In 2008, The Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) formed a specialized Domestic Violence Unit. NRPS statistics indicate that the number of calls increased by an alarming 56% from 2006 to 2008. A total of 6,532 domestic violence calls were responded to by NRPS in 2008 (956 occurrences where charges or warrants resulted; 722 where offences were alleged, but charges were not laid; and 4,893 occurrences for which no charges were laid).
Females were consistently the victims of domestic violence. Shelters in the region responded to 4, 476 crisis calls, and housed 522 women, and 144 children and had to refer 183 cases to other shelter services due to lack of space in 2008/09 fiscal year. The Niagara Region Domestic Violence Report Card 2008/09 sponsored by the Coalition to End Violence Against Women (CEVAW) developed recommendations for the legal system and all social agencies to help end domestic violence. Recommendations included the re-establishment of a courthouse in Niagara Falls; setting up a Bail Safety Program; appropriate and secure government funding; and mandatory specialized domestic violence training for individuals working in the legal system (especially the Domestic Violence Court System). They addressed the need for new eligibility requirements for legal aid, the need for more transient and permanent housing for victims, transportation from rural areas and efforts to improve court backlog.
Shelters and services for victims of violence:
Gillian’s Place provides shelter and services inSt. Catharinesand Niagara North. In their Annual Report of 2010, the need for services was noted to increase associated with the economic downturn. Throughout the summer of 2009 and onward they report that the need for crisis outreach services doubled over previous years. They reported on partnerships where a Domestic Violence Advocate spoke with appropriate clients at Family and Children’s Services (FACS) Niagara; a Domestic High Risk Team was established; and the Domestic Violence Report Card (CEVAW) led to a conference to engage the community on this issue. At Gillian House, 75 volunteers helped over 12,000 women and children rebuild their lives free from violence.
Women’s Place of South Niagara oversees Nova House in Niagara Falls that has 20 beds to service clients and a newly renovated Serenity Place in Welland has 10 beds. In 2008-2009 they serviced 188 women and 123 children in their shelters and referred 128 elsewhere, due to lack of space. They handled 2,753 crisis calls, gave legal and advocacy assistance to 348 clients and had 83 additional support group clients. Volunteers donated 11, 869 hours to the shelters. Source: Women’s Place of South Niagara 2008-2009 Annual Report.
For many of the calls regarding domestic violence, children continue to witness the violence in the home.
Source: Arai, S. (2007). http://www.regional.niagara.on.ca/living/saeo/reports/pdf/PovertyReport.pdf