By Rosie Townshend-Carter
Sept. 24, 2014
Mom is on the ground crying with Dad standing over her, delivering heartbreaking blows.
This kind of scenario is all too common for children living in abusive homes and domestic violence is all too common on P.E.I., says Provincial Court Judge Nancy Orr.
“We see very sad situations,” she said in an interview.
The veteran judge has seen it all in her courtroom, from physical spats over kids to stalking ex’s who just don’t seem to understand it’s over.
“People believe they have to have a family unit.”
Sometimes, even if it is abusive.
When it comes to helping families and victims, Orr said she is left with an extreme lack of resources for getting victims and abusers the care they need. Currently, the only service offered is a program that runs generally twice a year called Turning Points. But, the program has only having two instructors and some people, with prior convictions such as impaired driving, are being unable to get there.
For years Orr, along with other professionals in the law and mental health fields, has tried to advocate for a family law court on P.E.I. Orr visited a family law court in the Yukon, a province close to P.E.I. in size.
“They take a team approach and have a concentrated effort on aftercare.”
Those who plead guilty and agree to take part in the program must visit the court each month. In the morning, a team of specialists reviews their file, then they speak with the judge about their ongoing treatment. This goes on for a year to 18 months. After that, they are sentenced, with improvements playing a role.
What about the kids? Although they may never be physically abused, they still hear the yelling and name-calling and see the blood and tears.
“These kids often end up in youth court, end up in abusive relationships or being a bully/bullied,” said Orr.
P.E.I’s director of child protection, Wendy McCourt, says when a child needs protection, they also try to work with the family over the concerns.
“A case plan will be developed with the family to include support services such as addictions, anger management, domestic violence support services, individual or family counseling, etc.”
They also provide children who are victims of domestic violence with play therapy. It is used to encourage children to act out their fantasies and express their feelings through play, aided by a therapist’s interpretation, McCourt said.
“Often, when families refuse to work with the director, and the child protection issues are not mitigated, the director may receive further child protection reports, which would cause the director to become reinvolved.”
When police are involved in a domestic violence call, and children are present, they are required to report the case to Children’s Services, McCourt said.
“It is mandatory to report to Child Protection Services when they respond to a domestic violence call where there are children.”