Purple Light Nights is one way local organizations have tried to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Purple Light Nights is one way local organizations have tried to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Despite gains, domestic violence still plagues Abbotsford

Statistics put region in line with national numbers.

Abbotsford-Mission’s rate of domestic violence may be in line with other urban areas in Canada, but those numbers only tell part of the story, according to those who regularly work with victims in the community.

Newly released numbers by Statistics Canada put the Abbotsford-Mission Census Metropolitan Area’s domestic violence rate at 205 cases per 100,000 people in 2013, slightly above the average for Canadian census metropolitan areas, but below the national average when smaller cities and rural areas are factored in.

A total of 361 cases were reported in 2013. Those figures, though, only reflect those cases reported to police, noted Betty Johnston, the interim executive director of the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley (WRSFV), which is based in Mission and provides support services to Mission and Abbotsford families dealing with domestic violence.

“I think there is an awful lot of domestic violence that is going unreported still,” Johnston said. “The incidence of domestic violence is still a challenge in our community and one that we don’t see any decrease in.”

At the same time, there have been positive signs. Asked if women have become more likely to report domestic violence over the past decade, Johnston said: “I would say yes. I think there’s more awareness for the kinds of services that you can expect to find in the community.”

Those services are based out of transition houses that can be accessed by women in violent relationships simply by calling the police, or at the WRSFV’s website at www.wrsfv.ca, which includes information on other services the organization provides.

Lukhvinder Aujla, the supervisor of Abbotsford Community Services’ specialized victim assistance program, agreed that services have improved for the issue.

She pointed to the Domestic Violence Unit, which sees a social worker, a probation officer, ACS personnel and an Abbotsford Police Department officer working together to address high risk situations.

“When you have that co-ordinated approach, you definitely get better results,” Aujla said.

ACS workers also interact with women who have chosen not to report violence to police, but who are looking for information.

“Sometimes they just want to know, ‘If I decide to leave, what’s going to happen?’” Aujla said.

APD Const. Ian MacDonald said that while domestic violence continues to be under-reported, police departments have become better educated, and the public has become more comfortable confronting the issue.

He cited the annual Purple Light Nights campaign, which sees purple lights lit up around the Fraser Valley aimed to raise money and awareness of the issue.

“It’s a devastating thing for not only the victims, but for families to go through,” he said.He also says that it’s important for the community to acknowledge that domestic violence continues to be a problem in the community.

“It’s still a work in progress,” he said.