BE ALERT TO SIGNS OF ABUSE
The people of Saskatchewan take great pride in their kindness and community spirit. We stop to help someone whose car is broken down along the side of the road. We take dinner to a neighbour who just had a new baby. We raise money for a person who has cancer.
But somewhere along the line, our society missed properly learning how to recognize and offer help to some of the most vulnerable people: those suffering from domestic abuse and violence.
Consider these statistics, laid out in the Saskatchewan Domestic Violence Death Review Interim Report released in May of this year. Saskatchewan has the highest intimate partner homicide rate and sexual and physical violence rate against children (1.7 and 2.3 times the national rate respectively). Six of the 10 communities in Canada with the highest rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls are in northern Saskatchewan.
Putting names and faces to numbers can be heart-wrenching. Last week, the tragic story of Lisa Strang was told in a Regina courtroom. For reasons even her husband can’t explain, he shot her in the head and back as she paid the couple’s monthly bills. But the court also heard the story of a woman who had gradually been lost to her family by a controlling spouse.
“To our great disappointment, (Strang) came between us,” the family wrote in a statement. They said Lisa could go nowhere unless John was present. “This resulted in her growing apart from all her family and friends and later in a growing depression … In many ways, we lost her years before John took her from us.”
There are more names we came to know too late: Latasha Gosling, Shirley Parkinson, Sandeep Kaur Tehara, Abbie Speir, Stacey Knutson, Heather Ballantyne. These are just some of the women who are believed to have been lost at the hands of a partner or family member.
Those left behind are tortured by questions about what they could have done to stop the abuse and prevent their deaths. In memory of those who have died, the people of Saskatchewan need to ask uncomfortable questions.
Express concern. Offer specific help. You can’t rescue someone, but you can offer a lifeline. Be honest with the person you think is being abused, and trust your suspicions and intuition.
For some time, Ontario has been reviewing deaths where domestic violence is involved. In the coming months, Saskatchewan will begin to follow suit. This is an important step to understanding why our province has this problem.