It happens nearly every week.
The Squamish RCMP sends in its crime report. It’s topped with thefts of iPads and iPhones from parked cars at the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, but inevitably — usually near the bottom — there’s the case of domestic abuse.
It’s nearly always there; tucked between descriptions of stolen mountain bikes. That equals one domestic abuse case a week. But if only that was the whole story.
There’s many more reports that don’t make the list, Squamish RCMP Sgt. Brian Cumming told The Chief this week. Police dance a delicate line. Domestic abuse is a raw and touchy subject. Officers have to protect identities and providing specific locations might help readers identify those involved.
Last year, the number of domestic abuse cases in Squamish increased 70 per cent compared to 2012. It’s a shocking jump that has police, council and those who deal with those affected by abuse scratching their heads. While the method of tracking the cases changed in 2012, it still doesn’t account for all of the increase, Cumming said. Figures would have risen throughout the Sea to Sky communities. But they didn’t.
Last year Squamish police dealt with 71 cases of domestic abuse, 33 more cases than in 2012. Whistler, by comparison, had 37 cases and Pemberton had 12 in 2013.
Squamish is a relatively small community, and as Coun. Patricia Heintzman pointed out, its statistics can get skewed as a result. But no matter how one slices it, Squamish’s domestic abuse figures are alarming.
Thankfully, the numbers caught the attention of the District of Squamish and local authorities. Municipal officials backed away from axing the victim services position, a staffer who links abuse victims with support services. It would have shaved $24,102 off this year’s municipal budget, but the role is a vital link in preventing abuse and helping victims. While it’s not the silver bullet, it’s a good move in dealing with a difficult situation.
Half of all women in Canada experience at least one incidence of physical or sexual violence after their 16th birthday, according to The Violence Against Women Survey. Squamish, it seems, is no exception.