Intimate Partner Violence
I had the opportunity to attend an excellent one-day program on March 27th, 2015 put on by the Ottawa High Conflict Forum titled: “Can We Talk? Intimate Partner Violence: What is it? Who does it affect?” The program brought together a diverse group of professionals: lawyers, law enforcement officers, mediators, social workers, teachers, mental health professionals and policy makers – all of whom address the (unfortunately) widespread incidence of domestic violence.
Dr. Robin Deutsch of the Centre of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology led the program and shared the wealth of her research and experience in this area. She shared some pretty daunting statistics with us, including: in 2010, there were almost 100,000 victims of family violence in Canada – a figure that represents 25% of all violent crime in our country.
Intimate Partner Violence (“IPV”) is more than physical abuse. The term encompasses and refers to physical, sexual, economic, psychological and coercive-controlling conduct.
What I found to be the most disturbing aspect of the presentation was not only the pervasiveness of the problem (identified in both urban and rural areas and impacting persons of all socio-economic levels), but the significant number of children who are effected by IPV. A study done in 2011 showed approximately half of the children in separating families bore witness to violence between their parents – a devastating statistic. And those that were not eye witnesses were nonetheless subjected to the after-effects of IPV through the emotional unavailability of their parents and the change in disciplinary practices often adopted in the household (be it harsher or inappropriately lenient.) IPV that leads to the separation of the parents presents a whole other array of issues: potential relocation; instability; financial repercussions; parental alienation.
We often think that children are resilient; that they can adapt and get over traumatic events in their early lives. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that. Somewhere between 50% and 66% of child witnesses to IPV do not demonstrate such resilience. Instead, studies show that those children are more inclined to adult criminality, adult depression, low self-esteem and they tend to develop a greater tolerance or use of violence as an adult.
The program focussed on identifying IPV and how to effectively address it when it presents in a case before us (be it, by way of example, at a women’s shelter, on a family law file or during a C.A.S. investigation.) I found it incredible to learn of the number of agencies and resources we have in our community dedicated to address this problem. I am sure I was not the only one who left the auditorium that day wondering: How can we break the cycle of violence? When will it ever end?[ssba]