By Gabrielle Provencher, Social Media Volunteer at WomanACT
On April 1st, 2014, the government decided to reduce the length of the Partner Assault Program (PAR)by 25%, from a 16 to 12 week program.
The PAR program delivers a specialized community-based group education and counselling to offenders who have been mandated by the court to attend the program in response to a criminal charge involving domestic violence. It is also the only program in Ontario that provides direct support to violent abusers.
Yesterday, MPP for London West Peggy Sattler held a press conference addressed to the Premier to end the crisis in the PAR program. She was joined by Dr. Katreena Scott, Canada Research Chair in Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention at University of Toronto, Thom Rolfe from Hiatus House in Windsor and our Executive Director, Harmy Mendoza, to discuss the risks created by the Liberal government’s changes to Partner Assault Response.
During the press conference, many concerns have been raised in regards to the PAR crisis:
Dr Katreena Scott, who spent the last 20 years researching methods to improve interventions for abusers, reminded the government that domestic violence represents 25% of all violent crime and is the cause of 1 in 5 solved homicides. She added that child exposure to domestic violence is now the most important issue faced by child protection services. She denounced the lack of collaboration between the government and the research that is being delivered by academics on the topic and how this data is crucial to ensure the delivery of appropriate services to victims and abusers. "We are now in a situation where there is virtually no way for a man in Ontario to get the professional help that he needs to change his abusive behaviour unless his is charged by the police or can pay for services through private mental health", she explained, referring to the unilateral referral process of the program. She also recommends that the PAR program staff be trained with effective tools in order to assess, monitor and address changes and risk overtime.
Tom Rolfe referred to the annual Coroner’s report about men taking extreme measures such as; homicide or suicide because their partner has left the relationship to emphasize on the importance of having a program like PAR to avoid such terrible acts and ensure the safety of women, children and families. Tom also deplores the lack of communication between the Ministry of Attorney General and the community resources but also described his disappointment that his resource can no longer offer the program due to the changes.
Harmy Mendoza discussed that this issue has been a focus of WomanACT for the past few years. As part of the WomanACT mandate of improving service gaps for the victims, the issues about the inappropriate referrals have been brought directly to the Minister of Attorney General and the response, shockingly, was to stop tracking issues and to stop submitting narrative reports. During the press conference, Harmy deplored that there was never a response to address the issues impacting the victims. She added that "WomanACT has been subsidizing the administrative costs for years. The intake and referral funding did not match the real costs. In March 2015, WomanACT stopped doing the intake and referral for the PAR program in Toronto. We know the PAR program plays a critical role within the community and we want to help evaluate the impact and effectiveness for the benefit of the ministry, our member organizations but most importantly service user and victims."
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