Abbotsford-Mission’s rate of domestic violence may be in line with other urban areas in Canada, but those numbers only tell part of the story, according to those who regularly work with victims in the community.
Newly released numbers by Statistics Canada put the Abbotsford-Mission Census Metropolitan Area’s domestic violence rate at 205 cases per 100,000 people in 2013, slightly above the average for Canadian census metropolitan areas, but below the national average when smaller cities and rural areas are factored in.
A total of 361 cases were reported in 2013. Those figures, though, only reflect those cases reported to police, noted Betty Johnston, the interim executive director of the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley (WRSFV), which is based in Mission and provides support services to Mission and Abbotsford families dealing with domestic violence.
“I think there is an awful lot of domestic violence that is going unreported still,” Johnston said. “The incidence of domestic violence is still a challenge in our community and one that we don’t see any decrease in.”
At the same time, there have been positive signs. Asked if women have become more likely to report domestic violence over the past decade, Johnston said: “I would say yes. I think there’s more awareness for the kinds of services that you can expect to find in the community.”
Those services are based out of transition houses that can be accessed by women in violent relationships simply by calling the police, or at the WRSFV’s website at www.wrsfv.ca, which includes information on other services the organization provides.
Ian MacDonald of the Abbotsford Police Department agreed that domestic violence continues to be under-reported. At the same time, he said police departments have become better educated, and the public has become more comfortable confronting the issue.
He cited the annual Purple Lights Nights campaign, which sees purple lights lit up around the Fraser Valley aimed to raise money and awareness of the issue.
“It’s a devastating thing for not only the victims, but for families to go through,” he said.