News Post #2 Question #2
by wmcphee56 on March 16, 2017 - 10:42pm
Are Spousal Violence Policies Doing Enough in Ontario?
Both the social and legal view of domestic violence has recently undergone an incredibly necessary reform in the modern era. However, there is still a great need for improvement in this field. While law and policies have transformed into a system of harsher punishment for offenders, domestic violence remains one of the least reported crimes in Canada, with an estimated 70% of cases never being reported to the police (Statistics Canada, 2016). Within this sample size, there is clear indication that this is a gendered crime and, especially at its most volatile state, sees clear gender roles in the victims and offenders. Women are almost four times more likely to be victims of Domestic violence and make up 83% of the victims in spousal violence cases in Ontario (Statistics Canada, 2016). For this population of female victims, Ontario is not providing the protection necessary to live a safe, normal life after spousal abuse.
If the current justice system is creating adequate protection for these female victims, why are so few choosing to utilize it? What problems are caused by this mass under-reporting? While some victims fear the social fallout of having this information become public, most victims claim they are attempting to “fix” their partners. Since over 60% of first time male spousal violence offenders recommit the offence (Statistics Canada 2016), this creates a problematic situation. Victimized women on average return to their abusive male partner up to five times before permanently ending the relationship and in this instance, become six times more likely to victims of spousal homicide by their ex-partner (OMSW, 2016). This leads to many women being victimized multiple times before finally reporting it to the police. In order to counteract this, new policy has been implemented for police to place charges on offenders if there is evidence of spousal abuse, regardless of the wishes of the victim to press charges. In theory, this system provides forced prosecution but, can actually prove to be harmful for the victim. Since 19% (OMSW, 2015) of female victims do not report their spousal violence incidents out of fear of the offender, this can lead to further violent interaction, even if the romantic relationship has ended. For example, 15% (OMSW, 2015) of female victims receive a restraining or protection order against their abusers yet, a third of these court issues paroles are breached and victims face further interaction with their abusers.
In the situations where abuse is actually reported, 28% (Statistics Canada, 2016) of female victims reported a lack of satisfaction with the services provided by police. While a 72% rate of satisfaction with how cases are handled is an improvement on previous numbers, this is not even close high enough. “Not being satisfied” in this case refers to the existence of a large female population of victims who still fear what can happen or could happen. The 28% represents a population of terrified, real people who are more than just a statistic. These are mothers, family members, friends and coworkers. It is not acceptable that over a quarter of these victims are left without solution and face further abuse. The number of victims who live their life with constant fear expands when the possible number of unreported cases is considered. These victims fear further violence, sexual abuse, and harassment for not only themselves but their family and friends around them. Over 40% (Statistics Canada, 2016) of female spousal homicide offenders had previously experienced some form of abuse from their partners, a number that can be drastically reduced with a higher satisfaction rate from initial abuse victims.
This evidence indicates that, in its current state, Ontario does not yet provide the structure needed to properly protect the dominantly female population of spousal violence. The need for further reform in the procedures is glaring especially considering the fact that a specific gender population is dominantly targeted. The legal system is the one of the extremely limited options for victims, absolute protection is a necessary goal.