New Year’s Day brings spike in domestic abuse
University of Calgary study suggests numbers are just ‘the tip of the iceberg’
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.