First and foremost if you are experiencing Domestic Violence in Alberta check out these numbers from the Human Services branch of the Alberta Government:
“Talk to trained staff over the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in more than 170 languages. Chat anonymously online with staff from noon to 8:00 p.m., daily. Chat FAQ.
Family Violence Info Line 310‑1818 Begin chat
Bullying Helpline 1‑888‑456‑2323 Begin chat
Child Abuse Hotline 1‑800‑387‑5437″
The good news is that Deborah Drever, an Independent MLA representing Calgary-Bow, has tabled a private members bill that would make it easier for women to break a lease early to get them out of direct contact with their abusive partner.
“Drever’s Bill 204 would amend the Residential Tenancies Act to allow domestic violence victims to break a lease early and without penalty. If a person can demonstrate they or their children are in danger, they can receive a signed certificate from a list of professionals — such as a judge, nurse, police officer or social worker — compelling the landlord to terminate the lease. The law would also effectively allow a victim to remove an abuser’s name from a lease.”
Anything will help out the DV situation in Alberta as we have one of the highest incidence rates in the nation.
“Alberta ranks among the worst provinces for domestic violence. According to the most recent Statistics Canada report, there were 10,045 cases of intimate partner violence in Alberta in 2013 — a rate of 623 per 100,000 people and more than twice the national rate.”
That is a pretty terrible number, but it gets worse.
“The Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters recent annual report showed that while 10,205 women and children found haven at provincial shelters between April 2014 and March 2015, nearly twice that number — 19,251 — were turned away for lack of space.”
This is a unacceptable state of affairs and this bill goes a small way in fixing what is a much larger problem in our society today. Maria Fitzpatrick, also an MLA, spoke of her experience with her abusive husband and the lack of support she had in dealing with this life threatening situation.
“Fitzpatrick told the house that at one point during her troubled nine-year marriage to her ex-husband, who has since died, she awoke to find he had pointed a gun to the back of her head.
She recalled hearing the clicking sound of the hammer as the trigger was pulled, and his hysterical laughter as she realized there were no bullets in the gun.
She said he threatened her that the next time, there would be bullets.
“He beat me. He raped me,” she told the silent assembly.
He told her he would kill their daughters first, in order to see her pain, and then he would kill her.
“I knew it would be just a matter of time before he followed through on these threats”
No one should have to experience this sort torture – especially nine years of it. Why didn’t she just leave? Is the question so often asked of women in DV situations, you see the thing is she did leave three times…
Through the course of their marriage, she said she suffered broken bones, black eyes, sexual assault and two miscarriages as a result of the abuse.
“Three times I left with my kids,” she said. “Twice I went to shelters. Twice I was forced to return or live on the street. Both times I returned and the violence got worse and the threats, which he could have carried out at any time, became more frequent and more intimidating.”
The supports are not there for women and the justice system is of little assistance. Look how helpful the police and judge were in Fitzpatrick’s situation.
“After the incident with the gun, she called police and her husband was finally arrested and a restraining order put in place. But there was no peace.
“I called the police 16 times in two weeks before he was arrested again. Not so much for assaulting me but because he broke the restraining order.”
Eventually, he was sentenced to a year in jail but was released immediately because of the amount of time he had spent on remand.
“He turned and as he was leaving the courtroom, he said he would kill me,” she recalled.
“I asked the judge how could he let him go, and the judge said to me it’s a marital issue, get a divorce and leave. He proceeded then to give me a lecture on how much it was going to cost to keep him in jail.
“When I returned to my house, he was there, holding my children and my mother-in-law at the point of a gun. At the end of a four-hour ordeal, his mother rose and asked God to help us, and he ran from the house.”
I can’t even… When is it ever okay to classify domestic abuse as just a ‘marital issue’? And such completely naive advice – as if just leaving, with three children, is a walk in the fracking park. Ms. Fitzpatrick says it best:
“My support for this bill comes from the middle of this experience and this trap, a trap that was intentionally or unintentionally supported by society,” said Fitzpatrick. “Silence, blame, guilt and little to no support grew this injustice for decades, if not centuries.
“This should never have happened to me or these situations to anybody else. “
Let’s get this bill passed Alberta MLA’s. It is but one small step in addressing a very large problem in our society today.