A new law being introduced in Saskatchewan will help people go to the police and learn if their current partner has a history of domestic violence.
Clare’s Law is one of the recommendations contained in a report from Saskatchewan’s Domestic Violence Death Review Panel.
Jo-Anne Dusel, executive director of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS), said it’s great to see the province take on this initiative.
“Domestic violence death reviews are an excellent way to discover gaps in services, perhaps ways in which our government systems could be improved and ways in which members of the general public could assist in preventing future tragedies from occurring,” she said.
Dusel said reviews can help create plans for changes to policies, procedures and public education to ensure domestic violence doesn’t happen in the future.
One of the most significant findings of these reviews, according to Dusel, is there are always people who are aware there was violence occurring in the relationship or at least they thought things weren’t ok.
“There may not have been a ton of physical violence but signs of things like one partner controlling the other, isolating them from family and friends, maybe preventing them from going to work,” Dusel said.
She said in all cases, the person witnessing the violence did not know how to respond or safely intervene.
“They didn’t know how to talk to the individuals, whether it be the victim or the perpetrator and say ‘I’m worried about you, are you ok? Is there something I can do to help?’ So people weren’t being offered services that were out there,” Dusel said.
With Clare’s Law being introduced to the province, Dusel said it’s important because one of the greatest predictors of future behaviour is past behaviour.
“We know that, consistently, a history of domestic violence by the perpetrator is a predictor of future risk and in fact, future homicide,” she explained.
Another way to help decrease domestic violence, according to Dusel, is improving funding around programs that address children who witness domestic violence.
She said it’s extremely important to provide services early on.
“Early exposure to domestic violence is a predictor to become either a victim or perpetrator later in life. These are traumatic events, even if the child isn’t in the same room where violence is occurring, they’re either within earshot often times or they’re just feeling or sensing tension in the home,” Dusel explained.
These situations have a direct and immediate impact on a child and can lead to long-term issues.
Dusel said some studies have shown that perpetrators of domestic homicide have a very high likelihood of having experienced multiple traumas as a child, including witnessing violence in their own home.
By providing resources for kids, it’s a way to interrupt that inter-generational cycle.
With Saskatchewan having the highest rate of domestic violence and domestic homicide, Dusel said the best thing we can do as a province is change our cultural norms.
Changing our cultural norms includes recognizing signs that someone is in a situation that could lead to domestic violence of homicide.
“In Saskatchewan, we may still feel that family violence, domestic violence is a private matter, it’s not something we talk about and it’s not something we feel comfortable reaching out for help for, especially if you happen to be someone who’s at risk of committing violence,” Dusel said.
She said there’s a lot of stigmas attached to the topic and having a public education campaign can help bring it out into the open and make it easier for people to reach out for help.