The death of a woman at the hands of her estranged in Calgary last week has highlighted the need to look at changes to bail rules.
The Executive Director of the Rowan House Society, Linette Soldan says it also shows the need for their services is increasing.
"Domestic violence and abuse are at epidemic levels in Alberta with one in three experiencing violence and abuse in their lifetime," she says.
Police report incidents of intimate partner violence and abuse experienced by rural women in Canada are 75 per cent higher than those for urban women.
She says it shows there are really no boundaries when it comes to domestic violence and abuse in Alberta.
"We have seen, in our last fiscal year, an increase in demand for our support line which is a 24-hour support line, we have also seen an increase in our admissions to the emergency shelter, we have also seen some increases with our children's programs, additionally in our outreach program, which is a community based program, as well as one of our newer programs which is out court support program, we're seeing people reaching out, wanting further support."
Soldan points to their school support program where last year they provided the highest number of presentations they ever had, just shy of 5,000 students.
She says that preventative education is the most effective way to break the cycle of violence in the community.
"It really does take a multi-faceted approach to really make a difference and how we do that at Rowan House Society is through our schools presentations, our community presentations and our healthy relationship groups," Soldan says.
"With regard to this really tragic incident of domestic violence and abuse that has transpired I would say one of the things as I talk about preventative education is that there was a University of Calgary research paper in June 2012, and it suggests the cost of implementation of preventative programs in Alberta is estimated to be about $9.6 million while generating net cost benefits of over $54 million."
Soldan says the most common types of abuse suffered by shelter clients is emotional, psychological, physical and financial.
"Sixty-three per cent of shelter clients rated extreme danger, at risk of being killed and 12 per cent rated the risk as severe, that's 75 per cent rate that are in that severe-extreme risk of being killed that are accessing Rowan House emergency shelters."
From April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, Rowan House received 2050 calls and texts to its support line, a 17 per cent increase over 2021-22, the emergency shelter program admitted 223 individuals, a 51 per cent increase over the previous year, the outreach program served 98 clients, a ten per cent increase and the children's program supported 156 children, an increase of 111 per cent over the previous year.
Soldan says the youngest child in the shelter was just two days old while the oldest was 17 years of age and the average age of children at the shelter was six.
"When it comes to confidentiality of somebody knowing somebody from the shelter or some of the programs, it's a lot higher in rural areas than it would be in urban settings so one of the things we've worked on really hard at Rowan House society is to make sure that anybody who enters any of our programs that we have a lot of strong confidentiality practices in place and we really walk alongside the client to make sure that, if they're feeling like they would like support elsewhere to maintain that we will always support and make sure we're meeting their needs."
She says they're involved in meeting with other groups and attending inter-agency meetings to advise the community and other professionals in the field about how they can get, and give, support.
"We do a strangulation panel, we try to do that quarterly, and we're trying to raise awareness about the severity and prevalence of strangulation and so we have several panel members, police, lawyers, medical doctors, we have someone from the domestic violence and abuse sector, we have somebody who had experience with one of her family members that was strangled and was killed and they talk about their story and some of the things they feel is important to be aware of and to reach out if something's off or it doesn't seem right."
According to surveys they get back from students and teachers who take part in the preventative discussions about domestic violence and abuse, 80 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that they felt better about their ability to set boundaries and 86 per cent agree or strongly agreed that they now have a better understanding of dating violence and healthy relationships.
Anyone who needs help can call or text their support line at 403-652-3311.