Shining a light on domestic violence

Purple light campaign will run throughout the month

Gina Lehmberg

Purple lights outside the Mission RCMP detachment will shine some light on domestic violence this month.

It’s the first year Victim Services and its volunteers are putting up the lights to support the campaign initiated by Violence Against Women in Relationships Committee, an organization that works together with community agencies to help end the abuse against women.

Rates of domestic violence increased from 147 cases in 2011 to 183 cases in 2012 in Mission, and RCMP Insp. Richard Konarski expects the 2013 numbers will follow a similar trend.

The jump doesn’t mean the violence is getting worse, said Konarski, who believes the numbers are climbing as a result of more people reporting domestic violence.

“So much of domestic violence (reporting) depends on how well we’re engaging with victims and how well we’re responding to their safety and other needs,” he said. “Only then do you get someone comfortable enough to work with us to go through the criminal justice system.”

About 20 per cent of victims report domestic violence, he said, adding the slight increase means there are still 72 per cent of cases going unreported.

Domestic violence has been one of the top priorities since Konarski took charge of the Mission police office more than two years ago.

“We focus on it, so we expected the numbers to be high.”

Officers are being trained to look at situations through a lens they haven’t seen before, he added, noting there is also a dedicated officer to domestic violence files in Mission.

Domestic violence has been dismissed in the past as a family matter, but that attitude has resulted in tragedy more than once, he added.

“There are so many ways people can provide support, reach out and make a person feel safe. It’s a community issue.”

Mission Victim Services supports women in unsafe situation and its crisis intervention team will provide a safe place for a victim to go to, help develop a safety plan and make referrals.

VS volunteers were called out 149 times in 2012 to support someone going through domestic violence, said Mission’s VS coordinator Gina Lehmberg.

The October campaign brings awareness to domestic violence and how it affects children and families, added Lehmberg, who will also seize the opportunity to provide some education on the topic as well whenever she can.

VS volunteers provide support to anyone that has been impacted by crimes or trauma. The local VS team is looking for more people to join them.

“We are currently recruiting people with a sincere desire to help in their community,” said Lehmberg. Training will be provided.

Call 604-820-3538 to register for a 60-minute information session.