New Year’s Day brings spike in do­mes­tic abuse

Univer­sity of Cal­gary study sug­gests num­bers are just ‘the tip of the ice­berg’

Calgary Herald - - CITY+REGION - YOLANDE COLE [email protected]­media.com

A new Univer­sity of Cal­gary study in­di­cates do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dents in the city spike on Jan. 1.

The re­port from the School of Pub­lic Pol­icy found that dur­ing the hol­i­day pe­riod of Dec. 22 to Jan. 10, an av­er­age of about 10 to 12 oc­cur­rences of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence are recorded each day. That num­ber rises dra­mat­i­cally on New Year’s Day, to an av­er­age of more than 45 in­ci­dents.

The find­ings are based on Cal­gary po­lice data from 2013 to 2017, and are fo­cused on oc­cur­rences of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence that re­sult in po­lice in­ter­ven­tion and sat­isfy a def­i­ni­tion of crim­i­nal be­hav­iour used by Statis­tics Canada.

“If you opened up your news­pa­per on Jan. 1 and you read that there were 45 as­saults out­side of bars in down­town Cal­gary that night, there would be quite the

If you read there were 45 as­saults out­side of bars in down­town Cal­gary that night, there would be quite the head­line

head­line,” Ron Knee­bone, the coau­thor of the study, said. “And yet this hap­pens ev­ery year on Jan. 1 in pri­vate homes, and so there’s very lit­tle at­ten­tion paid to it.”

Knee­bone said the study does not in­clude in­ci­dents that are not com­ing to the at­ten­tion of po­lice, mean­ing these num­bers are the “tip of the ice­berg.”

Heather Mor­ley, vice-pres­i­dent of pro­grams and ser­vices at YW Cal­gary, said about 80 per cent of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence goes un­re­ported. She said the re­port paints “a re­ally stark pic­ture” — one the or­ga­ni­za­tion sees ev­ery day.

“Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence is a 365-daya-year is­sue, but what we’ve cer­tainly seen is quite star­tling — that spike on Jan. 1 in par­tic­u­lar.”

She noted that hol­i­days don’t cause do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, nor does al­co­hol con­sump­tion. “But what stresses of the hol­i­day sea­son does is ex­ac­er­bates when there’s al­ready ten­sion and abu­sive be­hav­iour hap­pen­ing in a home.

“And it’s star­tling to think that, on av­er­age, 45 fam­i­lies are hav­ing a po­lice re­sponse to their home be­cause of the sever­ity of the do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.”

Staff Sgt. Paul Wozney with the Cal­gary po­lice do­mes­tic con­flict unit said po­lice do see a sig­nif­i­cant rise in do­mes­tic calls for ser­vice and do­mes­tic as­saults over the Christ­mas pe­riod.

“The rates of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in our com­mu­nity are noth­ing short of alarm­ing and cause for con­cern, and we con­tinue to do every­thing that we can to try to pro­vide as­sis­tance to these fam­i­lies and to try to en­cour­age vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence to come for­ward to seek as­sis­tance,” Wozney said.

Ac­cord­ing to the School of Pub­lic Pol­icy study, the to­tal num­ber of re­ported do­mes­tic vi­o­lence oc­cur­rences has in­creased in Cal­gary in each of the past five years, from 2,795 in­ci­dents in 2013 to 4,847 in 2017.

Knee­bone cited aca­demic re­search that has high­lighted hol­i­days, sport­ing events and the fi­nan­cial stress from de­te­ri­o­rat­ing eco­nomic con­di­tions as be­ing as­so­ci­ated with the tim­ing of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in­ci­dents.

Mor­ley en­cour­aged any­one strug­gling with the in­ten­sity of emo­tions around the hol­i­days to reach out to sup­port agen­cies.

“It’s not just that crit­i­cal net­work of pro­fes­sional agen­cies and the po­lice re­sponse and the hos­pi­tals, but we as in­di­vid­ual ci­ti­zens play an im­por­tant role in terms of be­ing a by­s­tander and be­ing the sup­port,” she said.

Ron Knee­bone

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