Shelina Jeshani is the coordinator of the to-be-setup Family Justice Centre in Brampton, a one-stop-shop for women who are abused. The centre is expected to be open by next summer.TANNIS TOOHEY/TORONTO STAR
It happened very quickly, within minutes.
A woman, in her 30s, was in a counselling session at Mosaic Counselling and Family Services in Kitchener, Ont., when she broke down and told the counsellor that she was being physically abused by her husband.
The counsellor immediately called a police officer, a staff member from the Crown’s office and someone to arrange shelter for the woman for the night — each with an office in the same building.
Her husband, who was waiting in the lobby, was quietly arrested.
While he spent the night in custody, she was whisked away to safety in another province.
“It was possible because we had all the services under one roof,” said Julia Manuel, coordinator for the Family Violence Project in Kitchener. “Imagine if we had told her to go to the police, then find shelter . . . she would have just gone back to him and the abuse.”
A one-stop-shop for abused women and children, the Kitchener project is a coordinated effort between the justice system and social services where victims of domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse and sexual assault can access everything from shelter and food to help navigating the often-intimidating legal process.
This one-stop-shop, based on an innovative model first tried successfully in San Diego, is now coming to Brampton, the first in the Toronto area.
There are 60 such centres in 10 countries; another 140 are in planning stages.
Casey Gwinn, former district attorney for San Diego and a pioneer of the Family Justice Centre, was in Toronto recently to give a presentation to a group of agencies in Peel Region that have come together to start a similar centre.
“It can’t start soon enough,” said Gwinn, who has handled more than 10,000 cases of domestic violence through FJC.
“Victims, as we know, mostly need help yesterday,” he told a gathering of about 100 social workers from numerous agencies.
The centre should be open by next summer, said Shelina Jeshani, coordinator for the Family Justice/Child Advocacy Planning Committee, which consists of 14 agencies, including Peel Regional Police and the Crown.
It is led by Catholic Family Services for Peel and Dufferin.
A building in Brampton has been identified and the different agencies are now hammering out details of this model, said Jeshani.
The federal government has given $2.3 million, while the province has given $1 million for the project. “We’ll need to fundraise another $3 million and that will give us a home,” she said.
Jeshani has lived this project for two years. She has travelled to see other centres, has done dozens of interviews — many heartbreaking — with victims and many more with agencies serving them.
In one interview, a woman told her how she finally mustered the courage to call police on her abusive husband. But afterwards at a counselling centre, she was simply handed a list of a dozen places to for help.
“It’s a nightmare for women . . . ,” said Jeshani. “In many cases, they end up back with their abusive partner.”
Many women who leave violent partners have no financial independence and are not even able to pay for transportation to get to the services they need.
In her research, Jeshani identified 18 different agencies that battered women need to go for help in Peel. The hope is that most of them will come on board this project.
The FJC model doesn’t only help abused women but is also credited with a decrease in homicides.
San Diego registered a 60 per cent drop in domestic violence homicides in the years after the FJC came into being.
Closer to home in the Waterloo Region, it is the same story.
Between 1995 and 2005, about three domestic-related homicides were recorded each year. Since the Family Violence Project started in 2006, it has gone down to one homicide a year, said Staff Sgt. Paul Lobsinger with the Waterloo Regional Police.
Eight officers — who work in plain clothes — are dedicated to the unit, said Lobsinger. They work 6:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. seven days a week.
But Peel Regional Police are not jumping on the bandwagon.
Not yet anyway.
“We have taken a serious look at that model but at this stage, we don’t have any plans (of co-locating) due to the way we deliver our services to victims of domestic violence,” said Insp. Chris McCord, who worked on this project for 18 months.
Peel Region received 13,319 calls related to domestic violence in 2009. Of those, 6,669 were related to spousal abuse and charges were laid in 1,835 cases, said McCord.
Peel police have also looked at places like Tampa Bay, Fla. where police don’t work out of the same building, yet the results are still effective, said McCord.
Still, Gwinn believes police and prosecutors have to come together because they are critical to stopping the violence. “It’s the best way to make a centre like this work.”
Even more important is that the centre in Peel be victim-driven “not offender-driven,” he said. “You do not serve the offender and the victim in the same place effectively. There is not enough research to show that it helps.”
The committee hasn’t decided on this aspect yet, said Jeshani. “We do want to do what’s best for Peel.”
18 agencies abused women are likely to need:
2. Faith Communities
4. Food Banks
5. Crisis Intervention
6. Child Welfare
7. Legal Aid
13. Mental Health
16. Crown attorney
Source: Catholic Family Services
Ontario has a "male Sharia law" its a war against men that
relies upon the assumption that children should be with females
and that being male means you are an abuser. Rubbish. More
men than women are victims of domestic abuse.
If a male reputes abuse, he is most probably going to be arrested, not for violence but because he dared to say his female
partner was violent. If the government wanted to reduce spousal homicides by the insane, they would simply have to legislate
a legal presumption of equal parenting, and copy other progresive jurisidictions like Australia where the injustice of Ontario family law
is viewed as though a modern version of the Salem Witch Hunts.