Victims are being thrown into jail for disclosing their experiences of domestic abuse.
I recently had a deep conversation with a dear friend from Canada, whose name I will keep confidential. We were talking about narcissistic relationships and narcissistic abuse. I explained to her the status of domestic abuse in the UK, where previous to 2021 before the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 was passed, most domestic abusers got away with their crimes. I was curious to understand what the situation in Canada is about domestic abuse. The Canadian Women Foundation (2021) posits that every six days, a woman is killed in Canada as a result of domestic violence.
I was horrified to find out that the government is currently arresting both perpetrators and victims of domestic abuse simultaneously. What this means is that when a victim of domestic abuse calls the police for help in Canada, the victim is also placed in jail and if they have children, they are automatically placed in foster care. I was shocked, I could not believe the level of fascism that is taking place in Canada. My first thought was ‘how is the Canadian government getting away with these human rights violations’? As a founding member of the United Nations charter, Canada has international commitments to maintain peace and security.
My friend disclosed to me that a few years ago she had been arrested and placed in jail for three days for calling the police about domestic abuse and to report her perpetrator. It seemed, the police could not make up their minds about how to tackle domestic abuse, so they decided to give equal punishment to both the victim and the perpetrator. This is unacceptable, since there exist international conventions which place a duty on the Canadian government to protect victims. However, what they are doing instead is victimising those who have been abused.
I decided to conduct a little research about it, and found that many women are going through this in Canada, not just my friend. For instance, the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (EVA BC; 2022a) deals with cases of domestic abuse and coordinates interventions to help victims. They have a Community Coordination for Women’s Safety (CCWS) program which formulates and implements strategies to support victims of domestic abuse (EVA BC; 2022b). The CCWS (2010) wrote a report which corroborated my friend’s story. The report (p. 2) states:
‘In recent years, CCWS and EVA BC have received numerous reports from communities of cases involving the arrest of both parties in relationship violence situations. These communities have contacted us to express their concern. They report that women are being arrested even when there is evidence of a history of violence by their male partners’.
Furthermore, they explain the impact that such situation has, such as:
- Less prosecution for these cases.
- More liability for police services.
- Empowerment of the perpetrator to continue the abuse.
- Victimisation of victims.
- Increased potential for homicide.
- Decreased likelihood that victims will disclose or seek help.
- Thwarted access to justice for victims.
- Thwarted attempts to access support for victims.
Similarly, the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (2005) published a report where they highlight the problematic situation of victims of domestic abuse being charged with domestic violence whilst living with abusive men. They made several recommendations which included:
- To take into consideration that women’s use of force is not the same as men’s (often, violence arising from women was self-defence).
- That when it comes to arrests, the dominant aggressor should be identified in a relationship where domestic abuse has taken place.
- That there need to be mechanisms in place to ensure that victims are able to access support services and victim services, which are thwarted by criminalising the victim.
- That more legal aid should be available to women.
Finally, and more recently Grace (2019) reported around the same problematic, persistent, and pervasive issues related to the inappropriate arrests of women in domestic abuse cases. The article explains that whilst the police has a duty to identify the dominant aggressor in a relationship, women continue to be inappropriately arrested in situations of intimate partner violence. She states: ‘Women experience these failures by police as betrayal. Some even feel the police become complicit to their on-going abuse. As a result, women who have been inappropriately charged in situations of intimate partner violence say they would be unwilling to turn to the police for protection in the future, even if they are again victims of violence’. Furthermore, she provides 18 case studies and accounts of this situation.
As it can be seen in this post, the situation of domestic abuse in Canada is a mess. My friend was one of those people who were inappropriately arrested, and who now feels that no one can protect her from domestic violence, because the police themselves are being abusive of their power. This type of human rights violation should not happen in theory, but in practice, as it has been demonstrated, injustice is an everyday experience for many women in Canada. This situation has been going on for a long time, and despite recommendations and updates to policies, it continues to affect victims and to silence their voices through state-sponsored fascism.
Canadian Women Foundation (2021) ‘The facts about gender-based violence’, 29 October [Online]. Available at https://canadianwomen.org/the-facts/gender-based-violence/ (accessed 21 April 2022).
Community Coordination for Women’s Safety (2010) ‘Women Being Arrested’, Ending Violence Association of British Columbia, June [Online]. Available at http://endingviolence.org/files/uploads/eing_Arrested_Backgrounder_Revised_June_2010_0.pdf (accessed 21 April 2022).
Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (2022) ‘About us’ [Online]. Available at https://endingviolence.org/about-us/ (accessed 21 April 2022).
Ending Violence Association of British Columbia (2022) ‘Community Coordination for Women’s Safety (CCWS)’ [Online]. Available at https://endingviolence.org/prevention-programs/ccws-program (accessed 21 April 2022).
Grace, A. (2019) ‘“They Just Don’t Care”: Women Charged with Domestic Violence in Ottawa’, Manitoba Law Journal 153 [Online]. Available at https://www.canlii.org/en/commentary/doc/2019CanLIIDocs2790 (accessed 21 April 2022).
Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (2005) ‘Women Charged with Domestic Violence in Toronto: The Unintended Consequences of Mandatory Charge Policies’, March [Online]. Available at http://www.oaith.ca/assets/files/Publications/womenchargedfinal.pdf (accessed 21 April 2022).
Photo by NEOSiAM 2021: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-s-hands-covered-with-blood-673862/