WHEREAS victims of domestic violence may have limited access to justice due to lack of financial resources and/or fear of retribution, which may further restrict their ability to secure their legal rights, as well as compromising their safety;
WHEREAS the establishment of a voluntary registry for victims of domestic violence would assist authorities and expedite justice in the event of a victim being unable to address the situation, due to serious injury, death, having gone missing or fear of retribution;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada urge the Government of Canada to implement a process by which victims of domestic violence may register with authorities so as to facilitate access to justice in the event of a future incident of violence.
WOMEN’S LIBERAL COMMISSION BC
Contact: Jodie Stark
Voluntary Domestic Violence Registry
Briefing Note: A Voluntary Domestic Violence Registry
Many women go missing, are found murdered, are injured and/or rendered unconscious – or are too fearful to give a statement – when subjected to domestic violence. Those who have worked with abuse programs and support groups in various provinces and know first-hand how difficult it is for a woman to obtain protection when trying to leave a controlling and violent partner. There is a great deal of risk involved for the family when the woman decides she will leave the relationship, as the partner is generally bigger, stronger and has far more financial resources at his disposal.
At least one-half of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence from the age of 16. Stats Canada reports that less than one quarter of abuse victims are able to report incidents to police; reasons provided include fear of the spouse retaliating, lack of confidence in the judicial system, and fear of getting police involved when they fear the police cannot stop future violence. There is little to no support in place as police will still often walk away from complaints of abuse or violence without doing anything – often claiming that unless an attack is presently taking place in front of police or there is blood visible from violence that there is “nothing they can do”, declaring it to be a “civil matter”. As a result of this inaction, there is really very little consequence for a man who continues to abuse his partner, unless or until it escalates to a serious injury and hospitalization. Even then, since there is no “record” of abuse with police or prosecutors when help was sought previously, justice is often delayed – creating far greater risk to the woman and her family. 64% of abused women exhibit symptoms of PTSD and many fear that they, or their children, will be killed if they report an incident at the time of the occurrence; this further perpetuates the cycle of abuse within the family home. More than one in five homicides are committed in Canada by an intimate partner.
Working with support groups nationwide, this initiative would allow a woman who is currently subjected to domestic violence to register her name and that of her partner, voluntarily, which could only be shared with police and authorities in the event of a missing person report or incident of violence against that woman – so that authorities could be made aware of past history and know the situation – and initiate necessary action to resolve the matter. Timing is often critical and if authorities are aware of past domestic violence issues where a victim has sought the assistance of support groups for victims of domestic violence, this could help locate and/or support these women in the event of a future violent incident.
It is unfortunate that criminal laws have failed to deter the instances of domestic abuse and violence in homes across Canada. Many women are forced to stay in violent situations simply due to the lack of support from police and prosecutors when they report instances of violence and abuse. Many are turned away due to over-crowded abuse shelters. Any protection that can be offered would benefit future victims – even if only to direct investigators to the most likely party who would be behind a violent attack or missing person. It’s very difficult for friends and family members to come forward and state that there was violence in the past – but with a registry only accessible to authorities – one that is voluntary – perhaps authorities could address future incidents more quickly and save lives.