Amy Campbell from Lloydminster, Alta., is a domestic violence survivor and knows first-hand the horrors of violent homes.
“I was young, I was blind [to the potential for violence], and I had no idea what was going on in my life because I had never seen abuse before,” Campbell told the Calgary Journal.
In 2011, Campbell’s ex-boyfriend was convicted in the killing of their 6-month-old son , Camden, in a drunken rage. Campbell, who was 22 at the time, said her life was forever changed.
“My whole world was torn out from under me,” Campbell said. “Not only did I lose my son, I lost my house, and I lost who I thought was a good partner at the time.”
According to Lana Wells, a researcher from the University of Calgary’s department of social work, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba have the highest rates of reported domestic violence.
“I would say it’s high across Canada, high rates of violence against women … and that there’s lots of drivers as the causes of violence against women and domestic violence,” Wells said.
A 2016 study -- which is the most recent data available according to Wells – reports that Alberta has the third highest rate of women affected by violence in the home.
In another study completed by Wells it states, “Every hour of everyday a woman in Alberta will undergo some form of interpersonal violence from an ex-partner or ex-spouse.”
This past November, Saskatchewan became the first Canadian province to introduce legislation that would allow law enforcement to disclose a person’s violent past to their intimate partner under certain circumstances.
It’s called the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Act or Clare’s Law—and Wells says it could be beneficial if adopted in Alberta as a way to curb violence that’s already happening.
The law is named after Clare Wood who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2009 in the United Kingdom.
Wood’s family was informed after her death that her ex-boyfriend had previously served jail time for a violent sexual assault, according to Jo-Anne Dusel, the executive director for the Provincial Association Transitional Housing (PATH) in Regina. The bill is currently in its second reading at the Saskatchewan Legislature and is expected to pass in spring 2019.
“Every hour of everyday a woman in Alberta will undergo some form of interpersonal violence from an ex-partner or ex-spouse.” - Lana Wells
While Wells said Clare’s Law wouldn’t prevent violence against women, she suggested it could be one tool for women to use. The law would allow family and law enforcement to intervene once a person is already involved in a violent relationship.
According to Wells, education is the best way to reduce the rates of violence against women and prevent it from happening.
“I think as a society, as a community and as a government and civil society we should be thinking about ways to stop it from happening in the first place and investing in strategies that actually prevent the next generation from experiencing or perpetrating domestic violence.”
Paul Wozney, a staff sergeant with the domestic conflict unit for the Calgary Police Service (CPS), says Calgary sees about 24,000 domestic violence calls a year.
“The bulk of the calls that we go to every year for domestic violence -- there’s no criminal offences occurring,” Wozney said.
He said often times, patrol officers will be called to a home where a person inside has called for help. But, that does not always mean there is physical violence or that the call results in an arrest.
“Something brought us there, whether it was a child in the home calling us or a neighbour overheard somebody yelling or a mother or a father of the home decided to call police to assist in intervening in whatever the conflict is,” Wozney said.
He declined to comment on Clare’s Law and said he has never been in a professional situation in which similar legislation would have changed the outcome.
Jan Reimer, the Executive Director for the Alberta Council of Women's Shelters (ACWS), said there are many reasons Alberta’s rate of domestic violence is high.
“We are one of the last provinces with more men than women, we have a higher rate of gun ownership -- which I think is also true of Saskatchewan -- and we live in more of a boom-bust economy,” Reimer said.
Wells and Wozney agree that Alberta’s economy plays a large role in the rise and decline of domestic violence. According to Wozney, the rates in Calgary have been rising consistently with the recession the city has been experiencing.
However, Reimer said rates also rise when the economy is doing exceptionally well.
“In the boom you see a lot of issues because people have moved here from other places and they are not familiar with the community supports -- they’re on their own,” Reimer said.
“You also have lots of money for drugs and alcohol which is not a cause of domestic violence but it is an accelerant.”
Campbell says there’s no way for her to know if Clare’s Law would have helped her and her son nine years ago. But she supports its passing and said if she had known about any past violence she wouldn’t have started a relationship with him.
Campbell says, it’s harder to talk today about what happened than it was in the beginning and admits after the trauma of her son’s death, she began drinking to numb the pain. She was institutionalized twice.
“Camden was a blessing because I know I would not be as strong as I am now if it hadn’t been for that happening in my life,” said Campbell, who added she’s now focused on moving forward.
She has a six-year-old daughter and was married last September. She still has trouble coming to terms with the loss of her child, especially when her daughter asks about the older brother she never met.
“A couple weeks ago she said, ‘You know mom, I really miss my brother,’ and I said, ‘I know I miss him too,’” Campbell said.
When Campbell asked her what she thought the two would be doing that day, her daughter said she thought they would have been playing Barbie’s.
“I said, ‘Do you really think your 10-year-old brother would be playing Barbie’s?’ And she said, ‘Well, he would love me enough just to do it,’”
“Unfortunately, I never get to see that.”
According to Campbell, her ex, Larose only served 18 months in prison for murdering Camden and she feels the justice system failed her and her family.
“It makes me feel like my son’s life wasn’t worth it to you guys [justice system],” she said.
“I would like to see better justice but I don’t know if that will ever happen.”
It has taken Campbell nine years to share her story but she plans on continuing to speak out as long as she is being heard and making a difference.
Campbell wants anyone currently going through a similar experience to know that though it might be tough, things can turn around.
“As scared as you may be, as little money as you may have, there is always light on the other side,” Campbell said.
“Take what you have and go.”
- By Alannah Page