Expert urges bystanders to reach out as domestic violence calls drastically increase
'Trust your instinct. If you feel somebody is at risk, reach out to them and get them to safety'
Bystanders and witnesses to domestic violence need to reach out to support victims, says a former police officer and victim services expert, after a recent high-profile incident of domestic violence in Calgary.
Police say that last year there were 21,535 domestic conflict calls, 5,388 of which were for domestic violence — a 48 per cent increase over a five-year average.
"Trust your instinct. If you feel somebody is at risk, reach out to them and get them to safety if at all possible, and there are services out there that can help you do that," says Roxane Baalim of Victim Services Alberta.
In the latest high-profile case, police allege a father intentionally set a fire and killed his eldest daughter, leaving her teen sister fighting for her life. He was found dead along with his eldest daughter in the family's home in the northwest Calgary community of Kincora last weekend.
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"The situation itself is a terrible tragedy. Unfortunately it's all too common in our society these days," Baalim said.
"I think what's telling about much of these incidences is when people think of domestic violence they mostly think it's between spouses, but domestic violence or family-related violence often spreads and involves children as well. So it's that bigger picture … it impacts the entire family and extended family."
Baalim's organization is a non-profit that provides mentorship and education to the 76 police-based victim services programs around the province.
This week is Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, which runs from May 26 to June 1.
Victim Services Alberta is trying to raise awareness of the help that is available for people who are struggling.
Alberta had the third-highest rate of intimate partner violence by province in 2017, according to Statistics Canada.
"We want to encourage people to report, to reach out for help, and sort of educate themselves about what their rights are," she said.
Baalim said it's important people reach out before a situation deteriorates the way it did in Kincora.
"It's human nature to think the situation will never get as bad as it was in Calgary, but often you can look back at a situation and there are particular indicators that might indicate things are escalating," she said.
She said research shows one of the highest risk periods for domestic violence is when a woman is leaving her partner.
Court records show the family's mother filed for divorce from the father last month.
If you're concerned for your or someone else's safety, you can:
With files from Reid Southwick