Domestic violence is a growing problem in Prince Albert according to those who work on the front lines fighting to end the issue.
Carol Soles, executive director of the Prince Albert Safe Shelter for Women, said their 26-bed shelter provided service to 168 individual women during the last fiscal year and had a total of almost 9,000 daily attendants. Of those, she estimated 85 to 90 per cent are victims of domestic violence.
“We were 98 per cent occupied for the year,” Soles told paNOW. “We’re probably up around 8 per cent [over last year].”
Soles said the shelter has seen a recent increase in the number of young women seeking help or refuge, which she said might indicate a rise in domestic violence rates as well as a positive trend of women seeking help earlier in abusive or violent relationships.
“The women are seeking help at a younger age and they’re not staying in that situation for years like previous generations did,” she said. “It’s not looked down upon if you come for help.”
Unfortunately, Soles said, many women who seek shelter from domestic violence are not yet ready to commit to changing their situations and return to abusive partners or relationships, sometimes repeatedly.
Soles said abuse is often a symptom of a larger root-cause issue, and Prince Albert’s ongoing struggles with addictions plays an aggravating role in the city’s domestic violence rate. Alcohol and drugs are the most common, but Soles said mental health or control issues can also contribute to domestic violence.
“We have, in Prince Albert, very high rates of domestic violence. We’re probably among the highest in the country,” Melanie Pederson, director of programs with Catholic Family Services, told paNOW.
According to Pederson, attendance at their various support programs has been steadily rising for years. Like Soles, Pederson noted that could indicate a rise in the levels of public education and awareness rather than a growth in the number of domestic violence cases, but Pederson said the public would be very surprised by the number of people affected by domestic violence in Prince Albert, particularly young people.
“We have a lot of young men and women who really don’t know what is appropriate in a relationship,” she said. “They don’t have a lot of anger management skills or a lot of self-esteem, so those issues all contribute to domestic violence and relationship violence.”
Pederson said their programs have had good success reaching local youth, which gives them the tools to recognize and avoid abusive relationships and allows them to help educate others as well. Many of their clients are self-referred, Pederson said, which is a positive sign because she believed teaching young people about the realities of domestic violence is the best way to combat the issue.
“If we can get out into the community and educate these young people, we’ll see a decrease in these situations,” she said.
On Twitter: @TMacPhersonNews
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