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'We need to work together': Expert says increasing rates of family violence requires systemic changes

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As the Edmonton Police Service mourns two officers killed while responding to a domestic dispute, an advocate that works with people experiencing violence and abuse says the tragedy is bringing attention to the rising rates of family violence.

Constables Travis Jordan and Brett Ryan were fatally shot Thursday morning as they responded to a family dispute at a northwest Edmonton apartment.

According to police, when the pair of officers arrived, they were met by a 55-year-old woman outside the complex. The officers went to the suite where she lived with a 73-year-old man and their 16-year-old son.

When the constables arrived outside the suite, both were shot multiple times by the teen and were immediately incapacitated.

Christine McCourt-Reid, with YWCA Edmonton, says through the pandemic, the incidence rates of family violence have "skyrocketed."

"Family violence can look like a lot of different things to a lot of different people," McCourt-Reid told CTV News Edmonton. "Many people who may not have experienced it before or are not familiar don't recognize that it's not necessarily just physical abuse between two partners.

"It can be emotional," she added. "It can be financial manipulation, it can be any form of control, and it doesn't have to be just between partners. It can be between parents and children or grandparents."

While there are various resources available, stigma, waiting lists, access costs, or not knowing where to start can be barriers to getting help.

"There are capacity issues, definitely," McCourt-Reid said. "I know even us at YWCA Edmonton, we have a waitlist for our mental health services."

By normalizing having conversations about mental health outside of crisis situations, McCourt-Reid believes it can be easier to access help.

"We need to look at a bigger systemic change of making sure that we're not only destigmatizing the need for mental health support and the need to talk about it and the need to recognize that mental health is a priority for people.

"It's really difficult as a parent to watch your child struggle with anything, I think most particularly mental health," she added.

McCourt-Reid recommends looking for sudden behaviour changes, like being more reclusive, and being non-judgemental when approaching mental health.

"A youth who is struggling, who is their safe person," she said. "Maybe, it's not a parent in every situation, but finding your safe person and finding that safe person and being able to confide in them."

For her, it's going to take everyone, from all levels of government to individual community members, to tackle the stigma and accessibility for mental health resources.

"It's not going to be one person, one individual, one organization creating change, we need to work together as a community to eradicate any of these inequities that are leading to violence," she added. 

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