On Friday, Clarington became one of the latest municipalities to proclaim intimate partner violence (IPV) an epidemic. It is one of 25 municipalities to do so in Ontario.
Krista MacNeil, the executive director of Durham Region Victim Services, said Durham Region supported about 4,500 victims of IPV just last year, which is more than triple the amount from four years ago.
She said women, children and gender-diverse individuals are primarily affected by IPV. Specifically, about 85 per cent of cases served by Durham Victim Services are women and children.
“It’s important to recognize that with intimate partner violence, our statistics for sexual violence and human trafficking are separated from that, so they’re actually not counted,” MacNeil said. “Many of our sexual violence cases involve a romantic relationship or an intimate relationship, and so the true number is actually much higher.”
Unless significant action is taken, MacNeil said the problem will only get worse.
“It’s going to continue to climb unless we do something about it, unless we invest in the services that are trying to tackle these issues,” she said. “One of those recommendations was that IPV be declared an epidemic.”
With a growing number of municipalities on board, the province is now being urged to do the same.
MacNeil said the province recognizes and supports the issue and has been listening to municipalities’ recommendations closely.
She said a provincial declaration would help spread awareness and secure consistent resources.
“Getting action to address issues is not going to happen without first recognizing how big the issue is and making sure there’s widespread awareness of it,” MacNeil said. “The declaration is important to be able to get the attention and the focus that it needs to propel what we’ve been advocating for.”
Advocates are aiming to address certain resource gaps. More accessible food, shelter and counselling is a great start, but MacNeil said core funding is necessary to connect victims to these resources.
“Those are critical resources that we can increase if the right funding is put into those services,” she said. “But without our staff, they can’t be connected to any of those possible resources, and so we really do need to invest in the non-profits and charities who are doing the work because we’re struggling.”
While a provincial epidemic declaration will not act as an immediate solution, MacNeil said it would put more weight behind the issue.
“There is movement happening in so many different areas, and sometimes it’s siloed,” she said. “It’s not all happening together as part of a larger picture, so I think the declaration certainly will help propel those things forward.”