'Men have to change'

Tough talk from police chief as community anti-violence campaign launches at City Hall

Fri, February 22, 2008

"Mary" left quickly one night with only a flashlight, her purse and her three children.

After more than a decade of emotional and physical abuse, the 45-year-old woman got up enough courage to leave her husband.

It was 9 p.m. on a Saturday night six years ago, while her husband sat at his computer, that she crept out of the house and headed to a neighbour's home down the road.


"It was my Valentine's present to myself," she said. "I found my inner strength and decided enough was enough."

"Mary" stood quietly in the background yesterday during the launch of the Neighbours, Friends and Families program at City Hall.

It's a campaign that targets domestic abuse providing communities with information and strategies to help prevent violence against women.

Police Chief Vern White spoke at the launch and aimed his message at men.

"We need to focus on the objects of abuse and not the abuser," said White, who also criticized those who do nothing when they are aware of abuse. "Men have to change."

The launch of the campaign comes four months after a report released by the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee. It was extremely critical of police, social workers and child protection workers who the report says all failed to assess the deadly threat of Frank Mailly, an Ottawa man who murdered his estranged wife and three children in April 2006. The committee is under the mandate of the province's chief coroner.

The report found an "apparent lack of collaboration" between Ottawa police and the Children's Aid Society were factors leading to the murders of the Cumberland woman and her children.

The report found police were aware the father was "a high risk" and "might have considered closer monitoring."

Ottawa-Vanier MPP Madeleine Meilleur, who is also the minister of community and social services, said the campaign is aimed at educating women on the warning signs of domestic abuse.

"Taking action when you see the signs is critical," said Meilleur.

But for "Mary," her advice to women who might be questioning if they are being abused is to trust their instincts.

"I knew this (being abused) wasn't right and that I shouldn't be treated like this," she said.



- Tell someone you trust about the abuse

- Contact a women's shelter or the police

- Consult a lawyer

- Keep a journal of the violent incidents

- Don't tell the abuser you are leaving and leave quickly

- Don't return to your home unless accompanied by police