A victim of domestic violence awoke to find her abuser sitting on her bed in the middle of the night Sunday yelling that he wished she were dead.
The violence is just one of numerous such calls the police and local social agencies deal with nearly every day. And it’s led the B.C. government to announce more funding for the newly launched Province of Domestic Violence.
On Sunday night, the victim said, she suffered not one, but two encounters with her abuser when he thwarted police the first time only to return a few hours later.
The aggression began just after 1 a.m. when the woman’s 44-year-old estranged husband broke into the North Shore home where she lives with her six daughters and two grandchildren.
The woman said she awoke to the man swearing at her and watched as he grabbed a bedside phone and raised it above his head as though intending to throw it at her.
She escaped, grabbed her nine-year-old daughter who was sleeping in the same room and ran and hid underneath the basement stairs with her other daughters aged 23, 13, 12, 11 and 10.
The suspect left the house and was yelling on the front lawn when a family member bolted the doors and a call was placed to 911.
Police responders couldn’t find the suspect. After a time, officers left to continue searching for the suspect, according to a police news release.
At 3:55 a.m., the oldest daughter heard noises and called police. The officers began a room-to-room search of the house and found the suspect sitting on a bed in one of the upstairs rooms.
The man was arrested and while being searched, a large dagger style knife was found hidden in the small of his back. He was also carrying a small quantity of marijuana.
The suspect has a history of violence including previous domestic disputes, said police. He was under court orders related to previous domestic violence involving on his former wife and family.
On Monday, he was in custody facing possible charges of break and enter, breach of recognizance, possession of a weapon and possession of drugs.
It was unclear whether the man would remain in custody after his first appearance, leading to some familiar frustration among police and social agencies dedicated to domestic violence.
“The judges are bound to weigh all the circumstances and wherever reasonable they will release,” said Staff Sgt. Grant Learned. “My experience has been that wherever possible the courts try to release people, which is often frustrating for other people in the police or Crown system because you have individuals who are offenders with what you feel to be a high risk to re-offend.”
Michele Walker, executive director of the YWCA women’s shelter for victims of violence, said the justice system is often inadequate in addressing the realities of dynamics within abusive relationships.
“We maybe don’t have the best interest of the women at heart,” said Walker. “And some of our laws don’t always protect women victims of violence.”
Court rulings for conditions of release may even put women in danger, said Walker.
For example, court justices may believe they’re empowering a woman by ordering that the abuser may contact the woman, but she can demand that he leave whenever she wants. The reality of power dynamics makes such an order dangerous to the victim.
“Giving that responsibility to a woman who is in a position where she already does not have the power to be able to do something like that puts her a greater risk,” said Walker.
Walker said the problem in Kamloops is spiking as proven by a 16 per cent increase in police calls and a 23-bed shelter that’s been consistently full for about nine months.
“And that’s only a small percentage of what’s actually happening out in the community,” she said.
An increasing population and financial struggles during a bad economic climate are huge factors, said Walker.
“That adds to the pressures that families feel and… violence against women are exacerbated because of that.”
But there’s hope with a newly announced Provincial Office of Domestic Violence, which last week announced additional funding of $878,000 for eight new staff members.
Several B.C. ministries, including children and family development, and justice are collaborating on recommendations made after Allan Schoenborn killed his children Kaitlynne, 10, Max, 8, and Cordon, 5, in Merritt.
An investigation led by B.C.'s representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond found the 2008 deaths could have been prevented.
Her report details how the family was involved with police, the mental health system and the Ministry of Children and Family Development over a nine-year period as Schoenborn's common-law wife, Darcie Clarke, struggled to deal with his mental health issues.
“Just the fact that the provincial government is following up recommendations from the Shoenborn report is a really good sign,” said Walker.
With the funding, eight new staff members will work on co-ordinating government programs and services in all B.C. communities.
A comprehensive provincial plan responding to domestic violence with community stakeholders will be ready for full implementation in 2013.