The province's first domestic violence death review is expected to be released in the coming months. It originally began in 2015 when Saskatchewan had the worst rate of domestic violence in the country, with 666 cases per 100,000 people. That year, Ontario, which has a population 12 times that of Saskatchewan, reported a rate of 226 cases per 100,000 people, according to Statistics Canada.
"We don't see a huge spike in numbers reported in Estevan," shared Police Chief Paul Ladouceur. "The concern with domestic violence is actually the reporting of it."
"It could be a case where the victim feels that by reporting, they may put themselves in financial distress, there's kids in play, what happens to the children, where am I going to live, the stigma in a small community."
"What we're really focusing on in 2018 is looking at how do we get women who are in those relationships, or for men for that matter, to report domestic violence and feel comfortable and have the confidence in the police that they're here to help."
In December, 2017, the Estevan Police Service responded to approximately eight domestic dispute calls.
"Sometimes there's quite a variance in number of domestic violence cases that we see reported to a police service versus the number that we're seeing being reported to local counselling services. Obviously when somebody goes to counselling, that's completely confidential, the police don't get that information."
"We can look at the number of cases that are going through counselling services. Certainly that is something we want to continue addressing and we plan on delving into with our partners at Envision and Victim Services."
Training in dealing with domestic violence is also vital part of helping those dealing with it. The Saskatoon Police Service provides 22 hours of basic training to recruits as well as a four-hour session to senior constables that focuses on child custody, child access, parental abductions and family property. The Regina Police Service recently announced it was going to provide annual domestic violence training for front-line officers.
Domestic violence training has long been a part of the Saskatchewan RCMP Cadet Training Program and includes training on domestic violence investigations, risk assessment, victim services and the cycle of domestic violence.
"As far as training for our members," Ladouceur shares, "police receive a significant amount of training, certainly in the early stages. Domestic violence is top priority for the Police College across the country. They do receive significant training while they're in their initial basic training."
He adds that they also receive ongoing training as well.
"They receive further training in interviewing victims of crime and techniques used to make those people feel comfortable. The other thing they do is work closely with Envision so that they have an idea of what the victims of domestic violence are going through and how they may react to police."
The EPS also employs a victim service worker who works for the province and assists victims through the process.
"Domestic violence has no boundaries. The unfortunate thing with domestic violence is that it goes on behind closed doors. The perpetrators are very good at concealing their crimes and it's very hard to detect. Domestic violence is a very serious issue. There are so many variables. We as a police service have to maintain that we are going to protect that person as best we can."
"When someone decides to come forward with a domestic violence claim, it's not a daily occurrence for them. The violence itself may be, but coming out and speak out to the police is a huge step for that person and they don't know what the process entails. We have to build that trust."
Ladouceur added that over his career, he has investigated many domestic violence cases, many where the abuse has gone on for over a decade.
"And some of the incidents that they're describing to me are absolutely horrific. If you are the victim of domestic violence, or you know somebody who is the victim of domestic violence, please, please, please report it."
"Nobody deserves to be beaten, no one deserves to be hit in a domestic relationship. If that is going on, the best advice I can give anybody is stand up and report, and we will be there to guide you."
Envision Counselling and Support Services has four offices in the southeast and can be contacted through their website.