'Boys 4 Real': Sudbury police tackle domestic violence by talking to tween boys
'If we wait and try to educate people at 20 and 25 years of age, it’s too late.'
Police in Sudbury are trying a new tactic to deal with the city's domestic violence problem-- they're talking to boys in grade 7 and 8.
The program called "Boys For Real" was started by Greater Sudbury Police last year.
More than 2,000 domestic violence cases are reported to Sudbury police each year, a statistic that is not decreasing, according to Greater Sudbury police chief Paul Pedersen.
"Relationship violence actually spikes between grade 9 and 10," Pedersen said.
"Who would have thought that we'd have to start talking about domestic violence in high school, but when you think of the definition...it's violence between intimate partners, and we do have boyfriends and girlfriends in those relationships in high school."
Pedersen told CBC News if teenage boys don't learn how to deal with aggression at that age, it can translate into violence that continues on throughout life.
"If we wait and try to educate people at 20 and 25 years of age, it's too late. The patterns are already developed and the norms are already established."
Pedersen said the program shows boys the right way to handle relationship issues and breakups.
"A lot of the stalking type of behaviour happens when relationships end," Pedersen said.
"Do you really think hundreds and hundreds of text messages are going to win her over? Of course not. It seems logical to us removed from it, but with emotions, hormones, [and] maturity levels, it's important for us to talk about how better to resolve these situations."
Domestic violence rate remains steady
New statistics show while most crimes are decreasing in Greater Sudbury, domestic violence cases remain steady.
Greater Sudbury Police dealt with 2,262 domestic assault occurrences and laid charges 523 times in 2015. That's up five per cent from the year before.
"Where you see other crimes steadily going down, this one is staying the same. So the gap between this and other crimes is growing, which is concerning."
"The situation we have in Sudbury is quite candidly the same as we see all over the country," Pedersen said. "Honestly we don't seem to be making the dent we need to make."
Average woman assaulted 35 times before calling cops
Compounding the rate of domestic violence cases is the knowledge that it continues to be one of the most underreported crimes.
A woman is assaulted on average 35 times before she picks up the phone and calls police, Pedersen said.
"I think when we see friends and neighbours with unexplained bruises, it really is incumbent on us to have that difficult conversation," Pedersen said.
"I do think there is a mentality that, 'that's their problem.' But that's just not true."