Domestic violence programs taking a hit

A domestic violence victim.
A domestic violence victim. Stock photo by Getty Images.

Despite the government’s vow to be “tough on crime” it doesn’t appear to extend to the realm of domestic violence.

Recently, a string of incidents signal our governments — both federal and provincial — aren’t doing enough to combat domestic violence.

Leaders at the Ontario domestic violence program are ringing warning bells that the service is in “crisis.”

The program is designed to replace criminal sentences for first-time or less-violent offenders — an attempt to stop cluttering up the courts with cases where the prospects of a criminal conviction are low.

However, what’s happened is that dangerous offenders are being released on conditional discharges or peace bonds and are able to evade getting a criminal record. There is little supervision and they often get sent back to live with the women they abused.

This comes on the heels of a chilling case where an Ottawa man, who was released after serving 19 months for violent crimes, was charged with the murders of three women. Basil Borutsky had been in jail for very serious assault charges against a former girlfriend, who was one of the three women found dead, shortly after he was released.

Now it turns out that some Ottawa-area women’s shelters were well aware of Borutsky, who had a reputation for domestic violence. In fact, he seemed to be at a high risk for re-offending, yet didn’t seem to have received much supervision or counselling after he was released. He had also refused to sign a probation order telling him to stay away from the victim.

While every province has agencies that deal with domestic violence, the problem is escalating. One example of that trend is in British Columbia, where last year the province’s Ending Violence Association reported domestic violence had “reached alarming rates, with four attempted murders, and 14 known deaths — including one child.”

In reaction to this report, B.C. claimed it has a long-term strategy to deal with domestic violence. Ontario’s Ministry of Attorney General gave a similar response, in claiming that it’s trying to improve its domestic violence program by using a two-year “staged initiative.”

We’re sure that’s a great comfort to the victims who have to watch their abusers get a conditional sentence and be set free.

The question, in all this quagmire is: when will our governments treat domestic violence as seriously as they do other violent crimes?

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