Some Calgarians forced to leave domestic violent situations around the holidays.
The holiday season is supposed to be a time for families to come together, but many families in Calgary might not feel the same. Domestic violent situations tend to rip families apart.
According to a statement released from the Calgary Family Services, various shelters see an increase in violence around the holiday season.
One of these people who went through the system is David, who preferred to keep his full identity anonymous out of respect for his mother.
“Growing up, I had a verbally and physically abusive stepdad,” David said.
“He tossed me around a few times and called me names when he was frustrated.”
In 2012, the Calgary Police Service was called nearly 16,000 times from people looking for assistance in regards to domestic violence.
Reported crimes of domestic violence rose by 10 per cent between 2007 and
Photo illustration by Andrew Szekeres 2011.
Acting staff sergeant John Guigon with the CPS has been helping to curb domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is not something that is clear-cut that we can just simply deal with,” Guigon said.
“It’s unrealistic to think that the police come and the situation simply just ends.”
Guigon said that police are just one part of the solution to the problem; the issue needs a long-term response from the community to prevent more violence, he said.
A department manager with the Calgary Family Services, who wanted her identity to remain anonymous for the safety of her children, was also once involved in a domestic violent relationship.
She said though she was abused physically, she considered the psychological abuse worse.
“I think I would have rather been hit many times and get it over with than to deal with the mental abuse,” said the department manager.
She said that the police would come to diffuse the situation, but since there wasn’t enough physical evidence, no charges were filed.
Guigon said that it that it can be hard to prove non-physical abuse.
“That’s why we have to record information about the supposed domestic disputes,” Guigon said.
“So other agencies can come in to try to prevent the abuse from continuing.”
Christine is another former victim of psychological domestic violence, who left her situation a little under a year ago.
She is a current student at Mount Royal University who wanted to keep her full identity anonymous for her own protection.
“He would torture me mentally,” Christine said.
“He would call me stupid for disagreeing with him, would always tell me that my life is worthless and he could do better than me.”
Christmas is supposed to be happy
The situation worsened for Christine around the holiday season. It became so severe that Christine became depressed and attempted to commit suicide two days before Christmas.
“I woke up one morning and just didn’t want to get up,” Christine said as she tried to hold back tears.
“Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, but I thought my life was pointless and I was too afraid to tell anyone.”
Christine said she began to cut her arms and was considering on taking her own life before she decided to phone the YWCA.
“I thought that this would be my last shot at trying to get help,” Christine said.
“Since he wasn’t there, they told me to leave immediately.”
David could likely relate to Christine’s story as he and his mother left around the holiday season as well.
“One morning we celebrated Christmas,” David said. “The next we left before my stepdad woke up.”
David said he and his family went to the nearest police station to inform them of the situation and they were then taken to the YWCA.
The YWCA then helped them file a restraining order before moving David and his family into subsidized housing.
Effects of domestic violence
While the short-term effects are monitored, Christine said that there is not enough focus on other areas.
“I think too many people are concerned only with the short-term effects of domestic violence and don’t focus on the long-term effects,” Christine said.
The long-term effects are still felt by David.
“There were scars that I had left over that affected my first marriage,” David said.
“My first wife left me because I mentally pushed her around and brought fear into our relationship.
“I didn’t realize it, but I was becoming my stepdad.”
According to the CPS between 2010 and 2011, domestic-related victims fell 6% to 2796 people affected by domestic violence.
Where to seek help
The department manager at the family services said that Calgary is improving in helping people with domestic violence.
“There are many services available now to help people both in escaping and with the long-term effects of domestic violence,” said the department manager.
Guigon, a former member of the Domestic Conflict Unit, said that Calgarians have the YWCA, HomeFront, Calgary Family Services and Hull Services as places people could turn to when affected by domestic violence.
But for some like David and Christine, the holidays will be a time for people to recall the memories of what happened.
“Christmas will always remind me of how bad things can get,” David said. “But I’m thankful every Christmas for my mother and how she helped me escape.”
Christine said, “I have my life back and I’m finally proud to be me again.”