Nfld. & Labrador

Intimate-partner violence happens far more often than cases that make headlines

It’s not just the recent headlines that show the alarming reality of intimate-partner violence in the province; a women’s shelter in St. John’s is also seeing an increase in the number of women coming through their doors fleeing violence.

St. John's men's group is discussing what men can do in order to better support women

This time of year — which Christmas bills due and increased mental-health stresses — often sees an increase in violence against women, says Michelle Green of Iris Kirby House. (CBC)

The director of a St. John's women's shelter says the increase in women coming through their doors shows the alarming reality of intimate-partner violence runs deeper than just recent headlines.

In the past week, the RCMP laid charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder in separate incidents.

Kirk Keeping, 35, of St. Jacques-Coombs Cove has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Chantel John, who police say was his former partner.

Chantel John was 28 years old. (Submitted)

And Eric Young, 33, of the Bay St. George area has been charged with attempted murder in what police say was a domestic incident involving estranged partners.

Michelle Green, the executive director of Iris Kirby House, said she's heartbroken by the headlines, but knows this is time of the year often sees an increase in violence against women.

"This is the time of year that Christmas bills start coming in, people often feel less energetic. [There are] more mental health concerns in the winter," Green said.

Green says numbers are also up because women are increasingly willing to leave violent partners. (Ted Dillion/CBC)

Staff at the safe house can get up to 60 or 70 calls a day. On average, about eight of those calls are women who are in immediate distress.

"We are seeing an increase in the numbers but we are seeing an increase in the complexities," she said.

 #MeToo movement increases shelter numbers 

As drug addictions and mental health issues rise in Newfoundland, so are the number of patients being admitted to the shelter. Green said the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault has also influenced more women to leave their abusive partners.

"There is just such a change in our experience as a community that it is spilling over in all areas. I think people are less willing to accept any kind of power and control over them."

Green said a lot of new Canadians have also recently come through the shelter's doors, and staff navigate different cultural norms, backgrounds and parenting styles to help them.

Green, who has worked in social services for 30 years, said society as a whole needs to work harder to educate young people on how to respect other people.

"We are not dealing with helping people grow into better people. We aren't in prevention mode at all; we are in reactive mode. I think the conversations need to start."

Men's group to discuss women's issues

And that is exactly what a  men's group in St. John's is trying to do.

The First Light Centre, formerly known as the St. John's Native Friendship Centre, is holding a public discussion called Why Do Men Kill Women, and What Can Men Do About It?

"We need to talk about that as men. How do we stop this? How do we call each other out?" said Andrew Harvey, director of social supports and interventions at First Light.

Harvey said the discussion was prompted by the death of John, an Indigenous woman.

"Everyone has been really affected by that," Harvey said. "We were just trying to talk about what we could do about it, I guess, and this was one of the concrete actions that came out of it."

Andrew Harvey, the director of social supports and interventions at First Light Centre, is hosting a discussion called Why Do Men Kill Women, and What Can Men Do About It? (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Harvey said he is aware that the majority of men who show up for the discussion are probably men willing to listen and enact change, but he hopes these men can influence their family, friends and peers for the better.

"It's going to take time, obviously, but even in the last number of years things have changed. The #MeToo movement, that would have been unthinkable 30 or 40 years ago but now it's not.

"I think we can see substantial changes in a very short time."

The men's group will meet Tuesday night at the First Light Centre.

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Meg is a multi-platform reporter with CBC Toronto. She previously worked as a reporter for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador and CBC Windsor. She also was a member of the CBC Olympics team for the 2020 and 2022 Olympics. Meg covers a wide range of breaking news and feature stories. Email her at