as submission to the Provincial Domestic Violence Officer nor as a response to the Justice Reform Initiative, however it now offers a timely critique of the current justice system response to violence against women.  It also offers an extensive look at programs from other jurisdictions and raises key questions that must be considered if BC is to move toward specialized courts for cases involving violence against women. Finally, this report offers recommendations for achievable reforms and effective program development, grounded in the perspectives of women who have been though the justice system as survivors of violence and the agencies that work with women every day.

Click here to download the full report.


Learning from the Failures of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry

From the perspective of the hundreds of marginalized women who protested the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry (“the Inquiry”) every morning for the first month of hearings, the Inquiry was an absolute failure. This perspective is shared by the B.C. Civil Liberties  Association, Pivot Legal Society and West Coast LEAF, the human and democratic rights organizations that produced this report.

The Inquiry was set up to examine the problems arising from investigations of the disappearance and murder of dozens of women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (“DTES”), and particularly the investigation of serial murderer Robert William Pickton. Out of the failures of the Inquiry, which are well documented and understood in the affected communities, the hope of the authors is that a positive legacy can still be uncovered.

If nothing else, this Inquiry demonstrates what should not be done in conducting a public inquiry involving marginalized communities. It therefore functions as a useful lesson for similar inquiries in the future, no matter where they take place. This report does not focus on the nuances of B.C. provincial law, but instead on broad trends and procedural approaches that future commissioners of inquiry and their staff may usefully adapt to the particularities of their own jurisdictions.

If there were only one recommendation to come from this report, it would be that commissions of inquiry that intend to work with marginalized populations as witnesses, or inquiries that are called in response to the concerns of marginalized communities, must consult thoroughly at every stage with those communities and the organizations that work with those communities.

Consultation and Collaboration: Voices of the community excluded

The Inquiry excluded the voices of individuals and communities that it should have worked the hardest to include: Aboriginal women, sex workers, women who use drugs, and women living in poverty who were most affected by the Pickton murders and the resulting investigations, and who remain at extremely high risk for violence.

The Commission repeated the very mistakes that led to serial murderer Robert Pickton being able to operate with impunity in the first place – the voices of marginalized women were shoved aside while the “professional” opinions of police and government officials took centre stage. The focus of the Inquiry was directed away from systemic issues, targeting instead individual participants in the system who may not have fulfilled their job requirements as expected.

Please see the report on the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry.