Wetaskiwin Victims Services is on front lines

Alberta, traditionally, has the second highest rate of domestic violence in Canada, according to StatsCan.

Petra Pfeiffer

Petra Pfeiffer

If readers wonder if Alberta has a domestic violence problem, wonder no longer. Alberta, traditionally, has the second highest rate of domestic violence in Canada, according to StatsCan.

The problem exists across the province, including Wetaskiwin and the surrounding area. Wetaskiwin and District Victim Services executive director Petra Pfeiffer said the problem of violence and abuse in homes affects people from all walks of life.

“In Wetaskiwin, it goes through every culture, every ethnicity, every income threshold,” she said Feb. 10 at the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment.

“It can happen in any household, really.”

Cst. M. Johnson, a member of the domestic violence unit at the Wetaskiwin detachment, agreed. “Every walk of life,” she said, noting it exists in every community including Wetaskiwin.

Pfeiffer said domestic violence incidents are probably one of the most common files at the Wetaskiwin RCMP detachment. Johnson agreed, noting the detachment gets about 40 calls a month about domestic violence, and the detachment gets roughly 120 total calls a month.

Victim Services has a specific family violence support worker at the detachment who works very closely with those involved in the calls, noted Pfeiffer. Also, at the detachment the domestic violence unit worker has training pertaining to this issue. Johnson noted the unit conducts investigations and also keeps in contact with other agencies to ensure long-term problems are being addressed.

Johnson said domestic violence calls range in severity from shouting and shoving to serious issues like assault.

The factors leading to domestic violence can include substances like drugs and alcohol; mental health issues can also be linked to both substance abuse and domestic abuse, which makes the issue even more complex.

Pfeiffer noted that Victim Services is not a counseling service; rather, the organization is trained as a “first responder,” which involves referring people to other community agencies who offer programs such as counseling.

They both noted there are some resources available as well for abusers, some are court mandated. The Family Violence Centre and Primary Care Network are instrumental in a number of programs.

Pfeiffer also pointed out an important distinction: some abuse, like physical violence, can be Criminal Code level, while some is not. Johnson stated abuse can take many forms, not always physical: verbal, emotional and financial to name a few.

Pfeiffer stated counseling options can include help for people who aren’t suffering physical abuse, and also for victims who don’t want to leave an abusive relationship.

She noted Wetaskiwin Victim Service Unit provides crisis intervention services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but added that the office is not staffed 24 hours a day: if an emergency requires police, ambulance or fire services please call 911.

But Johnson said violence in a relationship is always a serious issue. “The RCMP takes domestic violence very seriously,” she said. “If you’re in a relationship where you’re experiencing violence, the police take that seriously.”

Pfeiffer agreed violence should not be part of everyday family life. “Depending on the situation, if they feel their life is in danger, they should call the police.”

A lot of information about domestic violence is available online at www.vsuwetaskiwin.com, or by calling Victim Services at 780-312-7287.