Domestic violence victims say Manitoba's new laws don't go far enough

Women in Manitoba who have experienced domestic abuse say the province has a long way to go in ensuring its new domestic violence laws actually protect victims.

Women whose spouses abused them say protection orders, police and courts could do more

Changes to the Domestic Violence and Stalking Act came into effect on Sunday. (CBC)

Women in Manitoba who have experienced domestic abuse say the province has a long way to go to ensure its new domestic violence law actually protects victims.

The revised Domestic Violence and Stalking Act came into effect on Sunday, with changes that make it easier for victims to get protection orders and that take guns away from perpetrators of violence.

"The protection order doesn't really do anything, and I'm coming from experience," said a woman CBC is not naming because of safety concerns.

The woman, who CBC is calling Francis, said her ex breached a protection order more than 78 times last year and continues to do so.

He was was arrested for breaching the protection order again last week, she said. He spent the night in custody and was released the next day, she said.

"What did that really show him? That just fuelled up his anger, and then you guys let him out? And now I have him emailing me again," she said.

The changes to the law include requiring the court to provide the chief firearms officer of Manitoba with copies of all protection orders, listing factors such as past legal proceedings for a judicial justice of the peace before the protection order is granted, and recognizing cyberstalking as a crime.

But Francis said she doesn't think the new legislation will do enough to help her, and she's tired of living in fear.

She would like the law to include harsher punishments than the fines her ex has to pay for breaching the conditions of the protection order.

"Put them in jail the first time for 30 days," she said.

"It's clear that with all the deaths happening recently … it's clear that protection orders really do nothing. How do you get a person to respect conditions when they clearly don't respect the law?"

'Nothing's going to change'

Another woman who survived many years of domestic abuse agrees the changes fall short of providing solid protection to victims of violence.

"This new legislation is very, very, very minute in how it can help," said Gorete Rodrigues, who spent 11 years in an abusive relationship and now works as a counsellor for other victims of abuse.

"Unless they change the whole system, nothing's going to change," Rodrigues said.

"When I left him, it was about two years' worth of stalking and torture. And he ended up getting a protection order against me — very easily," she said about her ex-husband.

Rodrigues said he used to "torment" her verbally, mentally, physically and emotionally in front of her children. When she left him, he started stalking her online, and police and the courts didn't have a way to stop him at the time, she said.

'Kind of a joke'

"The only thing I like is that they included is the cyber stuff; everything else, the firearms and that, is kind of a joke," said Rodrigues.

"Even to get a protection order — those are great in the sense that, if they breach it, they might get a little bit in trouble. But nothing really happens to these people. They get a slap on the wrist. That's it."

Both women also say the act should include tools for protecting children.

Francis said she and her ex are still trying to work out visitations with their two toddlers.

"Unless family court does something and opens their eyes, it's never going to end for us. And unfortunately, it's going to continue with the kids," she said.