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Letter: Advocating for victims of domestic violence

A letter to the Estevan Mercury editor from a local woman advocating for victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence, abuse, victims, help
Bienfait woman advocated for victims of domestic violence.

Dear editor:   

I have been advocating for victims of domestic violence for 10 months now. The more reading, researching and talking I do, the more roadblocks I am finding. 

Saskatchewan has the highest rate of domestic violence in all of Canada.

The pandemic has really taken a toll on our mental health system. I am seeing and hearing of many more domestic violence offences, but the vicious cycle of the honeymoon phase sucks the victim back into the abuse and in the end we have fatalities and statistics, because victims cannot find a safe place to go and get help and counselling to learn a healthy way to live.  

That being said, I believe we need stiffer fines and stiffer sentences. Police need to be able to hand out more no-contact orders. Social services and child protection services (CPS) should be able to check on child visits that are court-ordered after a no-contact is overturned, and social services and CPS should be writing reports so judges have to reconsider the visitation they have made for the offender. 

When there was a no-contact order in place, judges should always start with a supervised visitation. Why should the children, victims of domestic violence, be put back into the same house after watching the abuse for eight years with no support and no safety plan in place? 

The File Hills Tribal Council in Fort Qu'Appelle has a 52-week domestic violence prevention program. Please look into this program as I believe it would help victims and perpetrators to learn a healthy way to live in a relationship.

I propose an online anger management course should be done on a Zoom platform, in a group setting. That way perpetrators are learning from others how to change the anger, what is healthy, what is not acceptable, and how to calm yourself before the gasket blows. 

I would also like to see a domestic violence course in high schools. We should be educating the students as to what is acceptable and what is not in relationships. A lot of children live every day of their lives in homes that have domestic violence and have no idea that homes have love and compassion, not just someone telling them they are stupid, they are bad, they don't know anything. They’re never hearing they did well, they tried their hardest, to be kind, do something nice for someone each day, please and thank you, or “I love you no matter what.”

How would you feel, if when your family walks in your door, they are blaming themselves for everything that went wrong, questioning if they did the right thing by leaving, and are wanting to go back? They have been put through the wringer, are mentally and emotionally exhausted, fearing for their lives, being stalked, being tracked, and have had every text message read and every phone call listened to. It became the saddest day of my life. It takes a lot of time to love these victims back to believing in themselves.  

I am advocating for all the fatalities and statistics,  and all the spouses (male, female, gay, lesbian, etc.), and all the children that have to live this life as they cannot find a safe place to get to, and no family to support them. 

Thank God I am retired and have time to look into all this research, write emails, make phone calls and ask questions. Most people fleeing domestic violence do not have the time, they are mentally and emotionally exhausted and cannot think straight and are overwhelmed to even start this prolonged fight for themselves. 

Please help me to call or write every government person you can find a number for. The government has increased impaired driving punishments numerous times; now it is time to increase domestic violence sentences before we lose our loved ones forever. 

Sandy Hedstrom,