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Stratford Police Service embarks on year-long, domestic-violence awareness campaign with local women's shelters

The Stratford Police Service has partnered with the Emily Murphy Centre and Optimism Place women's shelters on a year-long awareness campaign aimed at reducing the stigma around seeking help and speaking openly about domestic violence.

Though domestic violence, particularly violence against women, continues to be one of the most pervasive societal issues, it also continues to be one of the most difficult problems to talk about openly.

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Last year, Stratford police responded to 586 domestic-violence calls and laid 90 related charges. The number of women and children who sought shelter and support services through Optimism Place and the Emily Murphy Centre, however, was even higher.


In total, 59 women and 40 children stayed at Optimism Place and 64 women lived at the Emily Murphy Centre in 2021 through the shelters’ residential programs. In addition, Optimism Place supported 259 women through its outreach program while the Emily Murphy Centre helped 718 women through its programming. Nearly 2,100 women called Optimism Place’s crisis hotline and attended walk-in programs, while 242 children accessed support through the Emily Murphy Centre’s children’s therapy and counselling programs.

The Emily Murphy Centre also received 142 requests for service from abused women and concerned family and friends.

And those are just the people who reached out for support.

There are even more women and children in Stratford and the surrounding communities who suffer in silence. In an effort to reduce the stigma around seeking help and speaking openly about domestic violence, Stratford’s police service has partnered with the city’s women’s shelters to raise awareness of this issue through a year-long campaign.

“The goal of it is to help reduce the stigma around reporting and seeking out help when people are victimized or people are suffering from domestic violence, and just reduce those barriers with reporting,” community resource officer Const. Darren Fischer said.

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By openly discussing domestic violence, the intent of the campaign is twofold. First, it will offer information about the support services available in Stratford, and assure survivors of abuse they will be taken seriously and protected if they decide to reach out for support or report their abuser to police.

“The relationship between survivors of domestic violence and police has been strained in the past, so it’s important that we really work towards improving upon that relationship and improving the work and the service we provide to those who do suffer from domestic violence,” Fischer said.

“You should feel welcome. You should not feel judged. You should not feel your actions are under any type of scrutiny at all. You should feel nothing but supported when you come to the police.”

Secondly, it will provide a starting point for the community as a whole to talk openly about the issue, giving friends and family the information and resources needed to help their loved ones while encouraging parents to teach their children – specifically young men and boys – how to solve conflict and manage their emotions without resorting to violence.

“We’re seeing these huge numbers and these huge occurrences, but it’s not necessarily being shared with our community at all,” Optimism Place residential manager Hannah Skinner said. “We need to be talking about it. We need to be sharing with our community to reduce the isolation of survivors or individuals currently experiencing it. So the best way to reduce that stigma is to talk about it – is to make it known.

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“We know it affects everyone. It affects so many different sectors. … It affects so many different individuals in our community, so we need to start talking about it.”

For as long as the women’s shelter movement has been active in Canada – roughly 100 years now – domestic violence has largely been discussed behind closed doors. While that may have been for good reason at one point – and needed to protect victims of abuse – Emily Murphy Centre executive director Lisa Wilde says there are ways to discuss domestic violence without jeopardizing the security of the vulnerable people who seek help.

“Domestic violence happens because of secrecy in a lot of ways and in a lot of respects,” Wilde said. “And so by getting out there, by getting ourselves known, by collaborating with all of our community partners, it’s just one more way we can say, ‘Hey, we’re here. We can help you, and this is not OK.’ ”

Through this year-long awareness campaign, Stratford police, the Emily Murphy Centre and Optimism Place will continue to share local domestic-violence statistics, report specific incidents of domestic violence through the media, and educate the general public on what role community members can take on to prevent violence against women.

In addition to each of the three partner organizations sharing information on domestic violence, Stratford’s local radio stations – 107.7 2Day FM and 107.1 JuiceFM – will broadcast public-service announcements focused on a different domestic violence-related topic each month.

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Thee most important message throughout this campaign – whether you’re a victim or a survivor of abuse who needs help or a family member, friend or neighbour of someone who may be in an abusive relationship – is to reach out and ask for help, advice or guidance.

Domestic violence supports in Stratford and Perth County

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