Can you explain to us a little bit about what your role is?
Sure! As community development coordinator for both the DART group and Ingamo Homes, I wear many hats. I arrange meetings for DART by selecting the best date/time to accommodate members, setting the agenda, and taking and distributing meeting minutes. In addition to these administrative responsibilities, I am in charge of conceiving some of the public education efforts and ensuring that they run successfully. I also manage the website and social media profiles!
What inspired you to get into this role? When did you start?
I've been in this position since January of this year. The majority of my professional experience has been in social services, and the continual nudge to move further upstream to prevent the violence that so many of my clients faced drove me to pursue a master's degree in public health at the University of Waterloo. It was suggested to me during a meeting with my university's career advisor about how to transition my social work expertise into a career in public health that I look for community development possibilities. At Ingamo Homes, a position as community development coordinator was available, and everything appeared to fall into place!
What is your favourite thing about your job?
That's a difficult question to answer because I enjoy every aspect of my profession! I enjoy meeting new people, writing speeches and workshops, creating public education initiatives, and being able to express myself creatively when promoting events. The best aspect of working in community development is knowing that I am a part of the history that makes my community a safer place for families to live free from violence.
What are some misconceptions that people have about what you do, or about working to prevent gender-based violence in general?
There are many misconceptions regarding my role, owing to the fact that it is made up of so many distinct complex elements. I also frequently find myself dispelling myths about gender-based violence, intimate partner violence, and family violence in general, as some people may not understand what these terms mean or how they differ. One of my favourite aspects of the job is educating others within and outside of my community about the causes of violence and why, when, and how it occurs. It leads to some very interesting conversations!
Where should people go to learn more about available resources?
I guess I'd start by encouraging folks not to be afraid of learning more, because not knowing as much as people who work in the area isn't necessarily a bad thing. Of course, as community development coordinator, I am obligated to encourage individuals interested in learning more to attend our upcoming events, which are listed on our website, or to follow us on social media!
On July 12th, 2023, Amy Maddess from DART, Joanna Piatkowski representing Ingamo Homes and Jen Weicker from Domestic Abuse Services Oxford (DASO) presented in front of Oxford County Council to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic. The motion was unanimously approved, and we are very excited to have taken this first step toward big change. To declare intimate partner violence as an epidemic throughout Ontario was the first recommendation for change to come out of the Renfrew Inquest (see related post outlining these recommendations). You may read our full speech from July 12th below.
Hello Oxford County council. We want to express our gratitude for having us here today to talk about the necessity of recognizing an epidemic of intimate partner violence in Oxford County. For those of you who don’t know, my name is Amy and I am the community development coordinator for Ingamo Homes and the Domestic Abuse Resource Team (DART) Oxford. I am here today with Joanna, who is the manager of programs and outreach for Ingamo Homes, as well as Jennifer, who is the residential services manager of Domestic Abuse Services Oxford, otherwise known as DASO.
On June 1st, we presented to the city council of Woodstock to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic. This motion was unanimously approved, and today we are looking to expand this declaration to all of Oxford. To date, 24 municipalities and regions have declared intimate partner violence an epidemic. We are hoping that in joining these municipalities, Oxford can become part of the movement to make this declaration Ontario wide.
Please be aware that today’s content may be uncomfortable and hard to hear. Please take care of yourself while listening.
You may recall that we mentioned the Renfrew County Inquest recommendations in our speech from back in June, when three women were killed by their former intimate partner. The need for Ontario to designate intimate partner violence as an epidemic was the first of the 86 recommendations for change that came out of that inquest.
We also went over the definition of intimate partner violence, when and where it happens, and some data on how often femicide occurs, how much money is spent on the aftermath, and how many people died last year, and in the first three months of this year.
It is estimated that six women have been murdered by their current or former intimate partner since that presentation.
We must make this declaration now and take action to prevent intimate partner violence or we will see that number continue to rise.
Today we will be going a little deeper and looking at what intimate partner violence looks like in a rural community and Oxford County specifically. Then we will discuss how intimate partner violence intersects with homelessness, the mental and physical impact to victims and survivors, and how it affects children in our community. There will be time after this presentation for any questions you may have.
You can view the powerpoint presentation we created on the screen. It includes information that we mention in our speech as well as supplemental information. Please feel free to ask questions about this content as well.
Studies note that women who live in rural regions experience a prevalence of intimate partner violence that is 75% higher than that of urban women, and that they endure physical abuse that is substantially more severe than their urban counterparts (Peek-Asa et al., 2011; Wright, 2023). IPV perpetrators in rural areas perpetuate more chronic and severe violence due to higher rates of substance use, unemployment, and life stressors (Edwards, 2014). Knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about IPV vary across communities, but individuals in rural locales generally support less governmental involvement in domestic violence issues (Edwards, 2014). This lack of involvement is because stronger patriarchal values exist in rural areas, resulting in more traditional gender roles and more intense power imbalances between genders (Luke’s Place, 2022). The close-knit nature and small size of rural communities contribute to a greater level of community denial about the problem of violence within families (Luke’s Place, 2022). Denial in rural areas may also result from the perception of the area as a "haven," away from the negative aspects of city life – there remains many misconceptions about what intimate partner violence is and who is impacted by it (Luke’s Place, 2022). Many assume that violence is an urban issue that affects those of a specific socioeconomic status, ethnic origin, race, or age. This denial or lack of awareness becomes a significant obstacle to survivors in small towns with little resources due to the absence of other options (Luke’s Place, 2022). Rural women who do access services locally lack the anonymity and thus confidentiality that comes with living in an urban area (Luke’s Place, 2022).
Isolation is another reason why the prevalence and severity of abuse is significantly higher in rural areas. The distance from a woman’s home to the nearest IPV resource is on average three times higher in rural communities than in urban centres, with some women living more than 80 kilometres away from a crisis centre or shelter (Peek-Asa, et al., 2011). Lack of adequate public transport and other various services that characterize urban areas exacerbate this physical isolation. In fact, some abusers move to rural areas for the specific purpose of isolating their partner (Luke’s Place, 2022). This isolation is a significant barrier to fleeing – survivors can not receive the services they need in their own community. In addition to being inaccessible, IPV services in rural locations are generally less well-funded and comprehensive than their urban equivalents (Edwards, 2014).
Oxford County has one crisis centre, one long-term women’s transitional program, and one part-time sexual violence counsellor. These three services are intended to serve a population of 128,000 people. What this means is that women in our county that need these services are going without or are forced to travel to nearby urban center’s such as London, Brantford or Waterloo.
Nearly 3000 crisis calls were received by Domestic Abuse Services Oxford (DASO) in the previous fiscal year, and a sizable fraction of these callers were helped in developing safety strategies to withstand the abuse they were facing from their current or past intimate partner. 167 women who came to DASO in need of sanctuary to escape and survive abuse did not receive support.
Our only long-term women’s transitional program, Ingamo Homes, regularly has to turn people away due to capacity issues and has a waitlist of up to one year. Because of the housing crisis, women who do receive placements at Ingamo Homes remain longer than the intended program was created, and are unable to find new housing when they are ready to move on.
Research shows that domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women (Ali, 2016). On any given night in Canada, over 6000 women and children sleep in shelters because it is not safe for them at home (Burlington City Council, 2023).
Women who attempt to leave violent partners in remote communities encounter more challenges. Especially with children, leaving a residence that is many kilometres from the closest paved road is not only challenging, but it also puts a family in danger of being caught in mid-flight. The act of leaving can result in severe, and potentially lethal violence (Luke’s Place, 2022).
Women who leave an abusive partner sometimes struggle to obtain housing, employment, or a support network. They either sleep on the streets, couch surf, or go back to their abuser after being turned away at shelter.
Women stuck in this revolving nightmare begin to experience mental illnesses such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thoughts due to the psychological distress of abuse, and the bewilderment of feeling trapped. With every service at capacity and no new funding coming in, Oxford County is dropping the ball for these women. We are sending the message that they do not matter to us.
It's crucial to keep in mind that this means we are failing the children in our community as well. A woman who decides to leave her partner is determined to find a way to take her kids with her. Her abuser may tell her that if she takes them, he will charge her for kidnapping. He may convince her that she will lose custody or threaten to take the children before she can. In many situations, an abuser will threaten to harm or even kill the children, and our legal system has failed to catch up to the realities of IPV on families.
In up to 60% of cases where there is spousal abuse, there is child abuse (Canada, 2009). Children who live in situations with family violence can suffer immediate and permanent physical harm, or even death (Canada, 2009). They can also experience short and long-term emotional, behavioural, and developmental problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (Canada, 2009). In 6 out of 10 cases of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, child survivors have considerable problems with behaviour, negative peer involvement, depression, anxiety, violence to others, irregular school attendance, and inappropriate sexual behaviour (Canada, 2009). It is now widely known that witnessing family violence is as harmful as experiencing it directly.
Last year, the family violence program of Oxford County received 80 counselling referrals for children from Children’s Aid. Wellkin Child and Youth Mental Wellness serving Oxford and Elgin counties reported 205 referrals of individuals having experienced traumatic life events. They estimate that 50% of their referrals are from Oxford County.
Moving further upstream, prevention and education about gender-based violence have also been identified as longstanding gaps in Oxford County. We have fallen behind other communities in implementing these initiatives, meaning that our school boards, service providers, criminal justice sector and healthcare partners do not have the adequate information that they need to educate and advocate for the people that they serve. Oxford County should commit to engaging with community partners to educate and support our residents about the seriousness and long-term danger of violence in our community.
Violence against women costs the justice system, health care systems, social service agencies, and municipalities billions of dollars per year; municipalities are on the front lines in addressing gender-based violence. Let me say that one more time, violence against women costs the justice system, health care system, social service agencies and municipalities BILLIONS of dollars every year. Family violence, in general, has increased every year since 2019 (Charlebois, 2023). Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, instances of intimate partner violence have become exponentially prevalent (Charlebois, 2023).
We know that the information we have presented you with today is bleak; it’s unfortunate that IPV and the murder of women in our community and society as a whole still needs to be discussed. Municipal governments can no longer remain silent and on the sidelines. Our community wants change and so we will advocate for change. Change begins when we all agree that intimate partner violence is wrong and denounce it.
We are not here to discredit Oxford County. Quite the opposite. All three of us are proud to be a part of this community, and know that we have many great strengths. Oxford County comes together when it needs to in order to protect our community members from harm, hate and violence. We are here today to tell you that this time is now. Passing this declaration announces that we want our community to change, and that we embrace, endorse and pursue change.
This declaration entails that the County of Oxford review the Renfrew Recommendations and develop a workplan on how the county can advance the objective of ending intimate partner violence. Here are our asks:
Many municipalities across the region have declared intimate partner violence as an epidemic, after seeing a drastic rise in cases and a dwindling of funding and support. By declaring intimate partner violence an epidemic in Oxford County, we will become the 25th municipality in Ontario to do so. This means that one day, intimate partner violence will be declared an epidemic throughout all of Ontario, and this will allow us to get the services that we need for our residents who need it the most. Today, we ask that all voting members of county council approve this declaration so that we can take one step forward toward ending intimate partner violence. We sincerely thank you for this opportunity, and would like to open the space for questions.
Administrator. (2023, June 14). Burlington City Council declares intimate partner Violence & Violence Against Women an epidemic. A Better Burlington | Mayor Marianne Meed Ward. https://mariannemeedward.ca/burlington-city-council-declares-intimate-partner-violence-violence-against-women-as-an-epidemic/
Ali, N. (2016, October 3). Domestic Violence & Homelessness. Domestic Violence & Homelessness | The Homeless Hub. https://www.homelesshub.ca/blog/domestic-violence-homelessness
Canada, P. H. A. of. (2009, April 9). The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children. Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/stop-family-violence/publications/effects-domestic-violence-children-hurt.html
Charlebois, J. (2023, June 6). Kincardine Council supports Prince Edward County resolution to declare intimate partner violence as epidemic. Bayshore Broadcasting News Centre. https://www.bayshorebroadcasting.ca/2023/06/06/kincardine-council-supports-prince-edward-county-resolution-to-declare-intimate-partner-violence-as-epidemic/
Edwards, K. M. (2014). Intimate partner violence and the rural–urban–suburban divide. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 16(3), 359–373. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838014557289
Luke’s Place. (2022, December 8). Intimate partner violence in rural communities. Family
law support for women fleeing abuse.
Peek-Asa, C., Wallis, A., Harland, K., Beyer, K., Dickey, P., & Saftlas, A. (2011). Rural disparity in domestic violence prevalence and access to resources. Journal of Women’s Health, 20(11), 1743–1749. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2011.2891
Wright, A. (2023, May 12). Pec Council declares intimate partner violence epidemic in the county. PEC council declares intimate partner violence epidemic in the county. https://canada-info.ca/en/pec-council-declares-intimate-partner-violence-epidemic-in-the-county/
On June 1st, 2023, Amy Maddess from DART, Joanna Piatkowski representing Ingamo Homes and Jen Weicker from Domestic Abuse Services Oxford (DASO) presented in front of the city council of Woodstock to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic. The motion was unanimously approved, and we are very excited to have taken this first step toward big change. To declare intimate partner violence as an epidemic throughout Ontario was the first recommendation for change to come out of the Renfrew Inquest (see related post outlining these recommendations). You may read our full speech below.
Carol Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk, and Nathalie Warmerdam of Renfrew County were murdered by their former partner in 2015, and an inquest into these deaths was held in June 2022. Of the 86 recommendations for change issued by the jury as a result of this inquest, the first is that the Ontario government declare intimate partner violence an epidemic.
This idea is directly replicated in the recommendations issued following the Nova Scotia mass shooting inquiry, which calls for a public health approach to be taken to violence against women and “stable core funding” for groups that help women survivors.
Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm. The term "intimate partner" includes current and former spouses, dating partners, and sexual partners. IPV does not appear in every relationship in the same way. Physical assault, sexual violence, criminal harassment, threats of physical or sexual violence, reproductive coercion, spiritual abuse, cyber violence, emotional abuse, financial abuse, or psychological abuse are all examples of how coercive control can be perpetuated. IPV can range from a single incident of violence that has long-term consequences to chronic and severe episodes that are endured for years. In many circumstances, IPV leads to femicide, which can be defined as the death of women and girls on the basis of their gender.
It is estimated that one woman in Canada is murdered by her intimate partner every six days. 54% of 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals experienced intimate partner violence and their rate of violent victimization is 2 times higher than cisgender individuals.
Intimate partner violence occurs in all settings and among all socioeconomic, religious and cultural groups. The overwhelming global burden of IPV is held by women and gender queer individuals. According to one study of IPV convictions in Ontario, 92% of offenders were men. Data also reveal that women and gender queer individuals are more likely than men to be subjected to IPV with increased severity (such as being strangled, assaulted or threatened with a weapon, or sexually assaulted).
The Department of Justice Canada estimates that 7.4 billion dollars is spent on the aftermath of intimate partner violence each year. This includes immediate costs (such as emergency room visits, involvement of police and the criminal justice system) and related costs (such as loss of income, funeral expenses) and intangible costs (such as pain and suffering).
The Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH) releases regular reports on femicides in Ontario. The most recently released report, spanning November 2021 to November 2022 showed 52 women and girls murdered in Ontario during that period. The images portrayed behind me are of the 13 Ontario women that have been murdered by a current or former intimate partner in the first quarter of 2023. Please note that data from May has not yet been released.
A snapshot of Woodstock specific statistics has been included for your review in the material package we’ve provided.
The city of Woodstock remembers
2022 marked the eighth consecutive year of increase in police reported IPV in Canada. This epidemic requires immediate responses from all levels of government. The consequences of IPV are long lasting and far reaching. These women are our friends, sisters, children, parents, colleagues, employees and employers. In spite of continuing progress in public education, there is still a stigma attached to being a victim of IPV, and many choose not to report because they believe their experiences of violence are a private matter, and that they may not be believed.
To date, 14 municipalities across Ontario have declared intimate partner violence an epidemic. A full list of these municipalities has been included in the materials we’ve provided.
Today, we ask that on behalf of the City of Woodstock that all voting city councillors and your worship, Mayor Jerry Acchione, approve the motion to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic. In doing so, the City of Woodstock will have the opportunity to demonstrate that we represent a community that is committed to ending violence in intimate relationships. This declaration will send a strong message to victims of IPV that they need not suffer violence in private; that they are part of a community that will stand with them, support them, and believes in their right to safety. This declaration will make it clear to our residents and the province that the City of Woodstock will not tolerate this violence in our community. Thank you. We welcome any questions you may have.
May is Sexual Violence Prevention Month, a month that highlights the importance of recognizing that sexual violence is prevalent in communities. The Domestic Abuse Resource Team (DART) of Oxford County recognizes that gender-based violence is on the rise in our community and acknowledges the importance of moving Bill-5 forward to ensure that every workplace is safe and free of violence. Bill-5 is The Stopping Harassment and Abuse by Local Leaders Act. It has been supported by Oxford County and is slated for its second reading this month in front of Parliament.
What does this bill do?
This bill has three primary components:
1. Require councillors to comply with the workplace violence and harassment policies of the municipality they represent.
2. Permit municipalities to apply to the court to vacate a member’s seat for failing to comply with the municipality’s workplace violence and harassment policies.
3. Restrict councillors – whose seat has been vacated – from seeking immediate subsequent re-election.
Bill 5 was initially introduced as a response to a sitting councillor in Ottawa who was able to seek re-election, even with outstanding claims of sexual harassment. When councillors can perpetuate harassment without accountability, the message is sent to the community that local leaders are not held responsible to the health and safety of its community members. This differs from any other workplace in the province, where not only are workplaces mandated to have violence and harassment in the workplace policies (Bill 168), these policies outline consequences for violation, which can include termination.
A fundamental, underlying principle of broadening diversity, equity, and inclusion in politics rests on the assumption that the workplace is SAFE. This is currently not the case. It stifles diversity of voice at the local decision-making table, while creating an adverse effect on mental health in the workplace and throughout the community. Once passed, Bill-5 will be applicable to all communities throughout Ontario. To learn more about Bill-5, please visit https://womenofontariosayno.squarespace.com
For more information about the bill's progression in Oxford County, visit Bernia Wheaton for City County's instagram page: @berniawheatoncitycounty
Here are some of the main recommendations from the public inquiry into the mass shooting that claimed 22 lives in Nova Scotia on April 18-19, 2020 (released March 30th, 2023):
The Government of Ontario should:
Oversight and Accountability
System Approaches, Collaboration and Communication
7. Ensure that IPV issues are addressed using an all-of-government approach across
ministries, and cooperate and coordinate with federal, provincial, and territorial
partners in seeking to end IPV.
8. Require that all justice system participants who work with IPV survivors and
perpetrators are trained and engage in a trauma-informed approach to interacting
and dealing with survivors and perpetrators.
9. Explore incorporating restorative justice and community-based approaches in
dealing with appropriate IPV cases to ensure safety and best outcomes for
10. Encourage that IPV be integrated into every municipality’s community safety and
11. Study the feasibility of, and implement if feasible, justice sector participants having
access to relevant findings made in family and civil law proceedings for use in
criminal proceedings, including at bail and sentencing stages. The study would, in
part, inquire into the following:
a. The process to identify relevant findings and for sharing those findings with other
b. Which justice participants should have access to the findings made by a civil or
c. What documents from civil and family law proceedings should be shared with
justice sector participants, and how to facilitate sharing of such documents,
d. What permissible uses could be made of the documents and findings in a
e. Models in other jurisdictions that identify relevant IPV cases in different courts.
12. Ensure that survivors and those assisting survivors have direct and timely
communication with probation officers to assist in safety planning.
13. Require all police services to immediately inform the Chief Firearms Officer (CFO) of
IPV-related charges after they are laid, and provide any relevant records, including
Firearms Interest Police information.
14. Create a “Universal RMS” records management system accessible by all police
services (including federal, provincial, municipal, military and First Nations) in
Ontario, with appropriate read/write access to all IPV stakeholders, including
Probation, CFO, Crown’s offices, Ontario Court of Justice, Superior Court of Justice,
correctional institutions and parole boards. Police services that wish to use their own
RMS are to update IPV information into the Universal RMS.
15. Require primary actors involved in a major incident to conduct a formal de-brief and
write a report identifying lessons learned and recommendations for improvement, if
16. Review policies to ensure the timely, reliable, consistent, and accurate dissemination
of information, including the use of emergency alerts and media releases, where the
police are aware of circumstances that could put the public in danger, and that the
focus is on safety when developing policies regarding what information to share with
whom and when. Consideration should be given to disseminating information
through alternative methods where cellular service is not consistently available.
17. Establish clear guidelines regarding the flagging of perpetrators or potential IPV
victims in police databases, immediate dispatch and police access to the identities
and contact information of potential targets, and how to notify those targets.
18. Recognize that the implementation of the recommendations from this Inquest,
including the need for adequate and stable funding for all organizations providing
IPV support services, will require a significant financial investment and commit to
provide such funding.
19. Create an emergency fund, such as the “She C.A.N Fund”, in honour of Carol
Culleton, Anastasia Kuzyk and Nathalie Warmerdam to support women living with
IPV who are taking steps to seek safety. This fund should include the following:
a. Easy, low-barrier access for IPV survivors seeking to improve their safety,
b. Referral to the fund through IPV service providers,
c. Small grants of up to $7000,
d. It should have no impact on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Plan
e. Consideration for the needs of rural and geographically remote survivors of
f. Funding to be provided on an annualized basis, with adequacy assessed and
considered after the first three years,
g. Inject a significant one-time investment into IPV related support services.
20. Realign the approach to public funding provided to IPV service providers with a view
to removing unnecessary reporting obligations with a focus on service. Draw on
best practices in Canada and internationally, and adopt and implement improved,
adequate, stable, and recurring funding that incorporates the following:
a. IPV services are core programming and should receive annualized funding
like other public services,
b. Service providers provide one annual report for all funders across
government to account for the funds received, articulate results and highlight
key challenges, learnings, and accomplishments,
c. Recognition that, in remote and rural areas, funding cannot be the per-capita
equivalent to funding in urban settings as this does not take into account rural
realities, including that:
i. IPV is more prominent in rural areas,
ii. Economies of scale for urban settings supporting larger numbers of
iii. The need to travel to access and provide services where telephone
and internet coverage is not available,
iv. The lack of public transit,
v. The cost of transportation for survivors and service providers.
d. Consideration of the remoteness quotient used to calculate funding in other
social services, such as education and policing,
e. Enhanced funding for IPV service providers, including shelters, sexual assault
support centres, victim services, and counselling services, considering urban
and rural realities,
f. Designated funding for transportation for those receiving IPV-related support
services where public transportation is inadequate or unavailable, such as in
g. Funding to ensure mental health supports for IPV service providers, as well
as timely access to trauma supports immediately following a traumatic event,
h. Funding for services provided to survivors that allows for the hiring and
retention of skilled and experienced staff so that they are not required to rely
on volunteers and fundraisers in order to provide services to survivors,
i. Funding for mobile tracking system alarms and other security supports for
survivors of IPV,
j. Funding for counselling for IPV survivors,
k. Funding for services dedicated to perpetrators of IPV.
Explain to us what inspired you to get into this work?
I was inspired to become part of the Special Victims Unit largely due to the fact that it is a multi-faceted role which has the common thread of supporting and helping those who are the most vulnerable of victims in our community. The Special Victims Unit takes carriage of such investigations as Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Assaults, Child Abuse and Neglect, Human Trafficking and Elder Abuse. I have the privilege and honor of working with victims of all ages and walks of life, whether though investigative means or supportive means, to work towards helping them through some of the worst times in their lives.
Can you explain a bit more about the support services your unit provides to those who have or are at risk, of experiencing gender-based violence?
The Special Victims Unit at the Woodstock Police Service works towards supporting our victims, both through investigation, as well as through connecting them to support services specifically for what they are needing during a difficult time in their lives. The Special Victims Unit works closely with multiple community partners, and can assist to resource out what supports a victim may require. We do these things by placing referrals, connecting victims directly to the resource, as well as creating networking support groups in situations where victims may need multiple supports.
For those who have, or are at risk of experiencing gender based violence, we are able to meet with the victims, learn their story, educate on what is gender based violence and what it may look like, such as the warning signs and red flags to watch for, conduct investigations and conduct safety planning for themselves and their families. The SVU can be used as a conduit for victims to everything available to them in the community.
What are some myths that exist about the role the Police play in supporting victims, and what would you like victims to know?
I believe that one myth, or fear that may exist for victims, is the fear of judgement. As an investigator with the SVU it is not part of my job to pass judgement on anyone. It is my job to learn, assess, educate, investigate, assist to keep safe and set victims up for a successful path moving forward.
I believe another myth is that there isn’t many available supports for vulnerable victims. There is a multitude of supports available to the vulnerable victims in our community. Each victim is unique and each have different needs when it comes to safety planning and supports. When victims work together with the SVU, we are able to get them connected, supported and are always available to them for a resource.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
If you believe, or someone you know is believed to be a vulnerable victim of Intimate partner violence, or any of the other offences the Special Victims Unit supports please do not hesitate to call (519-537-2323 ext. 3235). If you, or someone you know is in immediate danger call 911 immediately.
Explain to us what inspired you to get into this work? I stumbled into this field, but once I was here, the work spoke to me. Being able to assist women to see their own courage and strength while watching the transformation from what happened to them, to who they truly were was the reason I stayed as long as I have.
Can you explain a bit more about what intimate partner violence is? It can be abuse of several forms between two people who have a relationship, whether it be a current, former or a dating connection.
What populations does it typically impact? It hits all populations, from early adolescent to older adult, unfortunately, no population is immune to IPV.
What are some myths that exist? The victim provoked the violence, it is caused by what the victim is wearing, saying, doing; That the victim would leave if it was really that bad; That violence only occurs to those who let strangers into their lives; that abuse/violence is only perpetrated by low-income, marginalized people to low-income, marginalized victims; that people would notice IPV happening in their friends/family relationships and that it can’t be hidden; Perpetrators are mean to everyone they meet, so they can be easily identified as an abuser.
What supports and/or resources are available for those who have experienced violence in Oxford County? A 24-7 Crisis/Help/Information line; a secure shelter accommodation service for women 16+(with or without children) who are impacted by abuse; assistance with safety planning; a transitional program including housing and supports for assistance with family/criminal court, therapeutic counselling, workshops, education and children and youth programs, assistance in navigating the varied services one needs to leave an abusive relationship; one-to-one counselling; Supportive Mothering & Believe In Me Programs to support a parent/child(ren) in dealing with effects of abuse; a Caring Dads Program designed for men who have abused, neglected their children or exposed them to abuse of their mother; sexual assault counselling through Oxford Sexual Assault Services.
What is one thing you’d want a survivor/victim to know?
I want to ensure that a victim knows that abuse is not their fault, it is not something to be ashamed of. This is something that has happened to you, but it never defines you. You are not alone, there are services and supports that will help you find where you want to go.
Can you explain a bit more about what services Wellkin offers within the community? What is the population you serve?
Wellkin Child & Youth Mental Wellness delivers family mental health care with a focus on infants, children and youth living in Oxford and Elgin counties. Our programs and services support the needs of each individual based on their life and family circumstances. Wellkin maintains a well-rounded approach to service delivery to ensure everyone accessing our services will achieve stability through active participation in treatment plans designed to address safe, healthy, and manageable outcomes.
In order to meet client and family needs, Wellkin offers a wide range of programs and services offered in person, as well as virtually, based on client preference and needs. In-person services are available at our Woodstock and St. Thomas offices, as well as at our satellite offices in Tillsonburg, Ingersoll and Aylmer. Some community-based services are also offered in home, school or other community settings.
Programs and Services
Stats over the last two years:
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
For more information on how to access our programs and service, please call us at 1-877-539-0463 or visit our website at www.wellkin.ca
Explain to us what inspired you to get into this work?
As a young Social Work student, I had the opportunity to complete an internship at Windsor Essex Children's Aid Society. It was through this experience that I was able to begin to appreciate the complexities of the child welfare sector and the many challenges that families are charged to overcome; be it generational abuse, limited opportunities for families who represent equity seeking groups, substance dependence, domestic violence, and/or poverty to name a few. I have had the privilege to be witness to the resilience and grit of the human spirit when individuals are able to overcome these challenges and work towards making an individual change which positively impacts the whole family system. The inspiration to continue on in this work comes from a desire to support and sustain a service response which is person centered, anti-oppressive, creates opportunity for everyone, honors the uniqueness of each individual and at the end of the day, leaves people in a better spot.
There remain some preconceived notions about the role of CAS. Could you explain to us what services are offered through CAS, who you support, and why these services are critical for communities?
Thanks for asking that question, I love to highlight that the majority of our work is with individuals and families in the community. I've often had to dispel the myth that child welfare service responses always include children coming into a foster home. We have been able to create a service response that recognizes children and youth are always a part of a larger network that care and support them and we strive to keep families together while planning for safety. We have a Family Violence Counselling program, as well that is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing abuse or wants to stop using abusive tactics in an intimate partner relationship. Our programs are for children, youth, women and men and are separate but complimentary to our child welfare services. We are a strong service partner and work collaboratively with other services to make sure that we are all working together in a way that supports the community as a whole. In addition, we also have some great programs that are available to everyone in the community, regardless if child welfare service is involved. Our early help offerings in the community include afterschool programs, breakfast programs as well as educational supports so children and youth are able to realize their full potential. We are lucky to have parent volunteers who support the community and are targeted to increasing community belongingness for children and youth.
June is PRIDE month, and we’d like to know what CAS does to ensure kids and youth feel included and seen?
In all of the services we provide, we honor the uniqueness and strength of each individual. This might include having opportunity for mentorship, ensuring our physical space is inclusive or participating in advocacy for children and youth who are struggling in their identity. We strive to offer a service response that resonates for all individuals who receive our service. This includes ensuring that we know who we are serving by asking for identity data which informs our service response for the people we serve. As an organization, we have a strong emphasis upon Equity and Inclusion and are committed to creating a safe service offering everyone by ensuring staff receive training and support in creating a psychologically safe space for all individuals. We have membership with the Rainbow Coalition in our community which has created community training opportunities for all service providers.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about CAS and the work you do in Oxford County?
The main thing that I would like for everyone to know is that as a service resource network, DART’s intention to creating a healthy and vibrant community that is safe and responsive is a goal that The Children’s Aid Society and Family Violence Counselling program is proud to be a part of. Our best hope is that we are a part of a strong service network that is able to connect people to the service they need, regardless of which service they reach out to.