By Dale Bass
Kamloops This Week
One of the most dangerous times for women in violent relationships is when they leave, said Michele Walker of the Kamloops Y Women’s Shelter.
The director of its violence against women intervention and support services spoke following the murder of a mother of three by her estranged partner in Clearwater.
Angila Wilson was killed on Monday, April 21. Her estranged common-law husband was arrested and charged with her murder.
“The perpetrator has no control anymore and the violence can escalate as he tries to regain control,” Walker said.
“There is risk when she is in the relationship, but it ramps up when she leaves.”
Walker said the past three months have been “incredibly busy” for staff at the shelter.
She said the shelter is always at capacity, noting if a woman or family moves out, those spaces are filled within 48 hours.
About 300 women access outreach services every year, she said, and another 400 to 500 women per year will call the shelter to ask for help or referrals to other services.
Walker said staff are seeing increased complexities in cases they deal with — more women facing barriers to income or legal assistance, for example, or trying to navigate the government bureaucracy to access services.
“She’s already stressed,” Walker said of the typical woman with whom the shelter deals.
“It is very daunting to face any of these systems, even as someone who knows how to navigate them. Imagine being afraid and alone and trying to do it.”
Walker said staff are also seeing situations with more violence, mental-health and substance-abuse issues than before.
And, she said, the “system” is even harder to get through if the woman is aboriginal, an immigrant or a refugee.
Children who witness violence in the home “carry that violence with them,” Walker said, but whether it leaves them scarred depends on the supports they can access through adulthood.
Walker criticized language used by the media when covering domestic violence when referring to a “killing” rather than a “murder” and when referring to a “domestic dispute” rather than a “violent relationship.”
“The language we use minimizes their experiences,” she said.
Walker said society often criticizes women who don’t leave violent relationships, asking why they didn’t call police, contact support services or flee the house.
She said most women learn how to navigate the violence in the home, recognizing the triggers that will cause the violence and knowing what to expect.
“That’s why we tell women – and the community – this is not their fault. He is the one who chose violence,” Walker said. “When society blames women, we ask ‘Why wasn’t he stopped? What was done to stop him?’”
To contact the Y Women’s Emergency Shelter in Kamloops, call 250-374-6162.
For information on outreach services, call 250-376-7800 or 250-320-3110.
The Safe Home Response Service in Barriere can be reached by calling the number 250-672-6444. Clearwater can be reached by calling 250-674-2135.