Domestic Violence on the Rise in Inuvik
Women the Offenders in Almost Half the Cases

Samantha Stokell
Oct. 18, 2011

While men still have more charges laid against them in domestic violence cases than women, the number of women charged has risen drastically in Inuvik in the past year.

So far in 2011 RCMP have laid 57 charges of domestic violence in Inuvik, 23 of those against women. In 2010 only 22 charges against women were laid all year in domestic violence cases, and there are still 10 weeks left.

“In 23 cases, females were the primary aggressors. They did the domestic violence,” said Const. Amanda Lowe. “You can’t just say the victim will be female. Females are definitely the offenders as well.”

Lowe said that doesn’t necessarily mean 23 different females will be charged with domestic violence; it could be the same offender receiving multiple charges. These numbers however likely don’t represent true case numbers.

“A lot goes unreported,” Lowe said. “Victims don’t want to report at the time, but a lot come in the next day to report. They can report at any time.”

Domestic violence is a huge issue in the North and the GNWT is in the second stage of a family violence action plan. The NWT faces a domestic violence rate of 12 per cent of the population, while the rest of Canada sits at seven per cent.

Lowe said it’s very high in Inuvik compared to other communities. The majority of calls the RCMP receives involve alcohol, and are generally repeat offenders.

“We do see repeat offenders and if it isn’t a repeat offender, it’s a young person,” Lowe said. “If it’s getting into a heated argument with property thrown around, it’s best to completely remove yourself from the situation, go to a neighbour or, if you’re sober, go for a drive. They can call the RCMP at that time and we can keep the peace.”

Charges will be laid against the aggressor in all cases, whether the victim desires it or not, because it is a domestic situation and victims often have trust in the person.

“Most times they don’t want to charge the husband or partner because they think it’s a one-time thing,” Lowe said. “But our policy is to charge for domestics. The RCMP doesn’t take the situation lightly if an offence was committed.”

Most charges are either assault or uttering threats. Once the RCMP are called, they also ensure the safety of the victim by taking them to the women’s shelter in Inuvik or to family or a friends’ house. RCMP officers then complete paperwork for the aggressor, a 13-question survey that looks at the history of the offender and victim and if they have other violent offences. If offenders receive a high score, the RCMP seek Crown counsel to hold the offender in custody.

Due to the high number of reoffenders, efforts are made to rehabilitate aggressors through alcohol counselling and/or anger management.

If someone fears for their safety, there are options for them before violence actually occurs. An emergency protection order can be ordered without a charge and potential victims don’t have to go through the RCMP, although they can issue the orders as well.

They can contact the Alison McAteer House in Yellowknife toll free at 1-866-223-7775 to receive the order through a justice of peace, 24 hours a day.

The emergency protection order lasts for three months and is specific to domestic violence cases. If someone is fearful of their spouse, they get an order and if it is breached, a charge is then laid. Conditions such as keeping distance, consumption of alcohol and other intoxicating substances would be put in place.

Inuvik victim services can also help people if they don’t want to contact the RCMP. If there are children in place during an incident, social services are called for the children’s safety. Lowe urges victims to report any abuse because the situation will get worse.

“It starts at the lower end of aggression and will get more and more violent” Lowe said. “There might be no injuries or they are minor and they will go back until the level of assault will result in injuries getting worse and worse.”

Lowe also urges neighbours to call the RCMP if they hear an assault happening, but warn it is a risky situation to enter, so people should do only what they feel comfortable doing.

“Domestics are really, really violent situations and it’s a risky position to enter as an officer because there’s usually alcohol,” Lowe said. “The victim can turn on police as well. Domestics are a high priority so we should be there as fast as we can.”

Domestic violence includes physical, mental, emotional and financial.