Bruises aren’t the only signs of domestic violence. Other signs can be subtle, but equally telling.
Signs might include someone who can never stay after or be involved in anything outside of work, only goes out with his or her partner, or has no money, phone, or vehicle of their own. Being deprived of personal things most people normally have can be a form of domestic violence.
Const. Sheila Dow, domestic violence coordinator of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) northwest division, said, “Isolation, control, and intimidation are surprisingly common. If you suspect domestic violence, call the police.”
Dow added, “Within the workplace, watch if colleagues have injuries and the explanations don’t seem normal.” If a co-worker takes excessive sick days, then returns with obvious, odd, or defensive injuries (such as on the arms and forearms), it might be time to act.
Police encourage family members, neighbours, or victims to call and keep calling. Dow said, “We can only become aware by people making that phone call.”
The Domestic Violence Reduction Strategy Program, initiated in 2011, insists every identified domestic violence file receives some level of intervention. If signs of trauma, injury, or fear provide reasonable cause, police can charge even if the witness or the victim is unwilling.
“Our approach is to deal with the victim and when to provide support. We talk with victims, providing info on counselling and methods for assistance. The goal is to reach out with assistance and be as supportive as possible,” Dow said.
The powerlessness of the victims to leave the abusive cycle speaks to the complexity of the process. During the time it takes victims to leave, the EPS utilizes other investigative techniques to assist in keeping families safe.
“Domestic violence is only one piece of the trauma,” said Sue Languedoc, executive director of the Aboriginal Counseling Services Association of Alberta. Often intergenerational trauma traps people in the cycle.
“We run a Circle of Safety Family Violence 20-week program for Indigenous women, a 16-week program for men who have abused their partner, and a concurrent 20-week program for children who have witnessed the abuse.”
When experiencing domestic violence, the brain goes into the survival mode of fight, flight, or freeze, a physiological response to being threatened.
Languedoc explained victims in survival mode find it impossible to learn anything, to make changes, and believe choice exists. “We have learned the pivotal way to help people is to provide resources that settle or relax them.”
These resources can include smudge, prayer, grounding, or talking quietly to someone. Everybody’s nervous system is different. When supported, people are able to move beyond survival mode. The brain can learn, helping the victim identify domestic violence, grasp concepts, and recognize red flags and types of abuse. When people’s brains are freed and open to learning, they recognize there are other choices and entertain the idea that they can change.
Languedoc said, “That’s when we start to see change.” The 16-20 week program is only a beginning.
During Languedoc’s years of experience with domestic violence, she has seen huge successes. The men’s program is court approved, meets provincial standards, and fits with the Indigenous community. “It is a delicate balance in supporting men who are victims and perpetrators. We do not make excuses for the abusive behaviour.”
Many abusive people blame others. “When we see the finger pointing towards themselves, they start to recognize they are a big part of the problem.”
During that transition, things start to change. Both victims and abusers need non-judgemental support. “We see that need in dads, too. When they have supports and their brain is freed up to learn, we see how much they want to be a good partner and a good dad but no one taught them.”
Languedoc said it is inspiring to see some participants at the end of the 20 weeks realize they can make changes even though they are scared.
Knowing supports exist removes the isolation factor of domestic violence.
911: Emergency services/immediate danger
#377 or 780.423.4567: EPS non-emergency line
Family Violence Information Line (toll-free): 310.1818
Today Family Violence Help Centre: 780.455.6880
City of Edmonton, Individual & Family Well-being: 780.496.4777
Visit ratcreek.org for more resources.
Alberta Works: 780.644.5135 for short-term financial support for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and health coverage to flee abuse.
Catholic Social Services: 780.423.1137
Courthouse: 780.422.9222 for restraining order or Emergency Protection Order (EPO).
Edmonton Violence Prevention Centre: edmontonvpc.ca/contact-us/
EPS: can offer financial support and the ability to leave a rental lease without penalties for victims fleeing abuse. A social worker team can provide a cell phone.
211: Confidential access to social, health, government services, and other resources.
Family Law Information Centre: 780.415.0404
FINDS Furnishing Hope: 780.988.1717 for furniture and gently used household items.
Stop Abuse In Families (SAIF): 780.460.2195
Support Network: 780.482.HELP
The Family Violence Prevention Centre: 780.423.1635
WIN House: 780.479.0058
Featured Image: Signs of domestic abuse can be as obvious as bruises or much more subtle. | Pixabay